• Hymns

    True lights that lighten every land

    On July 25th, we celebrate the Feast of St. James the Apostle. The epistle reading for this day is from the Book of Acts, and includes a reference to Kng Herod’s command to execute St. James and St. Peter. Our sermon hymn this year is “The eternal gifts of Christ the King.” Dating from the fourth century, this hymn (#132 in our Hymnal) recognizes Christian martyrs as princes of the Church, a great occasion for joy in the New Jerusalem. Since it is new for our parish, our choir recorded the first and last stanza to introduce the melody. On this page, you can hear the melody chanted in its…

  • Hymns

    The eternal gifts of Christ the King

    Hymn #132Text: St. Ambrose of Milan (?) (c. 339–397)Music: Traditional plainchantTune name: AETERNA CHRISTI MUNERA THE TEXT This hymn was traditionally sung at Matins on Feasts of Martyrs, Apostles, and Evangelists. It has been traced back to the time of St. Ambrose, but may not be one of his own compositions. The English version we sing is based on a translation by John Mason Neale (1818–1866). Our Hymnal includes six of the original eight stanzas. 1. The eternal gifts of Christ the King,the martyrs’ glorious deeds, we sing;and all, with hearts of gladness, raisedue hymns of thankful love and praise. 2. The princes of the Church are they,triumphant leaders in…

  • Hymns

    Come down, O love divine

    Hymn #376Text: Bianco da Siena (c. 1350–c. 1434)Music: Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872–1958)Tune name: DOWN AMPNEY THE TEXT In 1367 Bianco da Siena entered the Order of Jesuates, a community of unordained men who followed the rule of St. Augustine. They were known for their fervent and mystical piety, which is reflected in the hymns of its most famous member. In 1851, 92 of these were published, four of which have been translated into English. “Come down, O Love divine” is the most famous of these. It was included in the first edition of the English Hymnal (1906) with four stanzas, one of which is omitted in our Hymnal. 1. Come…

  • Hymns

    A hymn for Sexagesima

    In the Epistle for this Sunday (2 Corinthians 11:19–31), St. Paul presents a catalogue of all of the suffering he has endured — and survived — for the sake of the Gospel. One of the hymns frequently sung on this day affirms that those who are committed to “follow the Master” are defended by the Spirit and promised eternal life at the end of their pilgrimage: No foes shall stay his might,though he with giants fight Thus promises the text of “He who would valiant be,” a hymn adapted from John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress and especially fitting as the pilgrimmage of Lent approaches. Our Hymnal presents this hymn (#563) to…

  • Hymns

    A hymn for Septuagesima

    The weather is preventing our singing together in the parking lot this Sunday. But the choir has recorded a hymn for you to sing (or at least hum along with) at home on this first Sunday of the pre-Lenten season. “Awake my soul stretch every nerve” (Hymn #577 in our Hymnal, downloadable here if you don’t have a copy at home) was originally entitled “Pressing on in the Christian Race,” and is based on Philippians 3:12–14, a passage in which St. Paul — as he does in today’s Epistle reading from I Corinthians — compares the disciplined pilgrimage of the Christian life to the running of a race. Written by…

  • Hymns

    Our new (yet very old) Evensong hymn

    Last week we sang (for many of us, for the first time) hymn #176 in our Hymnal. The opening words are “O gladsome light, O grace.” Those words come from an ancient Greek hymn best known by the first two words in the text, Phos hilaron. (Attentive readers will recognize light and gladness in those words; our English word “phosphorescent” is based on the Greek word “phos,” meaning “light,” And “hilarious” is from the Greek “hilaros,” meaning “cheerful.”) Phos hilaron dates to the late 3rd or early 4th century and is sometimes referred to as the “Candlelighting Hymn,” or the “Lamplighting Hymn.” This nickname is a tribute to the place…

  • Hymns

    Choir in Quarantine (2020–21)

    On Easter Sunday 2020, our congregation had gone three weeks without worshiping together. In an effort to honor the spirit of this feast day with shared music, our choir made a recording of the Easter hymn, “Jesus Christ is risen today.” But as we made this recording, we were not in the same room, in fact not even in the same zip code. In order to record the hymn and still maintain a medically safe distance from one another, organist Wallace Hornady made a recording of the hymn from Alabama, where he was staying with his father. Wallace’s track was sent to choir members, who then recorded their own voices…

  • Hymns

    “I will fear no evil, for thou art with me”

    This week, we’ll sing together — weather permitting — a hymn first published in 1863. The caption that appeared above the hymn is the title I’ve used for this post. The hymn — “In heav’nly love abiding” — is one of many hymns inspired by Psalm 23, a text with great reassuring power especially treasured in times of uncertainty. The text is by Anna Laetitia Waring (1823-1910), a Welsh poet who was raised in the Society of Friends but converted to the Church of England because of her eagerness to participate in the sacramental life of the Church. She is also known to have learned to read Hebrew so she…

  • Hymns

    A hopeful hymn for anxious times

    This week, our parish welcomes a new hymn to our repertoire. “If thou but suffer God to guide thee” is not in our Hymnal, though it is familiar to many of us who have worshiped in churches that rely on other hymnals. The hymn has inspired many composers to incorporate it in their own work. Bach, Mendelssohn, and Schumann used the tune very straightforwardly, and Brahms may have allusions to it in his Requiem. The hymn also made an appearance in the 1987 film Babette’s Feast. Near the end of the movie, one of the two pious sisters at the center of the narrative sits at the piano and sings…

  • Hymns,  Repertoire

    Georg Neumark, Wer nur den lieben Gott läßt walten

    On this page: The text: comfort in contentmentThe tune: confidence in a minor keySome of J. S. Bach’s settings of this tuneFelix Mendelssohn’s cantata, Wer nur den lieben Gott läßt walten [Lawrence L. Lohr wrote an informative article in The Hymn (Vol. 49, No. 3, July 1998) titled “‘If thou but suffer God to guide thee’: The Journey of a Lutheran Hymn.” You may read and download a copy of that article here.] Origins of the text A hymn text and a chorale melody are both known by the name Wer nur den lieben Gott läßt walten (“Whoever lets our beloved God rule”). Both are the work of Georg Neumark…