Plainsong developed during the earliest centuries of Christianity, influenced possibly by the music of the Jewish synagogue and certainly by the Greek modal system. It is a body of chants used in the liturgies of the Western Church, originally for pieces composed in Latin text. It was the exclusive form of Christian church music until the introduction of polyphony in the ninth century. The monophonic (single voice line) chants of plainsong have a non-metric rhythm, generally freer than the metered rhythm of later Western music and were often sung without musical accompaniment.
Plainsong has its own system of notation, employing a staff of four lines instead of five. If two notes are written one above the other, the lower note is sung first. You can see this in the way the Amen is written.
A number of well-known hymn tunes are modern adaptations of plainsong chants.
This 7th century Latin hymn Conditor alme siderum used to be ascribed to Saint Ambrose, the 4th century Bishop of Milan, but modern scholarship dismisses this as a legend. The hymn was traditionally sung at Vespers (Evening Prayer).
The version provided here is J M Neale's translation, which is a little different from the text found in many hymnals today as Creator of the starry height.
The tune Conditor Alme is a traditional plainsong melody, provided here with various harmonies. Please note that verse three has a conventional hymn tune format, but the melody line is a little different in a couple of places.
Creator of the stars of night,
Thy people’s everlasting light,
Jesu, Redeemer, save us all,
and hear Thy servants when they call.
Thou, grieving that the ancient curse
should doom to death a universe,
hast found the medicine, full of grace,
to save and heal a ruined race.
Thou cam’st, the Bridegroom of the bride,
as drew the world to evening-tide;
proceeding from a virgin shrine,
the spotless victim all divine.
At whose dread name, majestic now,
all knees must bend, all hearts must bow;
and things celestial Thee shall own,
and things terrestrial, Lord alone.
O Thou whose coming is with dread
to judge and doom the quick and dead,
preserve us, while we dwell below,
from every insult of the foe.
To God the Father, God the Son,
and God the Spirit, Three in One,
laud, honour, might, and glory be
from age to age eternally.
Veni Creator Spiritus (Come, Creator Spirit) is a traditional Christian hymn believed to have been written by Rabanus Maurus, a 9th-century German monk, teacher, and archbishop. Various versions of the Latine text exist. This English version by Bishop John Comin (1594-1672) compressed the content of the original seven verses into four (with a two-line doxology). It was included in the 1662 revision of the Book of Common Prayer, where it retained the Latin title. It was set for use at the Ordination of Priests and the Consecration of Bishops. It was the only hymn included in BCP.
It is often sung at Pentecost and also for the sacrament of Confirmation.
The composer of the ancient tune Veni Creator (Mechlin) is unknown
COME, Holy Ghost, our souls inspire,
and lighten with celestial fire;
Thou the anointing Spirit art,
Who dost Thy sevenfold gifts impart:
Thy blessed unction from above
is comfort, life, and fire of love;
enable with perpetual light
the dullness of our blinded sight:
Anoint and cheer our soiled face
with the abundance of Thy grace:
keep far our foes, give peace at home;
where Thou art guide no ill can come.
Teach us to know the Father, Son,
and thee, of Both, to be but One;
that through the ages all along
this may be our endless song,
Praise to thy eternal merit,
Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
Veni Creator (Mechlin)
The original Latin text was written by Saint Thomas Aquinas. He is considered to be one of the Catholic Church’s greatest theologians and philosophers. Thomas was born into a noble family about 1225, probably in the castle of Roccasecca, Aquino, in present-day Lazio, Italy. Despite opposition from his family, he joined the Dominican Order. After completing his studies he taught at universities in Cologne, Paris and Rome. He died 12 March 1274 at the Cistercian Abbey of Fossa Nuova, about 100 kilometres south-east of Rome.
The translation into English was made about 1850 by Revd James Russell Woodford (1820-1885). He was appointed as Vicar of Leeds in 1848 and consecrated as Bishop of Ely in 1873. He translated a number of hymns, but this is the only one found in most modern hymnals.
The tune is Adoro te devote, the original Benedictine plainsong from the 13th century.
Thee we adore, O hidden Saviour, Thee,
who at Thy Sacrament art pleased to be;
both flesh and spirit in Thy presence fail,
yet here Thy presence we devoutly hail.
O blest memorial of our dying Lord,
who living bread to men doth here afford!
O may our souls for ever feed on Thee,
and Thou, O Christ, for ever precious be.
Fountain of goodness, Jesu, Lord and God,
cleanse us, unclean, with Thy most cleansing blood;
increase our faith and love, that we may know
the hope and peace which from Thy presence flow.
O Christ, whom now beneath a veil we see,
may what we thirst for soon our portion be,
to gaze on Thee unveiled, and see Thy face,
the vision of Thy glory and Thy grace.
>Adoro te devote
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.
The picture of the chalice is symbolic of:
"A joyful image of a Eucharistic community which knows how to celebrate God's goodness to us but also how to reach out to the community and connect with those in need, in pain, in difficulty, who feel lost or neglected, or that they don't belong."
Come and join us! Explore this website to find out about our activities. We look forward to seeing you soon at one of our services or events!