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St Oswald's

The parish church of Bollington

Bollington Road, Bollington Cross, SK10 5EG
07895 363 038



Sing-Along Hymns

Revd Reginald Heber (1783-1826)

He was Rector of Hodnet, Shropshire from 1807 to 1823 and Bishop of Calcutta from 1823 until his death.

After graduating from Oxford he travelled through Europe in 1805-06 (avoiding countries involved in the Napoleonic wars), taking a route through Sweden, Norway and Finland to Russia. He witnessed the large Muslim population of St Petersburg observing Ramadan and the Christian celebration of Easter at the Cossack capital of Novo Tcherask. The return journey was via Poland, Hungary, Austria and Germany, travelling from Hamburg to Great Yarmouth on Lord Morpeth’s private yacht.

He arrived in England in October 1806 and prepared for Holy Orders at Oxford. He was ordained deacon in February 1807 and priest in May 1807. He was then inducted as Rector of Hodnet, where his father had been Rector from 1766 until his death in 1804. All of Heber’s hymns were written while he was at Hodnet (ie while he was still Revd!), but most were not published until after his death. In India, extensive travelling, hard work, the hostile climate and poor health contributed to his early death. Despite his short episcopate, his achievements were much respected in India and in England.

Other hymns by Heber, From Greenland’s icy mountains and The Son of God goes forth to war are generally not considered politically correct these days.

(Scroll down for more hymns)


Bread of the world in mercy broken

This traditional Communion hymn is provided here with two different tunes.

The first tune is much older than the hymn. The Genevan Psalter was originally published by John Calvin in 1539. Calvin believed that the whole congregation should “Sing Along” during worship (not just a group of musicians, as had been the practice up till then). This tune was first published in the 1551 edition of the psalter, set to Psalm 118. It is called Rendez à Dieu, the opening words of that psalm in French.

And from an ancient tune to a modern one, Spiritus vitae by Mary Jane Hammond (1878-1964). She was born at Liverpool, the daughter of a Vicar, and died, a spinster, at St Albans. She had been a teacher, but little else is known about her.

Bread of the world in mercy broken,
wine of the soul in mercy shed,
by whom the words of life were spoken,
and in whose death our sins are dead.

Look on the heart by sorrow broken,
look on the tears by sinners shed;
and be thy feast to us the token
that by thy grace our souls are fed.

Rendez à Dieu

Spiritus vitae

God, that madest earth and heaven

Bishop Heber only wrote the first verse of this hymn. The second verse is by Richard Whately (1787-1863), who was Archbishop of Dublin and Glendalough 1831-1863. Described as a flamboyant character, he was one of the first reviewers to recognise the talents of Jane Austen.

He should not be confused with Richard Whiteley (1943-2006) who was the presenter of Countdown for 23 years.


The tune is often sung to R V Williams’s arrangement of the Welsh tune Ar hyd y nos (All through the night), but here it is paired with the tune East Acklam, written by Francis Jackson in 1957 while he was organist at York Minster. Dr Francis Jackson was born 2 October 1917. He was the organist and director of music at York Minster for 36 years. At the time of writing this (end 2020) he is still living.

God, that madest earth and heaven,
darkness and light;
who the day for toil hast given,
for rest the night;
may thine angel-guards defend us,
slumber sweet thy mercy send us;
holy dreams and hopes attend us,
this livelong night.

Guard us waking, guard us sleeping,
and when we die,
may we in thy mighty keeping
all peaceful lie;
when the last dread call shall wake us,
do not thou our God forsake us,
but to reign in glory take us
with Thee on high.

East Acklam

Brightest and Best of the sons of the morning

This Epiphany hymn was written by Heber in 1811 and first published by his widow in a compilation of his hymns in 1827.

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.

Brightest and Best of the sons of the morning
Dawn on our darkness and lend us Thine aid;
Star of the East, the horizon adorning,
Guide where our infant Redeemer is laid.

Cold on His cradle the dew-drops are shining;
Low lies His head with the beasts of the stall;
Angels adore Him in slumber reclining,
Maker and Monarch and Saviour of all!

Say, shall we yield Him, in costly devotion,
Odours of Edom and offerings divine?
Gems of the mountain and pearls of the ocean,
Myrrh from the forest, or gold from the mine?

Vainly we offer each ample oblation,
Vainly with gifts would His favour secure;
Richer by far is the heart’s adoration,
Dearer to God are the prayers of the poor.

Brightest and Best of the sons of the morning
Dawn on our darkness and lend us Thine aid;
Star of the East, the horizon adorning,
Guide where our infant Redeemer is laid.


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. (This tune may be more commonly used in USA.) Here is just one verse.

Morning Star

By cool Siloam’s shady rill

This is one of Heber's earlier hymns, published in 1812. It was very popular in the 19th century, but is not often heard in the UK these days.

The Pool of Siloam is referred to a number of times in the Old Testament. It was fed by the Gihon Spring, and water was conveyed from it by aqueduct to irrigate agricultural fields. In the New Testament, Jesus sent "a man blind from birth" to the pool in order to complete his healing. Chapter 2 of the Song of Solomon begins "I am the rose of Sharon, the lily of the valleys" and the hymn mentions "Sharon’s dewy rose". It is not certain which plant is referred to in the bible (except that it is not any of the various plants that have that name today).

The words are coupled here with the tune Arden by George Thomas Thalben-Ball (1896-1987), an Australian organist and composer who spent almost all his life in England. He gave the inaugural recital on the organ of the Royal Albert Hall. He wrote a number of hymn tunes, of which this is the best known.

By cool Siloam’s shady rill
how sweet the lily grows!
How sweet the breath beneath the hill
of Sharon’s dewy rose!

Lo! such the child whose early feet
the paths of peace have trod,
whose secret heart with influence sweet
is upward drawn to God.

By cool Siloam’s shady rill
the lily must decay,
the rose that blooms beneath the hill
must shortly fade away;

And soon, too soon, the wintry hour
of life’s maturer age
will shake the soul with sorrow’s power
and stormy passion’s rage.

O thou, whose infant feet were found
within thy Father’s shrine,
whose years, with changeless virtue crowned,
were all alike divine,

Dependent on thy bounteous breath
we seek thy grace alone,
through every stage of life, and death,
to keep us still thine own.


Holy, holy, holy! Lord God Almighty!

This hymn is provided here with its familiar tune Nicaea by J B Dykes.

Holy, holy, holy! Lord God Almighty!
Early in the morning our song shall rise to thee.
Holy, holy, holy! Merciful and mighty,
God in three Persons, blessed Trinity.

Holy, holy, holy! All saints adore thee,
casting down their golden crowns around the glassy sea;
cherubim and seraphim falling down before thee,
which wert, and art, and evermore shalt be.

Holy, holy, holy! Though the darkness hide thee,
though the sinful human eye thy glory may not see,
only thou art holy; there is none beside thee,
perfect in power, in love, and purity.

Holy, holy, holy! Lord God Almighty!
All thy works shall praise thy Name, in earth, and sky, and sea;
Holy, holy, holy! Merciful and mighty,
God in three Persons, blessed Trinity.



For each hymn we have provided a set of verses together with an electronically generated sound-track. The sound track does not provide any words - just the tune.

The selection of hymns to be included was subject to certain limitations, notably the restrictions of copyright. This meant that many modern hymns were excluded, and the exclusion even applied to some updated versions of traditional hymns. Some publishers have made a few minor changes to make hymns more "inclusive" and have then claimed copyright over the revised text. So in most cases the ORIGINAL texts have been used, even though these may not be the versions that appear in modern hymnals.

In deciding what tunes to be used, this has largely been the Webmaster's personal choice. It is a mixture of familiar tunes and tunes that are not well-known, but deserve to be better known. The webmaster has included some personal favourites (and excluded some pet hates!). The soundtracks provided go with the words provided - if there are four verses, the tune is repeated four times. Where possible tunes have been provided with descants or alternative arrangements.

Wherever possible, there is an explanation of who wrote the words or tunes, the circumstances under which they were written, when (and sometimes why). Many hymns include references to verses appearing in the King James Version of the Bible; more modern translations were not then available! In some cases we have tried to explain these scriptural references or other instances where words have changed their meaning over time.

This selection of "Sing-along Songs of Praise" was originally a series of blog posts written during the COVID Lockdowns of 2020. It was intended to allow people to sing hymns in the safety and privacy of their own homes at a time when hymn-singing in church was not allowed (even if the church building was open!).

When hymns are sung as part of a church service, it is normally the case that the hymn books are set aside at the end of the hymn and the next part of the service continues. There is no time to sit and reflect on the meaning or the beauty of words and/or music. This collection allows you to take your time, to read, listen sing along, reflect, and to repeat a hymn again if you wish.



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Last modified: 20 March 2021