Deck thyself, my soul

A hymn to sing along with…

The German hymn was written by Johann Franck (1618-1677) and translated by Catherine Winkworth (1827-1878).

Catherine Winkworth was born in London, but her father was from Alderley Edge. She translated many hymns from German to English including “Now thank we all Our God” and “Praise to the Lord, the Almighty, the King of creation”. She was a pioneer in promoting women’s rights and put much of her energy into the encouragement of higher education for women.

The hauntingly beautiful chorale tune “Schmücke dich” is from 1649. It was written by Johann Crüger (1598-1662). He was appointed as (Lutheran) cantor at the St Nicholas church at Berlin in 1622 ( a post he held for the rest of his life) and published much church music. Many of his tunes are still in use today, including “Crüger” (“Hail to the Lord’s Anointed” and “Nun danket” (“Now thank we all Our God”).

The harmony here is by Ralph Vaughan-Williams.

Brightest and best…

A hymn to sing along with…

The words of this Epiphany hymn were written by Bishop Reginald Heber (1783-1826) in 1811 and first published by his widow in a compilation of his hymns in 1827. Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God Almighty is another of his hymns in our Sing Along collection.

The tune provided here is “Epiphany” by Revd Joseph Francis Thrupp (1827-1867). He was ordained in 1852 and was appointed as Vicar of Barrington (Cambridge). He wrote a number of hymns, but today is chiefly remembered for this familiar tune.

Another tune sometimes used for this hymn is “Morning Star”, written by James Proctor Harding (1850-1911) who was the organist at St Andrew’s, Islington for 35 years. (I get the impression that this tune may be more commonly used in USA.) Here is a quick burst:

Breath on me, Breath of God

A hymn to sing along with…

The words were written by Revd Edwin Hatch (1835-1889), a theologian and lecturer. He was ordained as an Anglican priest in 1859 and went to Quebec, Canada until 1867. He was appointed Rector of Purleigh (St Albans Diocese) in 1883. Most of his ordained life was connected with Universities (Quebec and Oxford).
In this picture he seems to have the breath of God in his hair!

The tune “Trentham” was written by Robert Jackson (1840-1914). He wrote a number of hymn tunes, but this is the only one in frequent use these days. He was the organist at St Peter’s, Oldham from 1868 to 1914.
(His father had been the organist there for 48 years.)

Jesus shall reign where’re the sun…

A hymn to sing along with…

Another hymn by Isaac Watts (1674-1748). It was published in 1719. Based on Psalm 72, it originally had eight stanzas entitled “Christ’s kingdom among the Gentiles”.

The tune provided here is “Galilee”, composed by Philip Armes (1836-1908). He had been a chorister at Norwich Cathedral and later was organist of Durham Cathedral for 45 years.

Other hymns in this collection by Isaac Watts:
Give me the wings of faith
Sweet is the work
O God our help in ages past
How bright those glorious spirits shine

Wherefore, O Father, we thy humble servants

A Hymn to sing along with…

The words to this hymn were written by Revd William Henry Hammond Jervois (1825-1905). He was Vicar of St Mary Magdalene, Munster Square, London and was on the Committee that compiled the English Hymnal. The family name was pronounced “Jarvis”. At the time of his ordination (deacon 1878, priest 1879) his father was Governor of South Australia.

The tune provided here is not the one we usually sing this hymn to. “Gerard” was written by Arthur James Bramwell Hutchings (1906-1989), Professor of Music at Durham University and later at the University of Exeter. He was for many years a Director of the English Hymnal Company. The tune may not be familiar. But it is a lovely one and you can find it in the New English Hymnal for hymn number 323. It’s probably easier to learn the tune if it is sung to words you already know. Enjoy!

Great Shepherd of thy people

A hymn to sing along with…

Another hymn by Revd John Newton (1725-1807), who also wrote “May the grace of Christ our Saviour” (you can read more about him on that post).

The tune is “Oswald’s Tree” – most appropriate for our parish! It was written by Sir Henry Walford Davies (1869-1941) who succeeded Sir Edward Elgar as Master of the King’s Music in 1934. His setting of “God be in my Head” is well-known.

There were more verses in the original hymn, the final one being:

And may the gospel’s joyful sound,
Enforced by mighty grace,
Awaken many sinners round,
To come and fill the place.

Fight the good fight

A hymn to sing along with…

The words are by Revd John Samuel Bewley Monsell, (1811-1875) who was born in Ireland and ordained deacon in 1834 and priest in 1835. He came to England in 1853 to be Vicar of Egham, near Windsor. From 1870 until his death he was Rector of St Nicholas, Guildford and Chaplain to Queen Victoria. He wrote about 300 other hymns, including O worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness.

The tune “Duke Street” is attributed to John Warrington Hatton (c1710-1793). Little is known about him other than that he lived on Duke Street, St Helens and that his funeral was held at the Presbyterian chapel in that town. It is said that he died in a stagecoach accident. The tune may originally have been written for the hymn Jesus shall reign where’er the sun by Isaac Watts (1674-1748).

May the grace of Christ our Saviour

A hymn to sing along with…

The first two verses were written by Revd John Newton (1725-1807) – the last verse is a recent addition. John Newton was born into a Christian home, but his godly mother died when he was seven, and he joined his father at sea when he was eleven. His licentious and tumul­tuous sailing life included a flogging for attempted desertion from the Royal Navy and captivity by a slave trader in West Africa. After his escape he himself became the captain of a slave ship.

However, following a near-drowning, and influenced by the piety of his future wife he gave up the slave trade in 1754 and, in association with William Wilberforce, eventually became an ardent abolitionist. He was ordained in the Church of England in 1764 and wrote a number of hymns, including Glorious things of Thee are spoken, How sweet the name of Jesus sounds, Great Shepherd of thy people and Amazing Grace (the tune usually associated with this last was not published until 1835 – so he is not to blame for it!).

The tune “Gott des Himmels” was originally written by Heinrich Albert (1604-1651) sometime organist of Konigsberg Cathedral. The tune was adapted (ie simplified) by Charles Steggall (1826-1905), a Londoner who composed several hymn tunes still familiar today. In the arrangement here, the first verse is accompanied by Steggall’s version, while the last two verses are provided with the original melody and a harmony by Johann Sebastian Bach.

Holy Father, cheer our way

A hymn to sing along with…

A short evening hymn referencing the Trinity. As we do not have sung Evensong as part of our normal service pattern at St Oswald’s, there are not so many evening hymns in our repertoire. Hopefully, our older parishioners won’t find the words of verse 3 too morbid, especially in a time of pestilence.

The words were written by Revd Richard Hayes Robinson (1842-1892), an Anglican clergyman born in Dublin. The hymn was written in 1869 for the parish of Upper Norwood while he was curate at nearby Penge (possibly in the same parish at that date).

That same year he was appointed as Minister to the Octagon Chapel, Bath “without cure of souls”. This chapel had been built in 1767 and had been a fashionable church for the likes of Jane Austen to attend while visiting Bath. The astronomer William Herschel was the first organist. However, as the chapel was leasehold, it was never consecrated. It fell out of use in the 1890s and became an antique shop.

The reason for including this hymn in the collection is for its tune “Vesper” by Sir John Stainer (1840-1901). The metre of the hymn is 77 75 and the only other well-known hymn of this format is “Gracious Spirit, Holy Ghost” – which already has its own popular Stainer tune (“Charity”).

How shall I sing that Majesty

A hymn to sing along with…

The writer of this hymn was Revd John Mason (1645-94). He was Rector of Water-Stratford (a village in Buckinghamshire) for the last 20 years of his life, which ended in sensational circumstances. He had a vision of the Lord Jesus about a month before his death, and proclaimed the imminent Second Coming. People crowded into the village from the surrounding area, thinking that he was predicting both the time and the place. There were apparently extraordinary scenes of singing and dancing. The excitement was scarcely over when the old man died.

The hymn originally had twelve verses, but most are no longer considered suitable for singing today. The hymnbook we use at St Oswald’s has the three verses included here. Other hymnals include the following before the final verse:

Enlighten with faith’s light my heart,
Inflame it with love’s fire;
Then shall I sing and bear a part
With that celestial choir.
I shall, I fear, be dark and cold,
With all my fire and light;
Yet when Thou dost accept their gold,
Lord, treasure up my mite.

The tune “Coe Fen” probably has a lot to do with the popularity of this hymn today. It is the best-known hymn tune by Kenneth Nicholson Naylor (1931-1991), who was a music master at the Leys School, Cambridge, which is near the open space called Coe Fen. (The descant, written in 2006 by David Lee, has a one bar rest at the start of each half of the tune, and requires the omission of the word “Lord” in the first line.)

Revd John Mason wrote many other hymns that are rarely heard today. Revd John Mason Neale (1818-1866), the prolific translator of hymns into English, was named after him, his mother being a descendant of the old Rector.