• 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…

  • Hymns

    Hymn for Trinity VIII

    We continue our outdoor singing after the services this week with a hymn that stresses God’s power and might: “Give praise and glory unto God” (#287). Throughout the hymn, divine power is portrayed as merciful and protective: God’s might is not a display of sheer unlimited will, but the agency of righteousness and justice. The hymn’s Lutheran author, Johann Jacob Schütz (1640-1690), practiced law in Frankfurt and is noted for his friendship with Philipp Jakob Spener (1635-1705), a central figure in the Pietist movement which transformed Lutheranism and later influenced John Wesley. The tune ELBING is named for the birthplace of its composer Peter Sohren (d. c. 1693), a Lutheran…

  • Composers,  Essays,  Hymns

    Not just a one-hit wonder

    by Ken Myers [This article originally appeared in the July/August 2018 issue of Touchstone magazine. Recordings of musical works mentioned are assembled at the bottom of this page.] If the name of the composer Hans Leo Hassler is recognized at all, it is probably in connection with a melody frequently sung and heard during Holy Week. In hymnals, the tune is often identified as Passion Chorale, and it is the melody to which we sing the passiontide hymn “O sacred Head, now wounded.” The tune first appeared in print in 1601, in a collection of secular songs by Hassler. The text that originally accompanied that tune was a wistful five-stanza song of…

  • Hymns

    Commit thou all that grieves thee

    Hymn #446Text: Paul Gerhardt (1607-1676)Music: Hans Leo Hassler (1564-1612)Tune name: PASSION CHORALE THE TEXT The Thirty Years War began when Paul Gerhardt was 12 years old. Raised in a town near Wittenberg, he witnessed first-hand many of the horrors of that era, experiences which no doubt affected his many hymns. As one admirer has observed, for Gerhardt “hope and joy in this life were taken away and confidence in another world was needed.” It was while studying at the University of Wittenberg that he came to appreciate the power of hymns to teach and to encourage. His piety and craftsmanship served to earn him honor as Germany’s most accomplished hymn-writer.…

  • Hymns

    Hymn for Trinity III

    Next Saturday and Sunday, our after-service hymn-sing will feature a favorite hymn in our parish, “The King of Love My Shepherd Is.” By letting everyone know in advance what hymn we‘ll be singing together, families who wish to do so may teach the hymn to their children. If you don’t have a hymnal at home, you may download a page with the music here. I’ve also prepared some audio files that will help those of you interested in learning to sing the harmonies to this hymn, instead of just the melody. Here is the entire hymn as recorded by our choir several weeks ago, as part of our Choir-in-Quarantine project.…

  • Hymns

    When morning gilds the skies

    Hymn #367Text: Anonymous early 19th-century German hymn;translated in 1899 by Robert Bridges (1844–1930)Music: Joseph Barnby (1838–1896)Tune name: LAUDES DOMINI THE TEXT The earliest known publication of the original German-language text of this hymn is in the 1828 Katholisches Gesanguch. An 1858 translation by Edward Caswell (1814-1878) was improved upon years later by the English poet laureate Robert Bridges (1844-1930). Bridges was a noted scholar and accomplished musician whose translations of “O sacred head, sore wounded,” “Ah, holy Jesus, how hast thou offended,” and several other hymns also grace the pages of our Hymnal. Bridges’s translation included five stanzas omitted from our Hymnal; one of these is presented below in italics,…

  • Hymns,  Service music

    Sunday after Ascension (May 24, 2020)

    If we were together this morning, our processional hymn would probably be Charles Wesley’s triumphant “Hail the day that sees him rise.” Since we’re not together, as part of our continuing Choir-in-Quarantine series, we’ve recorded this hymn from our individual spaces (you can sing along at #104, second tune). Wesley’s original poem (first published in 1739) contained ten stanzas (our Hymnal includes four of these, with some alterations). The hymn affirms Christ’s kingly rule (he is seated at the right hand of the Father to rule, not to relax), his continued full humanity (his human hands still bear the scars of his crucifixion), and our destiny to behold him face…

  • Hymns,  Poetry

    Christopher Wordsworth, “See the Conqueror mounts in triumph”

    One of the most compelling hymns about the Ascension, “See the Conqu’ror mounts in triumph” was written by Christopher Wordsworth (1807-1885), Bishop of Lincoln (1869-1885) and nephew of the poet William Wordsworth. Between 1830 and 1836 he was a fellow at Trinity College, Cambridge. The most celebrated Greek scholar of his day, from 1836 until 1844 Wordsworth was headmaster at Harrow. As Sheila Doyle explains, this hymn was “First published in The Holy Year (1862), where it was a long hymn of 10 stanzas in the author’s favoured 15.15.15.15 metre. It was originally intended for both Ascension Day and Pentecost, and was subsequently divided to give two separate hymns, five…