After hard-fought competition, ten hymns were selected as winners to be sung last Saturday, with Matthew providing some background information for each hymn. Titles ranged from Christmas carols to Sea Sunday favourites, modern contemplative songs to great processional shouts. Thanks to Matthew and Iain for organising a very enjoyable event, which may well be repeated soon!
Our Favourite Hymns
Thine be the glory, Risen, conqu’ring Son Endless is the vict’ry Thou o’er death hast won!
The composer of this well-known Easter-triumphant shout of a hymn is much better known than the lyricist – the tune, Judas Maccabeus, is by George Frideric Handel (1685 – 1759). Strangely Handel only wrote three hymn tunes, and of those this is the only one still commonly sung, almost always with these words.
With his German-English background, it seems obvious that Handel’s music should be paired with words by a French-Swiss writer born nearly a century after his own death. Edmond Louis Budry (1854 – 1932) was born in Vevey and after studying in Lausanne he returned eventually to Vevey as pastor of the Free Church, retiring in 1923 after 35 years’ service. He was a translator of hymns from German, Latin and English into French, but also wrote his own hymns, including this one, ‘A Toi la Gloire’.
However, it was left to an English Baptist minister and professor of theology to translate this hymn into English (though versions vary slightly). Richard Birch Hoyle (1875 – 1939) was a pastor in Sudbury, London and Aberdeen (he lived at 14, Hosefield Avenue with his wife and three children in 1911, so he would have been in our area!), edited the YMCA’s magazine and taught in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania before returning to Surrey for the rest of his career.
O come, O come, Emmanuel And ransom captive Israel, That mourns in lowly exile here Until the Son of God appear. Rejoice, rejoice! Emmanuel Shall come to thee, O Israel.
This strange, mystical hymn is very old, with its origins probably around the seventh century and linked to monastic worship traditions, deriving from the O Antiphons which were sung in the days leading up to Christmas. The words are strongly reminiscent of passages in Revelation 22. Each verse reflects one of the ‘names’ of Emmanuel, and the Latin original also contains a kind of acrostic on the words ‘ero cras’, Latin for ‘I will be there tomorrow’. Whether or not the hymn originated in Germany, it was first published there in 1710 and developed there subsequently, taking on more of an Advent theme with each new edition. The version we sing, which is the most common English version, is a translation from the Latin by John Mason Neale in 1851. Neale, a sympathiser of the Oxford Movement, was a strong influence on Aberdeen’s own Rev. John Comper and inspired him to build St. Margaret’s Convent on the Spital.
The tune we use is also of some age: it was said to have been found in a French manuscript in Portugal by Thomas Helmore, an English composer, and published with an early form of Neale’s translation in 1851. This was never completely proved, but a 15th century copy of the tune was discovered in 1966 in a French manuscript in Paris, so there may indeed have been more than one copy, perhaps from an even older source. The pairing of words and music seem to match the darkness of Advent, the light of candles, the mystery of Christ’s anticipated birth – a perfect hymn for the season.
Come, ye thankful people, come! Raise the song of harvest-home! All be safely gathered in Ere the winter storms begin. God our maker doth provide For our wants to be supplied – Come to God’s own temple, come, Raise the song of harvest-home!
In 1843, while we were having our Disruption up here in Scotland, down in Cornwall the Rev. Robert Hawker decided to hold a special thanksgiving service for the Harvest at his church in Morwenstow. The idea was a popular one, and though it may have been chance it was certainly a happy coincidence that the publication of Psalms and Hymns the following year contained, for the first time, Come, ye Thankful People, Come.
The author, Henry Alford, was thirty-three at the time, and a man completely embedded in the Church of England. From a family of clergy, he was ordained himself in 1833 and rose by 1857 to become Dean of Canterbury Cathedral, a position he held until his death in 1871. He was in his day a renowned scholar and hymn writer, though none of his other hymns ever reached the popularity of this one.
There are several Biblical references within the hymn – the growing seed from Mark 4 appears in the second verse, and the distinction between crops and weeds from Matthew 13 is the theme of the third verse. In the fourth verse, however, Alford makes the link between harvest and judgement stronger with a reference to Revelation 22, which means that this can be a hymn not only for harvest but also for services connected with redemption, mission, and Pentecost – it also gives it a frisson that is not there in other harvest standards like We Plough the Fields.
The tune to which it is nearly always sung today, St. George’s Windsor, was originally composed by George J. Elvey for James Montgomery’s hymn Hark! The song of Jubilee, some years after the publication of Alford’s words. When the new edition of Hymns Ancient and Modern appeared in 1861 the two were linked for the first time. Elvey named his tune after the Royal chapel where he was organist for forty-seven years. The Psalter Hymnal Handbook calls it ‘this serviceable Victorian tune … a foretaste of heaven’s glory’. Altogether, a hymn with layers!
The Church’s one foundation Is Jesus Christ her Lord She is his new creation By water and the word From Heav’n he came and sought her To be his holy bride With his dear love he bought her And for her life he died.
Here’s one of the first hymns we sang in St. Mary’s as soon as singing was allowed again in June! It’s surprising that this seems to be the only hymn by Samuel John Stone in our hymnbooks, as he was a prolific and, in his time, popular, hymn writer. Born in 1839, he was the son of a clergyman (who was also a hymnwriter and botanist) and followed him into the church. Like his father he served in several churches: he was curate first in New Windsor from 1862, and while he was there he wrote a collection of hymns for the congregation based on the twelve articles of the Apostles’ Creed, Lyra Fidelium – this hymn was one of them. Later he served as his father’s curate at Haggerston in Middlesex, at that time a new parish. He succeeded his father to the living in 1874, and died there in 1900.
The tune to which we usually sing it, Aurelia, was written by Charles Wesley’s grandson, Samuel Sebastian Wesley (1810 – 1876), as a setting for Jerusalem the Golden. Wesley was a professional organist and composer, holding posts at the cathedrals of Hereford, Exeter, Winchester and Gloucester, and worked hard to raise the profile of church musicians. He composed many hymn tunes and also wrote the words to several, including Lead me, O Lord.