• Hymns

    Gracious Spirit, Holy Ghost

    Text: Christopher Wordsworth (1807-1885) Music: Friedrich Filitz (1804-1860) Tune name: CAPETOWN   THE TEXT The nephew of the poet William Wordsworth, the author of this hymn was a priest and later a bishop in the Church of England. An accomplished Greek scholar and prolific poet, Christopher Wordsworth published a notable collection of his own hymns in 1862 entitled The Holy Year, or, Hymns for Sundays and holy days throughout the year. Nine of his hymns are in our Hymnal, including “See the Conqueror mounts in triumph” and “O day of rest and gladness.” “Gracious Spirit, Holy Ghost” was included in The Holy Year as a hymn appropriate for Quinquagesima, as the epistle…

  • Hymns

    The King of love my shepherd is

    Text: Henry Williams Baker (1821-1877) Music: Traditional Irish melody Tune name: ST. COLUMBA   THE TEXT Paraphrases of texts from the psalms are legion, and no psalm received more earnest attention than Psalm 23. George Herbert’s recasting is (not surprisingly) one of the best; our choir often sings Herbert’s poetry to Thomas Tallis’s haunting THIRD MODE MELODY. The first stanza runs: The God of love my shepherd is and He that doth me feed; While he is mine and I am his, What can I want or need? The drama introduced by this rhetorical question is just one of the features that makes Herbert’s paraphrase so wonderful. Henry Willams Baker…

  • Hymns

    Psalm 51 (C.H. Wilton)

    Psalm 51 is one of seven penitential psalms, (6, 32, 38, 51, 102, 130, and 143). The first three words in the Latin text of this psalm are Miserere mei, Deus (“Have mercy on me, O God”), and musical settings of the psalm — of which there have been many — are often referred to simply as Miserere. Verse 4 has multiple translations, which may lead to some confusion. The version in the Book of Common Prayer (1928) renders the verse: “Against thee only have I sinned and done this evil in thy sight; that thou mightest be justified in thy saying and clear when thou shalt judge.” Other translations (based on the Septuagint…

  • Hymns

    My God, I love thee

    Text: 17th century Spanish hymn Music: Henry J. Gauntlett (1805-1876) Tune name: ST. FULBERT   THE TEXT There was a long-standing tradition that the Spanish poem translated in this hymn was written by St. Francis Xavier (1506-1552), co-founder of the Society of Jesus (the Jesuits). But as there is no positive evidence for this claim, the hymn is today regarded as from an unknown source. The text is from the point-of-view of an individual believer (rather than the Church as a community of faith) and expresses a simple sentiment: I love Christ because he loved me — to the point of an agonizing death. Christ’s loving sacrifice is all the…

  • Hymns

    Go forward, Christian soldier

    Text: Laurence Tuttiett (1825-1897) Music: Henry Smart (1813-1879) Tune name: LANCASHIRE   THE TEXT This hymn was originally published in Laurence Tuttiett’s Counsels of a Godfather (1861), and was intended for use at Confirmation. 1. Go forward, Christian soldier, beneath his banner true; the Lord himself, thy Leader, shall all thy foes subdue. His love foretells thy trials; he knows thine hourly need; he can with bread of heaven thy fainting spirit feed. 2. Go forward, Christian soldier, fear not the secret foe; far more o’er thee are watching than human eyes can know; trust only Christ, thy Captain; cease not to watch and pray; heed not the treach’rous voices that…

  • Hymns

    Come, risen Lord, and deign to be our guest

    Hymn #207 Text: George Wallace Briggs (1875-1959) Music: George Henry Day (1883-1966) Tune name: EDSALL THE TEXT This hymn was originally published in the British hymnbook Songs of Praise (1931). The text is based on the encounter of the risen Christ with the disciples on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24:28ff.). Invited to be their guest, Christ becomes their host. Participation in the gift of the eucharist is the source of the Church’s life and unity. The author of the text, George Wallace Briggs, was an Anglican priest who served a number of parishes and also was a chaplain in the Royal Navy. Canon of Leicester Cathedral and later of…

  • Hymns

    Behold a Sower!

    Text: Washington Gladden (1836-1918) Music: Theodore Parker Ferris (1908-1972) Tune name: WEYMOUTH   THE TEXT This hymn by a Congregational minister connects the Parable of the Sower (Luke 8:4ff.) with Psalm 97:11: “There is sprung up a light for the righteous, and joyful gladness for such as are true-hearted.” 1. Behold a Sower! from afar he goeth forth with might; the rolling years his furrows are, his seed, the growing light; for all the just his word is sown, it springeth up alway; the tender blade is hope’s young dawn, the harvest, love’s new day. 2. O Lord of life, to thee we lift our hearts in praise for those,…

  • Hymns

    We gather together to ask the Lord’s blessing

    Text: Anonymous Music: Traditional Netherlands melody (pub. 1626) Tune name: KREMSER   THE TEXT This hymn was written by an unknown author in celebration of Dutch freedom from Spanish sovereignty at the end of the 16th century. It was translated into English in 1894 by Theodore Baker (1851-1934), an American music scholar, and included in a 1917 publication, Dutch Folk-songs. This hymn soon because associated with the American Thanksgiving holiday and (given the timing of its early popularity) with the idea of American Manifest Destiny, and hence with a sense of American exceptionalism. However, the commitment and desires in the text are more truly expressive of the life of the Church, the…

  • Hymns,  Repertoire

    To Jordan came our Lord, the Christ

    Text: Martin Luther (1483-1546) Music: Unknown source Tune name: CHRIST UNSER HERR ZUM JORDAN KAM   THE TEXT From the beginning of the Church’s liturgical life, hymns have been used to teach or, more accurately, to preach. The long history of hymnody contains many figures — not all of them orthodox — who recognized the power of singing to instruct, encourage, and inspire. Along with St. Ambrose, Martin Luther was one of the greatest champions of music’s theological and pastoral significance. First published in 1543 — late in Luther’s life — the hymn Christ, unser Herr, zum Jordan kam (“Christ our Lord came to the Jordan”) was written to offer instruction about…

  • Hymns

    The Music of Epiphany: Saw you never, in the twilight

    Other than “We three kings,” there aren’t many hymns or carols that are commonly associated with Epiphany. One hymn that we sing on average every other year (but we should probably sing it every year) is “Saw you never, in the twilight” (The Hymnal, #50). This hymn (originally entitled “The Adoration of the Wise Men”) was one of almost 400 hymns and poems written by the wife of an Irish bishop, Cecil Frances Alexander (1818-1895). Among her better known hymns are “All things bright and beautiful,” “Once in Royal David’s city,” “There is a green hill far away,” and “He is risen, He is risen!” Mrs. Alexander was especially concerned to write…