• Hymns

    Kind Maker of the world

    Hymn #56Text: St. Gregory the Great (ca. 540-604)Music: Traditional French carolTune name: JESU DULCIS MEMORIA THE TEXT Although the familiar form of liturgical singing bears his name, Pope Gregory I (in office from 590 to 604 A.D.) cannot really be credited with having devised or even consolidated what we know as Gregorian Chant. That development in the Church’s musical life happened in the 9th and 10th centuries. Gregory’s reputation was such that a number of hymn texts have also been attributed to Gregory the Great, most of which were almost certainly not his work. But “Kind Maker of the world” has a greater likelihood of having been written by him…

  • Hymns

    Jesus, the very thought of thee

    Hymn #462Text: St. Bernard of Clarivaux (?) (c. 1091-1153)Music: William Damon’s Booke of Musicke (1591)Tune name: WINDSOR THE TEXT While this hymn has long been attributed to St. Bernard of Clairvaux, there has long been some doubt about his authorship. The Hymnal 1940 Companion notes: “Whatever its source, it remains one of the most moving expressions of medieval piety. Its basic theme is the love of the soul for God, beginning with an introduction which defines a sense of the mystic presence of God as the supreme joy of mankind.” The original poem dates to about 1150, and had 42 stanzas. In the 15th century, nine additional stanzas were added…

  • Hymns

    While shepherds watched their flocks by night

    Hymn #13Text: Nahum Tate (1652-1715)Music: Christopher Tye (c. 1505-c. 1573)Richard Storrs Willis (1819-1900)Tune names: WINCHESTER OLDCAROL THE TEXT The text first appeared in the supplement to the New Version of the Psalms by Dr. Brady and Mr. Tate (1708 edition). Nicholas Brady was an Anglican priest and poet, Nahum Tate an Irish poet from a family of Puritan clerics who became England’s poet laureate in 1692. Their collaboration on metrical paraphrases of the psalms had a huge influence on English-language hymnody. Like their Psalm paraphrases, “While shepherds watched,” is a straightforward metrical paraphrase of the Gospel account of the angels appearance to the shepherds (St. Luke 2:8-20). THE TUNE According…

  • Hymns,  Repertoire

    “We stand and swell the voice of thunder”

    Wake, awake, for night is flyingAdvent hymn arrangementF. Melius Christiansen (1871-1955) Norweigian-born F. Melius Christiansen was for over thirty years the choral director of the choir at St. Olaf’s College, one of the most accomplished college choirs in the U.S. His robust arrangements of hymns remain a staple for many Christian college choirs, especially those Lutheran schools whose choral tradition he influenced. Christiansen’s vigorous arrangement of “Wake, awake, for night is flying” is sung here by one of those groups, the Luther College Nordic Choir, conducted by Allen Hightower.

  • Hymns

    Wake, awake, for night is flying

    Hymn #3Text: Philipp Nicolai (1556-1608)Music: Philipp Nicolai (1556-1608)Tune name: SLEEPERS, WAKE(WACHET AUF) THE TEXT Both text and tune are the work of Philipp Nicolai, a Lutheran pastor whose parish in Westphalia witnessed the death of over 1,300 members during an epidemic which raged between July 1597 and January 1598. During those dreadful months, Nicolai found himself burying up to thirty of his parishioners every day. To maintain some sense of hope, Nicolai re-read Augustine’s City of God. The following year he published the text and tune to this hymn as an appendix to a book of meditations called Freudenspiegel des ewigen Lebes (Joyful Reflection of Eternal Life). In that book’s preface, Nicolai…

  • Hymns

    Teach me, my God and King

    Hymn #476Text: George Herbert (1593-1633)Music: Traditional English carol tuneTune name: SANDYS THE TEXT Though he is celebrated as an English poet, George Herbert was born in Wales in 1593. His father’s family had been notable figures in the Welsh county of Montgomeryshire, having settled there in the thirteenth century. Herbert’s father died when he was only three and a half years old, and his mother soon moved the family to her native Shropshire, an adjoining English county. Herbert studied at Trinity College, Cambridge, and after completing his M.A., he became a fellow of the College, then orator for the University. He was ordained to the priesthood in 1626. Most of…

  • Hymns

    Soldiers of Christ, arise

    Hymn #552Text: Charles Wesley (1707-1788)Music: Isaac Smith (c.1725-c.1800)Tune name: SILVER STREET   THE TEXT As typically sung, and as presented in our Hymnal, this hymn presents only a fraction of a long poem by Charles Wesley. First published in Wesley’s Hymns and Sacred Poems (1749), it was called “The Whole Armour of God” and presents a poetic expansion of the exhortation from St. Paul in Ephesians 6:10-20. Wesley presented his hymn in eight-line stanzas; each stanza in our Hymnal contains half a stanza from the original. Below is the complete hymn, with the lines which appear in our Hymnal reproduced in bold. Soldiers of Christ, arise, And put your armour on,Strong…

  • Hymns

    God, my King, thy might confessing

    Hymn #280Text: Richard Mant (1776-1848)Music: Christian F. Witt (c.1660-1716)Tune name: STUTTGART THE TEXT This hymn was first published in 1824 in Richard Mant’s Book of Psalms, in an English Metrical Version. Mant was an Anglican deacon, priest, and bishop who was prolific in his writing on church history and biblical studies as well as in hymnody. He also translated many hymns from the Latin, including (Hymnal #67) “See the destined day arise.” The text is based on Psalm 145:1-12. Every line in the hymn captures some affirmation made in the Psalm. For example, the second half of Mant’s second stanza reads: “Age to age his works transmitteth; age to age…

  • Hymns

    The Church’s one Foundation

    Hymn #396Text: Samuel John Stone (1839-1900)Music: Samuel Sebastian Wesley (1810-1876)Tune name: AURELIA   THE TEXT In 1863, John Colenso, the Bishop of Natal in South Africa, was deposed by his metropolitan, Bishop Robert Gray of Cape Town, because of various heretical views inspired by higher-critical approaches to Scripture. As Ian Bradley notes in The Book of Hymns, “The Colenso affair reopened long-standing divisions between liberals and conservatives within the Church of England.” A recently ordained curate in Windsor (the home of Windsor Castle) was deeply disturbed by the controversy. Three years later, at the age of twenty-seven, the young priest, Fr. Samuel John Stone, expressed his concern about divisions in the…

  • Hymns

    A mighty fortress is our God

    Hymn #551Text: Martin Luther (1483-1546)Music: Martin LutherTune name: EIN FESTE BURG THE TEXT Inspired by Psalm 46, this is the most famous of all of Martin Luther’s many hymns. Almost 500 years old, it remains a confident and vigorous affirmation of God’s faithfulness and protection, despite the very different circumstances faced by believers. The Protestant Reformer’s reference in the fourth stanza to “earthly powers” and their hostility to the Word was no doubt a reference to the Roman Catholic hierarchy. But today this hymn is sung in Roman Catholic parishes, and the final stanza has a more ecumenical significance. Christians are united in affirming the ultimate powerlessness of the most…