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St Oswald's

The parish church of Bollington

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



Sing-Along Hymns

John Henry Newman (1801–1890)

Newman was an English theologian and poet, first an Anglican priest and later a Catholic priest and cardinal, who was an important and controversial figure in the religious history of England in the 19th century. He was canonised as a saint in the Catholic Church in 2019.

He died on 11 August 1890, and is commemorated on 11 August in the Calendar of the Church of England. In the Roman Catholic calendar, 11 August is already dedicated to St Clare of Assisi, and no date has been officially set (yet) for Newman in the RC Calendar.

He was born in the City of London, where his father was a banker. From the age of 15 he was an Evangelical. He was ordained as a deacon in the Church of England in 1824 and as a priest in 1825. By 1828, Newman was turning towards the “High Church” and became associated with the Oxford Movement by 1833. It was in 1833, while becalmed on a boat journey from Italy, that he wrote Lead, kindly light. By 1839 he was starting to have doubts that the Anglican Church was truly Apostolic. In 1845 he was formally admitted into the Roman Catholic Church, and was ordained as a priest in 1846. He was made a Cardinal in 1879.

In 1865, Newman published The Dream of Gerontius, based on Dante’s Inferno. In the first part (phase) of the work, the dying Gerontius recites Firmly I believe and truly... The words are used for this hymn, although the 5th verse is missing from most hymnals. (It could be taken to describe Newman's departure from the Church of England some 20 years earlier!)

In the fifth phase, five sets of Angelicals sing numerous verses of Praise to the holiest in the height, the final set of which comprise the familiar hymn.


Lead, kindly Light

The hymn was sung by soloist Marion Wright on board the Titanic, just before the ship hit the iceberg.

Revd Edward Henry Bickersteth (1825-1906) wrote a fourth verse for Lead, kindly light, which did not please Newman and is not found in modern hymnals. It is shown below.

Various tunes are used for this hymn. Here we offer three of them.

Sandon was written by Charles Henry Purday (1799-1885), a composer and publisher who included the tune in his hymnal of 1860 Church and Home Metrical Psalter. He was a precentor in the Scottish Church in Crown Court, London and sang at the coronation of Queen Victoria.

Lux benigna (Latin for “kindly light”) was one of the many tunes written by J B Dykes.

Alberta was composed by Sir William Henry Harris (1883-1973). He was organist at St George’s Chapel, Windsor from 1933 to 1961.

Lead, kindly light, amid the encircling gloom,
Lead thou me on;
The night is dark, and I am far from home;
Lead thou me on;
Keep thou my feet; I do not ask to see
The distant scene: one step enough for me.

I was not ever thus, nor prayed that thou
Shouldst lead me on;
I loved to choose, and see my path; but now
Lead thou me on.
I loved the garish day, and, spite of fears,
Pride ruled my will: remember not past years.

So long thy power hath blest me, sure it still
Will lead me on,
O’er moor and fen, o’er crag and torrent, till
The night is gone,
And with the morn those angel faces smile,
Which I have loved long since, and lost awhile.


Lux benigna


Meantime along the narrow rugged path,
Thyself has trod,
Lead, Saviour, lead me home in childlike faith
Home to my God,
To rest for ever after earthly strife
In the calm light of everlasting life.

Firmly I believe and truly

The tune Halton Holgate was written by William Boyce (1711-1779). He was a choirboy at St Paul’s Cathedral 1719-1727 and Master of the King’s Musick from 1857 until his death, although he had become very deaf by 1758 and had to give up his organist posts. Much of his secular music is neglected today, but a number of his church anthems are still performed.

(A modern tune by Patrick Appleford can be found here.)

[1] Firmly I believe and truly
God is Three and God is One;
and I next acknowledge duly
manhood taken by the Son.

[2] And I trust and hope most fully
in that manhood crucified;
and each thought and deed unruly
do to death, as he has died.

[3] Simply to his grace and wholly
light and life and strength belong,
and I love supremely, solely,
him the holy, him the strong.

[4] And I hold in veneration,
for the love of him alone,
Holy Church as his creation,
and her teachings as his own.

[6] Adoration ay be given,
with and through the angelic host,
to the God of earth and heaven,
Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.

Halton Holgate


William Boyce

[5] And I take with joy whatever
Now besets me, pain or fear,
And with a strong will I sever
All the ties which bind me here.

Praise to the holiest in the height

J B Dykes wrote the tune Gerontius for this hymn.

Sir Arthur Somervell (1863-1937) was born in Windermere, the son of the founder of “K Shoes”. He wrote several hymn tunes – Chorus Angelorum is the best known.

R R Terry wrote the tune Billing.

(The hymn is sometimes also sung to Richmond, the tune for City of God, how broad and far.)

Praise to the Holiest in the height,
and in the depth be praise,
In all His words most wonderful,
most sure in all His ways.

O loving wisdom of our God!
When all was sin and shame,
A second Adam to the fight
and to the rescue came.

O wisest love! that flesh and blood,
which did in Adam fail,
Should strive afresh against the foe,
should strive and should prevail.

And that a higher gift than grace
should flesh and blood refine,
God’s presence, and His very self,
and essence all-divine.

O generous love! that He, who smote
in man for man the foe,
The double agony in man
for man should undergo.

And in the garden secretly,
and on the cross on high,
Should teach His brethren,
and inspire to suffer and to die.

Praise to the Holiest in the height,
and in the depth be praise,
In all His words most wonderful,
most sure in all His ways.


Chorus Angelorum


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: 07 March 2021