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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 Henry Alford (1810-1871)

Alford was born in London of a Somerset family which had given five consecutive generations of clergymen to the Anglican church. He was made a fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge in 1834. By this time he had already been ordained, and was appointed Vicar of Wymeswold, Leicestershire. He remained there for 18 years despite twice been offered bishoprics in the colonies. He moved to Quebec Street Chapel, Marylebone in 1853 and in 1857 he was made Dean of Canterbury, a post he held until his death.

As well as the hymns included here, he also wrote Forward! be our watchword, Come, ye thankful people, come, and Ten thousand times ten thousand.


The highest and the holiest place

A hymn for St Matthias - commemorated on 14 May.


The Acts of the Apostles tells us that Matthias was chosen by the apostles to replace Judas Iscariot following the latter’s betrayal of Jesus and his subsequent death. So although Matthias was not personally chosen by Jesus, he was one of the Apostles present at Pentecost when the Holy Spirit descended upon the early Church. The bible tells us that the Disciples drew up a shortlist of two (Joseph, called Barsabas surnamed Justus and Matthias) and then cast lots. As the King James Bible puts it “the lot fell on Matthias”.

As the old choirboys’ joke has it… Perhaps it was a good thing Matthias wasn’t standing anywhere near the Walls of Jericho when the trumpets blew!

The words have been slightly modified as Revd Alford didn’t think it was necessary to mention Matthias by name.

The tune (perhaps confusingly) called St James was composed by Raphael Courteville (1677-1772). The name comes from the church of St. James’s, Westminster where Courteville, who had previously been a chorister in the Chapel Royal, was appointed the first organist in 1691, with a salary of £20 per annum for himself and £4 for a blower. If he wrote any other hymn tunes, they have since been lost.

The highest and the holiest place
guards not the heart from sin;
the Church that safest seems without
may harbour foes within.

Within that small and chosen band,
beloved above the rest,
one fell from his apostleship,
a traitor soul unblest.

But ne’er the great designs of God
man’s sins shall overthrow;
a better witness to the truth
forth to the lands shall go.

Matthias was the chosen one-
God’s purpose cannot fail-
the word of grace no less shall sound,
the truth no less prevail.

Righteous, O Lord, are all thy ways:
long as the worlds endure,
from foes without and foes within
preserve thy Church secure.

St James

Brightly did the light divine

A hymn for St Barnabas - commemorated on 11 June. (Although Macclesfield’s Barnaby fair is usually held on a Saturday a week or more later.)


St Barnabas was not one of the original Twelve Apostles, but he is described as an apostle in Acts and in several of St Paul’s Epistles. He was active at Antioch (in present-day Turkey), first alone and then with St Paul from about a decade after the Crucifixion. Christian tradition holds that Barnabas was martyred at Salamis on Cyprus, and he is traditionally identified as the founder of the Cypriot Orthodox Church. The Greek text of Acts 4:36 explains his name as υἱὸς παρακλήσεως, meaning “son of encouragement” or “son of consolation”.

The tune Boyce is a simplified version of Halton Holgate Firmly I believe and truly composed by William Boyce (1710-1779).

Brightly did the light divine
from his words and actions shine
from the Twelve, with love unblamed,
'son of consolation', named.

Full of peace and lively joy
sped he on his high employ,
by his mild exhorting word
adding many to the Lord.

Blessèd Spirit, who didst call
Barnabas and holy Paul,
and didst them with gifts endue,
mighty words and wisdom true,

grant us, Lord of life, to be
by their pattern full of Thee;
that beside them we may stand
in that day on Christ’s right hand.


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: 22 February 2021