Christ is made the sure foundation, #518

# 518 Christ is made the sure foundation

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Words: Latin, ca 7th century, translated for Hymns Ancient and Modern by John Mason Neale

Music:  Westminster Abbey

Composer:  Henry Purcell

A favorite hymn since it was first entered the Hymnal in 1871, this text has gained an even greater measure of favor and us in the Episcopal Church since it was matched with the Purcell tune Westminster Abbey in Hymnal Supplement II, 1986.  This text/tune relationship was first introduced to Americans through the broadcast of the marriage ceremony of Princess Margaret of England and Lord Snowden in 1960.  It is now often used as a processional hymn at weddings in Episcopal churches.

One of the oldest Latin hymn texts, it was found in manuscript collection of hymns from the ninth century, but perhaps dates back as early at the sixth century.  The stanzas are actually part of a much longer hymn traditionally associated with the dedication of a church. 

The tune Westminster Abbey is derived from an anthem by the great English composer Henry Purcell. The tune name obviously reflect Purcell’s various associations with the great London church. From 1674-1678, Purcell tuned the organ in the Abbey and later succeeded John Blow as the organist.  On November 25, 1695, his funeral and burial were held there.

Here is a glorious YouTube of the hymn, from an Ecumenical Celebration at, yes, Westminster Abbey, 17 September 2010.   Be sure to watch as well as listen to the end.   Wow.  YOUTUBE

Thou, who at thy first Eucharist didst pray, #315

# 315  Thou, who at thy first Eucharist didst pray

Words:  William Harry Turton

Orlando Gibbons

Orlando Gibbons

Music:  Song 1, melody, and bass, Orlando Gibbons, and harmonized by Ralph Vaughn Williams

Turton, W. H., a Lieut. in the Royal Engineers, has published A Few Hymns written by A Layman between the Festivals of All Saints, 1880 and 1881. This contains 12 hymns. The Second Series, , and the Third Series, 1882-1883, another 12. These hymns are worthy of attention. Those which have passed into common use include:

“And now our Eucharist is o'er” (1881-1882) – not in our Hymnal – and this one:

“0 Thou who at Thy Eucharist didst pray.” This hymn was used at S. Mary Magdalene's, Munster Square, N. W., in the Anniversary Service of the English Church Union, June 22,1881. It is intended to be sung after the ‘Agnus Dei,' at a choral celebration." In the 1889 Supplemental Hymns to Hymns Ancient & Modern it reads "Thou, Who at Thy first Eucharist didst pray."

Orlando Gibbons (1583 – 1625) was an English composer, virginalist and organist of the late Tudor and early Jacobean periods. He was a leading composer in the England of his day. Gibbons was born in Cambridge and christened at Oxford the same year – thus appearing in Oxford church records. Between 1596 and 1598 he sang in the Choir of King's College, Cambridge, where his brother Edward Gibbons (1568–1650), eldest of the four sons of William Gibbons, was master of the choristers. The second brother Ellis Gibbons (1573–1603) was also a promising composer, but died young. Orlando entered the university in 1598 and achieved the degree of Bachelor of Music in 1606. James I appointed him a Gentleman of the Chapel Royal, where he served as an organist from at least 1615 until his death. In 1623 he became senior organist at the Chapel Royal, with Thomas Tomkins as junior organist. He also held positions as keyboard player in the privy chamber of the court of Prince Charles (later King Charles I), and organist at Westminster Abbey. He died at age 41 in Canterbury of apoplexy, and a monument to him was built in Canterbury Cathedral. A suspicion immediately arose that Gibbons had died of the plague, which was rife in England that year. Two physicians who had been present at his death were ordered to make a report, and performed an autopsy, the account of which survives in The National Archive, that indicates an autopsy revealed a brain tumor. 

One of the most versatile English composers of his time, Gibbons wrote a quantity of keyboard works, around thirty fantasias for viols, a number of madrigals (the best-known being "The Silver Swan"), and many popular verse anthems. His choral music is distinguished by his complete mastery of counterpoint, combined with his wonderful gift for melody.  To this day, Gibbons's obit service is commemorated every year in King's College Chapel, Cambridge.


Here is the Los Angeles First Congregrational Church Choir.  Enjoy. YOUTUBE

"The King of love, my shepherd is" #645

# 645   The King of love, my shepherd is

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Words: Henry Williams Baker

Music:  St. Columba

I chose this hymn for the week in honor of the new royal baby, as this is a Very British Hymn.

Henry Baker, editor-in-chief of Hymns Ancient and Modern, wrote this text based on Psalm 23, and it appeared in the appendix of that hymnal in 1868. The text of this hymn has remained very stable. The fifth stanza is omitted from some hymnals, perhaps because this stanza contains more archaic expressions than any of the others. Most hymnals do not modernize the language. The six stanzas of this hymn correlate closely to the six verses of the twenty-third Psalm, while drawing connections between this well-known Old Testament passage and several New Testament images, all on the theme of the Good Shepherd. In the first two stanzas, the connections are subtle. In stanza 1, Baker adds a comment on the two-way, eternal nature of the relationship between the shepherd and the sheep, referring to Jesus' words in John 10:28. By changing the words “still waters” to “streams of living water,” Baker recalls Jesus' declaration that He is the source of these streams (John 4:14, 7:37-39). Stanza 3 clearly refers to the Parable of the Lost Sheep (Luke 15:3-7). In the second half of the hymn, the connection between Old and New Testaments is more pronounced by the use of the words “cross” (st. 4), “chalice” (st. 5, referring to the cup in the Lord's Supper), and “Good Shepherd” (st. 6).

There are two tunes with which this text is frequently associated: DOMINUS REGIT ME [hymn 646], and ST COLUMBA. DOMINUS REGIT ME is the opening phrase of Psalm 23 in Latin. John B. Dykes wrote this tune for this hymn in 1868. The editors of the English Hymnal were unable to use this tune due to copyright issues, so they adapted ST. COLUMBA, an Irish hymn tune. Both choices are quite popular. DOMINUS REGIT ME appears in more hymnals, but ST. COLUMBA is more popular with arrangers.  It seems to me DOMINUS REGIT ME sounds more British, and you may recognize it from Princess Diana’s funeral.

Here are the two versions for your enjoyment, first St. Columba, YOUTUBE

and then Dominus Regit Me YOUTUBE

You decide which one you prefer.

“Welcome, happy morning!” age to age shall say #179

# 179  “Welcome, happy morning!” age to age shall say


Words:  Venantius Honorius Fortunatus

Music: Fortunatus, Arthur Seymour Sullivan


This is one of my favorite Easter hymns. The author of the text, Venantius Fortunatus, also wrote the text for # 175, Hail thee, festival day, another popular hymn during the Easter season. Fortunatus was born between 530 and 540 AD at Duplavis near Treviso in Venetia, Italy.  He grew up during the Roman reconquest of Italy, but there is controversy concerning where Fortunatus spent his childhood. Sometime in the 550s or 60s, he travelled to Ravenna to study. While there, he was given a classical education, in the Roman style. His later work shows familiarity with not only classical Latin poets such as Virgil, Horace, Ovid, Statius, and Martial, but also Christian poets, including Arator, Claudian, and Coelius Sedulius, and bears their influence. In addition, Fortunatus likely had some knowledge of the Greek language and the classical Greek writers and philosophers, as he makes reference to them and Greek words at times throughout his poetry and prose.

Fortunatus traveled extensively in his life.  Sometime around 576, he was ordained into the church while living in Poitiers.  He stayed there until around the year 599-600, when he was appointed Bishop of Poitiers, to replace Plato, Bishop of Poitiers. Fortunatus died in the early 7th century. He was called a saint after his death, but was never formally canonized.

Fortunatus is best known for two poems that have become part of the liturgy of the Catholic Church, the Pange lingua gloriosi proelium certaminis ("Sing, O tongue, of the glorious struggle"), a hymn that later inspired St Thomas Aquinas's Pange Lingua Gloriosi Corporis Mysterium.

Several of his hymn texts are used extensively in the Hymnal 1982, including this one with a tune by Sir Arthur Sullivan.  Sir Arthur Seymour Sullivan (13 May 1842 – 22 November 1900) was an English composer. He is best known for 14 operatic collaborations with the dramatist W. S. Gilbert, including H.M.S. Pinafore, The Pirates of Penzance and The Mikado. His works include 24 operas, 11 major orchestral works, ten choral works and oratorios, two ballets, incidental music to several plays, and numerous church pieces, songs, and piano and chamber pieces. His hymns and songs include "Onward, Christian Soldiers" and "The Lost Chord". In our hymnal you will find a number of his tunes, including the Easter Hymn “Come, ye faithful, raise the strain.” 

Enjoy the St. Bartholomew’s Church congregation and organ. YOUTUBE

At the Lamb’s high feast we sing # 174

# 174  - At the Lamb’s high feast we sing

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Words:  Latin, 1632, translated by Robert Campbell

Tune:  Salzburg, melody Jakob Hintze; harmonized by J.S. Bach


Many great Easter hymns this Sunday but I had to choose the one that features a wonderful Bach harmonization.  Listen for the great moving bass line in the third line.

Not much is known about Robert Campbell who translated the original text. The tune SALZBURG, named after the Austrian city made famous by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, was first published anonymously in the nineteenth edition of Praxis Pietatis Melica (1678); in that hymnbook's twenty-fourth edition (1690) the tune was attributed to Jakob Hintze (b. Bernau, Germany, 1622; d. Berlin, Germany, 1702). Partly as a result of the Thirty Years' War and partly to further his musical education, Hintze traveled widely as a youth, including trips to Sweden and Lithuania. In 1659 he settled in Berlin, where he served as court musician to the Elector of Brandenburg from 1666 to 1695. Hintze is known mainly for his editing of the later editions of Johann Crüger's Praxis Pietatis Melica, to which he contributed some sixty-five of his original tunes. The harmonization by Johann S. Bach is simplified from his setting in his Choralgesänge  and The Hymna1 1982 contain Bach's full harmonization.

Enjoy St. Bartholomew’s Church in New York from Easter Sunday, 2011.  What an organ!  YOUTUBE

Ride on, ride on in majesty

Hymn Notes

Ride on, Ride on in majesty

Christ’s entry into Jerusalem, by Minerva Teichert

Christ’s entry into Jerusalem, by Minerva Teichert

Tune: Winchester New from Musicalishes Hand-buch, 1690, harmonized by William Henry Monk

 Ride On, Ride On in Majesty!" is a Christian hymn written by Henry Hart Milman in 1820. It is a Palm Sunday hymn and refers to Matthew 21:1–17 and Jesus' Triumphal entry into Jerusalem.

While Milman wrote "Ride On, Ride On in Majesty!" in 1820, it was not published in a hymn book until 1827 when it was published in Bishop Reginald Heber's Hymns Written and Adapted to the Weekly Church Service of the Year. This is reported to only have happened after Milman met Heber in 1823 before Heber became Bishop of Calcutta. It was described by composer Stanley L. Osbourne as "Objective, robust, confident, and stirring, it possesses that peculiar combination of tragedy and victory which draws the singer into the very centre of the drama. It is this which gives the hymn its power and its challenge". The hymn proved popular: in 1907, John Julian, in his Dictionary of Hymnology, stated it was the most popular Palm Sunday hymn in the English language at that time.

The hymn is viewed to be full of dramatic irony. The third line of the first verse "Thine humble beast pursues his road" has been disliked by some hymn book editors. In 1852 it was attempted to be changed to "O Saviour meek, pursue Thy road" and in 1855 to "With joyous throngs pursue Thy road" however both attempts received little popular attention. This led to some hymn books omitting the first verse.

There are several tunes that are used for "Ride On, Ride On in Majesty!": Hebron by Lowell Mason, Winchester New by William Henry Monk, and St Drostane. The hymn is used as a processional hymn during Palm Sunday.  In the 1982 Hymnal,  the words are paired with the The King’s Majesty tune by Graham George.   For our Palm Sunday service, we will use the Winchester New tune, familiar to us from “On Jordan’s bank the Baptist’s Cry.”

Enjoy the King’s College Choir, Cambridge: YOUTUBE CAMBRIDGE  and a fine congregational sing, with brass, from St. Mary Le Tower Church, Ipswich.  YOUTUBE IPSWICH 

Jesus, all my gladness #701

# 701  Jesus, all my gladness


Text:      Johann Franck, translated by Catherine Winkworth

Tune:     Jesu, meine freude

Composer: Johann Cruger

 It does my Lutheran heart good to share these comments about one of my favorite hymns.  Surely there are few hymns as moving, as personal as this.

From The Hymnal 1982 Companion:

This famous text and tune, first matched in 1656, unite a profound and deeply personal expression of the yearning for spiritual union between the worshiper and Jesus Christ.  The text, originally 6 stanzas, was modeled on a German love song,” Flora meine Freude.”  The first translation of this text into English was by Catherine Winkworth for the Chorale Book for England, 1863.  The text as it appears in the 1982 Hymnal is a translation of stanzas 1,4, and 6 of the original and is a slightly altered version of the translation by Arthur Wellesley Wotherspoon  for the Scottish Mission Hymnbook, and then made its way into the 1940 Hymnal.     

Just for comparison, here is the translation of stanza 1 from The Lutheran Hymnal and the translation from our 1982 Hymnal.  You tell me which one you like best …


Jesus, priceless Treasure,
Source of purest pleasure,
Truest Friend to me.
Ah, how long in anguish
Shall my spirit languish,
Yearning, Lord, for Thee?
Thou art mine, O Lamb divine!
I will suffer naught to hide Thee,
Naught I ask beside Thee.


Jesus, all my gladness,
my repose in sadness,
Jesus, heaven to me;
ah, my heart long plaineth,
ah, my spirit straineth,
longeth after thee!
Thine I am, O holy Lamb;
only where thou art is pleasure,
thee alone I treasure.

Cruger wrote the tune in 1653.  Bach later based his great five-part motet on this text and tune and also utilized the tune in several cantatas and organ works.  It is considered one of the finest of post-Reformation tunes and texts.

Here is the hymn with the Bach harmonization [not in our Hymnal.]   I think the simple piano setting is very moving.  YOUTUBE BACH HARMONY  And here is the Bach motet using the tune. It’s 20 minutes long but well worth it.  YOUTUBE BACH MOTET

Come, thou fount of every blessing, #686

# 686     Come, thou fount of every blessing

Words:    Robert Robinson

Tune:  Nettleton, melody from A Repository of Sacred Music


This is one of my favorite hymns, and maybe one of your favorites, too. The imagery formed from the text, paired with a simple beautiful tune, is so moving. 

In 1752, a young Robert Robinson attended an evangelical meeting to heckle the believers and make fun of the proceedings. Instead, he listened in awe to the words of the great preacher George Whitefield, and in 1755, at the age of twenty, Robinson responded to the call he felt three years earlier and became a Christian. Another three years later, when preparing a sermon for his church in Norfolk, England, he penned the words that have become one of the church’s most-loved hymns.

Using imagery of Christ as the giver of living water and the shepherd gathering his sheep back into the fold, this hymn reminds the worshiper of the ever bountiful grace of God. Like Robinson, we too are “prone to wander,” and are quick to seek redemption through our own power. But God continues to bring us back from our wandering, until, songs of praise on our lips, we dance forever before the mount of His redeeming love.

Here’s a stirring offering from the Choral Society of Middle Georgia, Mercer University Choir and Mercer Center for Strings, from their performance at Carnegie Hall.  YOUTUBE

Songs of thankfulness and praise #135

Hymn # 135  Songs of thankfulness and praise

Words:  Christopher Wordsworth and F. Bland Tucker

Music:  Salzburg, melody by Jakob Hintze and harmonized by J.S. Bach



Christopher Wordsworth (b. Lambeth, London, England, 1807; d. Harewood, Yorkshire, England, 1885), nephew of the great Romantic poet William Wordsworth, wrote this hymn in five stanzas. It was published in his Holy Year (1862) John 3:13-17 with the heading "Sixth Sunday after Epiphany." Wordsworth described the text as follows:

“[It is a] recapitulation of the successive manifestations of Christ, which have already been presented in the services of the former weeks throughout the season of Epiphany; and anticipation of that future great and glorious Epiphany, at which Christ will be manifest to all, when he will appear again to judge the world.”

The didactic text teaches the meaning of Epiphany–the manifestation of Christ in his birth (st. 1), baptism, miracle at Cana (st. 2), healing of the sick, power over evil, and coming as judge (st. 3). Originally the refrain line was "Anthems be to thee addressed, God in man made manifest." The revised refrain borrows Peter's confession, "You are the Christ!" (Mark 8:29), and makes that our corporate confession as we acknowledge the 'Word become flesh" who lived among us. Wordsworth was a prolific author and the most renowned Greek scholar of his day. Included in his works are Memoirs of William Wordsworth (1851), Commentary on the Mole Bible (1856-1870), Church History (1881-1883), innumerable sermons and pamphlets, and The Holy Year (1862), which contained 117 of his original hymns as well as 82 others written for all the Sundays and Christian holy days according to the Book of Common Prayer. Wordsworth was educated at Trinity College, Cambridge, England, where he distinguished himself as a brilliant student. He later taught at Trinity College and was headmaster of Harrow School (1836-1844). Ordained a priest in the Church of England in 1835, he was canon of Westminster in 1844, a country priest in Stanford-in-the-Vale, Berkshire (1850-1869), and then Bishop of Lincoln (1869-1885) His writings are numerous, and some of them very valuable. Most of his works are in prose. His "Holy Year; or, Hymns for Sundays, Holidays, and other occasions throughout the Year," was published in [1862], and contains 127 hymns.

I do not know exactly how the 4th verse by Bishop F. Bland Tucker came to be part of the hymn, but this Wikipedia entry about him sheds light on his wide and deep influence on the Episcopal church, including 22 years at Rector at Christ Church, Savannah.  WIKIPEDIA

The tune SALZBURG, named after the Austrian city made famous by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, was first published anonymously in the nineteenth edition of Praxis Pietatis Melica (1678); in that hymnbook's twenty-fourth edition (1690) the tune was attributed to Jakob Hintze (b. Bernau, Germany, 1622; d. Berlin, Germany, 1702). Hintze is known mainly for his editing of the later editions of Johann Crüger's Praxis Pietatis Melica, to which he contributed some sixty-five of his original tunes. The harmonization by Johann S. Bach is simplified from his setting in his Choralgesänge (Rejoice in the Lord [231] and The Hymna1 1982 [135] both contain Bach's full harmonization.

Enjoy this from the University of the South's School of Theology, Chapel of the Apostles. YOUTUBE

Love divine, all loves excelling

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Hymn # 657     Love divine, all loves excelling

Words: Charles Wesley

Tune:  Hyfrodol

Composer:  Rowland Prichard

I really love this hymn.  It’s the perfect match of a lilting Welsh tune paired with lovely words to inspire and move us.   I especially love the very last phrases: “changed from glory into glory, till in heaven we take our place, till we cast our crowns before thee, lost in wonder, love, and praise.”  It doesn’t get any better than that.

Considered by many to be among Charles Wesley's finest texts, "Love Divine" was published in four stanzas in his Hymns for those that seek, and those that have Redemption in the Blood of Christ (1747). Many hymnals, including the Psalter Hymnal, omit the original second stanza, which contained the questionable line "take away our power of sinning." A verse from John Dryden's poem beginning with the words "Fairest isle, all isles excelling" used by Henry Purcell in his opera King Arthur were undoubtedly Wesley's inspiration for writing this text. In fact, "Love Divine" was set to a Purcell tune in John and Charles Wesley's Sacred Melody (1761).

Addressed to Christ, this text begins as a prayer for the indwelling of his love in our lives: "fix in us thy humble dwelling" and "let us all thy life receive" (st. 1-2). A tone of praise and adoration runs throughout the text. But the final stanza is clearly a prayer for sanctification, for consistently holy lives. Though this stanza was an outcome of the Wesleyan doctrine of perfection, it is our fervent Christian prayer that our sanctification will ultimately lead to glorification. As is customary in a Charles Wesley text, biblical allusions abound.

One of the most loved Welsh tunes, HYFRYDOL was composed by Rowland Hugh Prichard in 1830 when he was only nineteen. It was published with about forty of his other tunes in his children's hymnal Cyfaill y Cantorion (The Singers' Friend) in 1844. 

Here is an arrangement by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. Sometimes I think they are bit over the top, but this is very nice.  Enjoy.  YOUTUBE

There is another Wesh tune for this hymn, Blaenwern.  Enjoy it here as part of Prince William and Kate Middleton’s wedding.  YOUTUBE

We know that Christ is raised and dies no more

# 296

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We know that Christ is raised and dies no more

Words:  John Brownlow Geyer

Music:   Engelberg by Charles Villiers Stanford


Scripture References: st. 2 = Rom. 6:3-5, Col. 2:12

The author, John B. Geyer, writes:

“We Know That Christ Is Raised" was written in 1967, when I was tutor at Cheshunt College, Cambridge, U.K At that time a good deal of work was going on 'round the corner (involving a number of American research students) producing living cells ("the baby in the test tube"). The hymn attempted to illustrate the Christian doctrine of baptism in relation to those experiments.

John B. Geyer (b. Wakefield, Yorkshire, England, 1932) is an Old Testament scholar who has written widely in his field. He wrote a commentary on The Wisdom of Solomon (1973) as well as a number of hymns that were first published in various British supplementary hymnals. Educated at Queen's College, Cambridge, and Mansfield College, Oxford, he also studied Old Testament under Gerhard von Rad in Heidelberg. In 1959 Geyer was ordained in the Congregational Union of Scotland. Since 1980 he has served as pastor at Weoley Hill, Birmingham, and as chaplain at the University of Birmingham, England. The text was first published in the British Methodist supplementary hymnal Hymns and Songs (1969) but has since been altered in various other hymnals, including the Psalter Hymnal. The controlling thought comes from Romans 6:3-5, in which Paul teaches that in baptism we are united with Christ in his resurrection–that is the basis for our new life.

Sir Charles Villiers Stanford (30 September 1852 – 29 March 1924) was an Irish composer, teacher and conductor. Born to a well-off and highly musical family in Dublin, Stanford was educated at the University of Cambridge before studying music in Leipzig and Berlin. He was instrumental in raising the status of the Cambridge University Musical Society, attracting international stars to perform with it. While still an undergraduate, Stanford was appointed organist of Trinity College, Cambridge. In 1882, aged 29, he was one of the founding professors of the Royal College of Music, where he taught composition for the rest of his life. From 1887 he was also the professor of music at Cambridge. 

Stanford composed ENGELBERG as a setting for William W. How's "For All the Saints" (505). The tune was published in the 1904 edition of Hymns Ancient and Modern with no less than six different musical settings. Our current Hymnal 1982 included three uses of this tune – the aforementioned hymn as well as # 420 “When in our music God is glorified” and # 477, “All praise to thee, for thou, O King divine.”

Enjoy this from First Plymouth Church in Lincoln, Nebraska:  YOUTUBE

God the Omnipotent

# 569

Omnipotent god.png

God the Omnipotent

Words:  Henry Fothergill Chorley and John Ellerton

Music:  Russia, by Alexis Lvov


"God, the Omnipotent!" is a hymn with words written in 1842 by Henry F. Chorley (1808–1872) and 3rd and 4th stanzas by John Ellerton (1826–1893) in 1870.[1] It is based on a text from Revelation 19:6, "The Lord God omnipotent reigneth" (KJV)Through a process lost to history, two similar but different sets of lyrics have melded into the version of this hymn that we know today.

Alexey Feodorovitch Lvov (1799-1872) composed RUSSIA in 1833 one night "on the spur of the moment," according to his memoirs, after Czar Nicholas I asked him to compose a truly Russian national anthem (rather than continuing to sing a Russian text to the English melody for "God Save Our Gracious King"!). Lvov's tune was accepted and has been featured as the Russian anthem in various compositions (including Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture). Also used as a hymn tune ever since its 1842 publication in John Pyke Hullah's Part Music, RUSSIA is today often associated with the hymn text "God the Omnipotent!" Given its origin as a national anthem, the tune does have a majestic character and suggests brass instruments for accompaniment Lvov served in the Russian army from 1818 to 1837, advancing to personal adjutant to Czar Nicholas I as a major-general. In 1837 he succeeded his father as director of the imperial court chapel choir in St. Petersburg, a post he retained until 1861. A fine violinist, Lvov played Mendelssohn's violin concerto in Leipzig with the composer conducting in 1840. He toured with his own string quartet until deafness forced his retirement in 1867. Lvov composed much church music for the imperial choir as well as a violin concerto and several operas. He also compiled a collection of church music for the Orthodox church year but is best known as the composer of the tune for the Russian national anthem.

Enjoy this spirited congregation from St. John’s, Detroit. What an organ! YOUTUBE

O Zion, haste

# 539

O Zion, haste

O zion haste.jpg

Author:  Mary Ann Thomson

Tune:  Tidings, by James Walch

 Mary Ann Thomson, wife of Mr. John Thomson, Librarian of the Free Library, Philadelphia, was born in London, England, December 5, 1834. She has written about forty hymns, which have appeared mostly in the Churchman, New York, and in the Living Church, Chicago. Four of her hymns are found in the Protestant Episcopal Hymnal, 1892. Of the origin of the missionary hymn by Mrs. Thomson which is found in our Hymnal she writes as follows:

I wrote the greater part of the hymn, "O Zion, haste," in the year 1868. I had written many hymns before, and one night, while I was sitting up with one of my children who was ill of typhoid fever, I thought I should like to write a missionary hymn to the tune of the hymn beginning "Hark, hark, my soul, angelic songs are swelling," as I was fond of that tune; but as I could not then get a refrain I liked, I left the hymn unfinished, and about three years later I finished it by writing the refrain which now forms part of it. By some mistake 1891 is given instead of 1871 as the date of the hymn in the (Episcopal) Hymnal. I do not think it is ever sung to the tune for which I wrote it. Rev. John Anketell told me, and I am sure he is right, that it is better for a hymn to have a tune of its own, and I feel much indebted to the composer of the tune "Tidings" for writing so inspiring a tune to my words.
Source: Hymn Writers of the Church by Wilber F. Tillett and Charles S. Nutter, 1915

James Walch was a musician and composer, born near Bolton in 1837. He spent his early life in the town and was organist in several churches there, including the parish church of St George’s. From 1870-1877, he was conductor for the Bolton Philharmonic Society. He also composed at least four published hymn tunes, the best known of which is called “Tidings”. Written in 1875, it’s usually used as the tune to a hymn called “O Zion Haste”.

James Walch was a musical instrument dealer by trade, and moved to Barrow-in-Furness in 1877. He later moved to Llandudno Junction in North Wales, where he died in August 1901 and was buried locally. His wife later donated money to pay for the organs in two local churches, St Paul's Llandudno and All Saints Deganwy, in his memory.

Here’s a lovely version by the Adult Choir of Prince George Winyah Episcopal Church: YOUTUBE

Word of God, come down on earth

# 633 Word of God, come down on earth

Words: Father James Quinn

Tune: Liebster Jesu

Composer: Johann Ahle

Father James Quinn, SJ (1919-2010) was one of the most important hymn writers in the Roman Catholic Church since the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965). Born in Glasgow, Scotland, he was educated at Saint Aloysius' College and Glasgow University, joining the Society of Jesus in 1939.

Though cherished by the Roman Catholic Church, Fr. Quinn's hymns had an ecumenical influence as well. His paraphrases of the psalms and other Scriptures appear in many English-language hymnals published since 1970.

Fr. Quinn's purpose in writing hymns was to create a "catechism in song." He said, "Hymns fundamentally declare the Christian faith. They are our source book for teaching and for sermons." Hymns "are to convey the words of Christ memorably." He stated that the language of hymns should be "clear but not banal and above all simple."

"Word of God, Come Down to Earth" is a skillful commentary on John 1:14, "And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory." Stanza one describes the presence of the Word made flesh through the metaphor of "living rain from heaven descending." "We long to hear" what the Word made flesh has to say to us.

Stanza two articulates the antithesis between the "Word eternal, throned on high" and the "Word that came from heaven to die." The stanza ends with an imperative: "speak to us" of "your love outpouring."

Stanza three, referring to Christ’s miracles, states that the "Word . . . caused blind eyes to see." Then he petitions Christ to "speak and heal our mortal blindness." The stanza also asks for our deafness to be healed and that our tongues should be loosened "to tell your kindness." Just as Christ healed others during his earthly life, Fr. Quinn asks that Christ "heal the world, by our sin broken."

The final stanza contains echoes of a Trinitarian doxology. The stanza begins with the "Father’s love," spoken by the Word, who is "one with God" (Christ). The Word also "sends us from above, God the Spirit." The final stanza closes with an unmistakable Christological reference, "Word of truth," and Eucharistic allusion "Word of Life, with one Bread feed us."

How Firm a Foundation

# 636 How Firm a Foundation


Text:      Richard Keen

Tune:     Foundation

Composer:  Anonymous

“How Firm a Foundation” is a hymn that for over two centuries has assured believers of the faithfulness of Christ and the certainty of hope. The first verse acts almost as an introduction to the rest of the text, giving us cause to stop and ponder the Word of assurance that God has given us, described in greater detail in the next four verses. Those four verses are in fact paraphrases of Scripture passages: Isaiah 41:10, 43:2, Romans 8:3-39, Hebrews 13:5, and Deuteronomy 31:6. In the words of this hymn then, we carry with us the Word from God, and the call to trust in that Word. But God’s Word is expansive and not limited to letters on a page - the fifth verse moves us to a trust in the Word made flesh in Jesus Christ. Thus we are assured by the words we sing, the Word we are given, and the Word made flesh, of the steadfastness of God and His unfailing love.

This hymn, believed by most to have been written by Richard Keen, was first published in 1787 in John Rippon’s A Selection of Hymns (Rippon was minister at the London church Keen attended). Keen’s text originally included seven stanzas and was entitled “Exceeding great and precious promises.” It appeared in A. Fletcher Baptist’s 1822 Collection of Hymns in only four stanzas, omitting the original second, fourth and fifth. Today, hymnals include anywhere from three to five stanzas, often the original first, third, fourth, fifth and seventh stanzas. The number of verses found in each hymnal differs, but the actual text has not been altered much. When all five stanzas are used, the text powerfully moves from references to the faithfulness of God in the Old Testament to the certainty of the faithfulness of Christ.

Almost every hymnal and version sets the text to the anonymous tune FOUNDATION, first appearing under the name SINCERITY and SOLICITUDE in Southern Harmony, and appearing with this text in the Sacred Harp. It now appears in most hymnals in the key of G. In the Episcopal Hymnal, the text is set to both FOUNDATION and LYONS, by Haydn.

Here’s a spirited rendition by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. YOUTUBE

O come, O come, Emmanuel

# 56  O come, O come, Emmanuel

Words:  9th century Latin text

Music:  Veni, Veni, Emmanuel from the 15th century; adapted by Thomas Helmore



This ancient advent hymn originated in part from the “Great ‘O’ Antiphons,” part of the medieval Roman Catholic Advent liturgy. On each day of the week leading up to Christmas, one responsive verse would be chanted, each including a different Old Testament name for the coming Messiah. When we sing each verse of this hymn, we acknowledge Christ as the fulfillment of these Old Testament prophesies. We sing this hymn in an already-but not yet-kingdom of God. Christ's first coming gives us a reason to rejoice again and again, yet we know that all is not well with the world. So along with our rejoicing, we plead using the words of this hymn that Christ would come again to perfectly fulfill the promise that all darkness will be turned to light. The original text created a reverse acrostic: “ero cras,” which means, “I shall be with you tomorrow.” That is the promise we hold to as we sing this beautiful hymn.

Each verse of this hymn refers to Christ by various Old Testament titles, thus exemplifying Christ as the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy. In addition to its anticipation of Christ’s birth, the hymn can also be interpreted to refer to the Second Coming.

Fifteen hundred years gives a lot of time to make changes to the text, and it turns out there aren’t many hymnals that have exactly the same words. Like the original Latin poem, J.M Neale’s translation from 1851 contained seven stanzas; today many modern hymnals contain only five. You probably won't come across any big disputes over which text you use; most of the changes have occurred gradually and the versions we now use have simply been passed along in our various traditions. A refrain was also added to the original text that is familiar and oft-sung today: “Rejoice, rejoice, Immanuel shall come to you, O Israel.”

 “O Come, O Come, Immanuel” is set to the tune VENI EMMANUEL, adapted by Thomas Helmore. This haunting and pleading tune beautifully supports the words of longing found in the text, with the hopeful change into the refrain..

Here’s a lovely rendition by the Clare College Choir, Cambridge : YOUTUBE

Where cross the crowded ways of life #609


# 609 Where cross the crowded ways of life

Words:  Frank Mason North

Music:  Gardiner, from Sacred Melodies, 1815; arranged by William Gardiner

Caleb T. Winchester, an editor of the 1905 Methodist Hymnal, challenged Frank M. North to write a hymn text on city missions. North had intimate knowledge of urban life because of his work for the Methodist Church in New York City. Inspired by Jesus' words "Go to the street corners and invite to the banquet anyone you find" (Matt. 22:9), North wrote "Where Cross the Crowded Ways." After making various revisions and adding a title ("A Prayer for the Multitudes"), he published the text in The Christian City (June 1903), a missions journal he edited. The text was also published in the 1905 Methodist Hymnal and in many other twentieth-century hymnbooks. Modern hymnals have changed the original "thous" and "thees" to "yous." One of the earliest and finest modern "city hymns," this text focuses on the ills of our great urban centers (and ignores their benefits) with the insight and compassion of a Christian worker in the city slums.

North's descriptive phrases may have been startling at the turn of the century, but they are even more accurate descriptions of the massive cities in our world today. His prescription to follow in the footsteps of Christ and bring the gospel in word and deed is relevant as long as the Lord delays in bringing the New Jerusalem. Primarily a churchman, North devoted himself to loyal service in the Methodist denomination and to various ecumenical ventures. He was educated at Wesleyan University, Middleton, Connecticut, and ordained in the Methodist Church in 1872. A minister in several churches in Florida, New York, and Connecticut, he also held administrative positions-secretary of the New York Church Extension and Missionary Society (1892-1912) and secretary of the Board of Foreign Missions of the Methodist Church (1912-1924). He was involved with the Federal Council of Churches of Christ in America (forerunner of the National Council of Churches) and was the council's president from 1916-1920. Editor of the periodical Christian City, North was active in many organizations that promoted and carried out Christian ministries in urban life. North contributed hymns to Sursum Corda (1898) and the Methodist Hymnal (1905) and was a charter member of the Hymn Society, which republished his eight hymns in a booklet in 1970.

For a longer discussion see: Discipleship Ministries

 And enjoy this from St. John’s in Detroit YOUTUBE

For All the Saints, from their Labor Rest #287


# 287 - For All the Saints, from their labor rest

Words: William Walsham Haw

Tune:     Sine Nomine

Composer:  Ralph Vaughan Williams


This text was written by William W. How, a bishop of the Anglican Church, and first published in Horatio Nelson's Hymns for Saints' Days in 1864. There is considerable variance between hymnals as to which of the eleven original stanzas are included (typically six to eight are selected). Two things are universally agreed upon: that the first two of the original stanzas are always included (“For all the saints” and “Thou wast their rock”), and the original fourth and fifth are never sung. Two more things are agreed upon with rare exception: that the original third stanza is omitted (“For the Apostles”), and that the last stanza is included (“From earth's wide bounds”). There is considerable variance on which of the remaining five original stanzas are sung.

There are also differences in wording between different hymnals. Some merely modernize the language (i.e., “Thou wast their rock” becomes “You were their rock”). Other changes, as well as the choice of which stanzas to include, appear to reflect a desire to slightly soften the theme of the Church militant, which is heavily present in the text.

After the great “Hall of Faith” passage in Hebrews 11, the writer to the Hebrews calls the saints who are still on earth to emulate those who have gone before: “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us …” (Hebrews 12:1, ESV). What were the accomplishments of this “great cloud of witnesses?” They “… conquered kingdoms, enforced justice, obtained promises, … quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, were made strong out of weakness …” (Hebrews 11:33-34, ESV). That sounds rather glamorous! But “Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword” (Hebrews 11:36-37, ESV). What a contrast!

The stanzas of the hymn “For All the Saints” describe the common life of all the saints: the credit due to Jesus Christ for drawing us all to Him, the strength and guidance we continue to draw from Him, our joint communion in Christ, the continuing struggle against evil, and the coming day when the dead shall rise and we shall all worship together before God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. No matter what path each of us travels, we all will enjoy the same glorious eternal life.


In modern hymnals, this text is paired with SINE NOMINE, written for this text in 1906 by Ralph Vaughan Williams, the well-known English composer. He wrote harmonizations for both unison singing and four-part harmony. The title SINE NOMINE means “without a name” in Latin; it may refer to the many saints whose names are known only to God (The New Century Hymnal Companion, ed. Kristin L. Forman, 361).

Before SINE NOMINE was composed, the most popular tune was SARUM, written in 1868 by Joseph Barnby, but this has fallen out of favor and almost never appears in modern hymnals.

Here's a lovely rendition by the Choir at King's College.  YOUTUBE

I Sing a Song of the Saints of God #293

# 293  I sing a song of the saints of God.

all saints icon.jpg

Words:  Lesbia Scott  Tune:  Grand Isle  Composer: John Henry Hopkins

This hymn first appeared in the Episcopal Hymnal in the 1940 edition.   Lesbia Scott (1898-1986) wrote plays and hymns [notable collection - Everyday Hymns for Children, 1929] and was quoted as saying she wrote verse not for publication for but the enjoyment of her three children who would ask “write a hymn for a picnic” or “ a hymn for a foggy day.”    She speaks specifically of wanting to impress the fact that sainthood is a living possibility today.

Most of us probably smile when we sing “and one was a doctor and one was a queen” or “meet them in school, or in lanes, or in shops or at tea” for the charming British-ness of the text.   It was this very cultural specific nature of the text that led the Committee choosing hymns for the 1982 Hymnal to vote to exclude it, but a letter writing campaign led to action of the Joint Committee for Hymnal Revision for the General Convention of 1982 and it was restored to the collection.  

The original hymn was set to a tune written by Ms. Scott. Only later was the current familiar tune paired with the text.  The tune name comes from the community on the island of the same name in Lake Champlain in Vermont where Hopkins lived in his retirement. 

You’ll enjoy this spirited singing and fabulous organ from St Johns Church YOUTUBE

O Master let me walk with thee

O Master let me walk with thee

Words:            Washington Gladden

Music: Maryton, by Henry Percy Smith

Washington Gladden (1836-1918) was called to the First Congregational Church in Columbus, OH in 1882 and remained there for 32 years. In 1883-84 he was known for his success in fighting the corrupt Tweed Ring, for arbitrating the Telegraphers' Strike and the Hocking Valley Coal Strike. He attacked John D. Rockefeller, Sr. for giving $100,000 of "tainted money" to the Congregational Church's Foreign Missions program. Throughout his ministry he emphasized applying the gospel to life in America. He wrote "O Master, let me walk with thee" in 1879.

After various tunes had been set to this text, Gladden insisted on the use of MARYTON. Composed by H. Percy Smith (b. Malta, 1825; d. Bournemouth, Hampshire, England, 1898), the tune was originally published as a setting for John Keble's "Sun of My Soul" in Arthur S. Sullivan's Church Hymns with Tunes.

Here's a lovely rendition by The Table Singers. YOUTUBE