The Birth of John the Baptist - Celebrated on 24th June
A hymn (not heard so often these days) for this day that was originally written in Latin by the Venerable Bede who lived from 673 to 735. This is a Victorian translation with a tune by W H Bell (1873-1946).
The dictionary defines a harbinger as: “A forerunner, a thing which tells of the onset or coming of something”.
Hail, harbinger of morn:
Thou that art this day born,
And heraldest the Word with clarion voice!
Ye faithful ones, in him
Behold the dawning dim
Of the bright day, and let your hearts rejoice.
John;--by that chosen name
To call him, Gabriel came
By God's appointment from his home on high:
What deeds that babe should do
To manhood when he grew,
God sent his angel forth to testify.
There is none greater, none,
Than Zechariah's son;
Than this no mightier prophet hath been born:
Of prophets he may claim
More than a prophet's fame;
Sublimer deeds than theirs his brow adorn.
'Lo, to prepare thy way,'
Did God the Father say
'Before thy face my messenger I send,
Thy coming to forerun;
As on the orient sun
Doth the bright daystar morn by morn attend.'
Praise therefore God most high;
Praise him who came to die
For us, his Son that liveth evermore;
And to the Spirit raise,
The Comforter, like praise,
While time endureth, and when time is o'er.
Hail, Harbinger of Morn
St James the Great - Commemorated on 15 July
The words were written by Revd William Romanis (1824-1899). He was ordained deacon in 1847, priest in 1848. He was Vicar of Wigston Magna, near Leicester 1863-1888 and then of Twyford, Hampshire until he retired in 1895. He also wrote Round me falls the night.
James has the agnomen “the Great” to distinguish him from the other Apostle, James the Less. The term Great refers to his age and/or size rather than his importance. James and John, the sons of Zebedee, were among the first Disciples to be called by Jesus. The Acts of the Apostles records that Herod the King had James executed by the sword. James is the patron saint of Spain and tradition has it that his remains are buried at Santiago di Compostela.
The following scriptural stories are referred to in the hymn:
– Mark 10.37 tells us that James and John said to Jesus, Grant us that we may sit, one on Your right hand and the other on Your left, in Your glory.
– James, John and Peter were the three witnesses to Christ’s transfiguration as described in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke.
– The same three were later asked by Jesus to pray with him in the Garden of Gethsemane (but they kept falling asleep).
The melody to Christus, der ist mein Leben (For Me to Live Is Jesus) was composed by Melchior Vulpius (1560-1616) for a funeral hymn of this title. The harmony is by Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750). Vulpius was a Lutheran cantor at Weimar who composed over 400 hymn tunes. He published a hymnbook in 1609 that included the tune Vulpius for The strife is oe’r, but he may not have composed it.
Lord, who shall sit beside Thee,
enthroned on either hand,
when clouds no longer hide Thee,
‘mid all Thy faithful band?
Who drinks the cup of sorrow
Thy Father gave to Thee
‘neath shadows of the morrow
in dark Gethsemane;
who on Thy Passion thinking
can find in loss a gain,
and dare to meet unshrinking
Thy baptism of pain.
O Jesu, form within us
Thy likeness clear and true;
by Thine example win us
to suffer and to do.
This law itself fulfilleth,-
Christlike to Christ is nigh,
and, where the Father willeth,
shall sit with Christ on high.
Christus, der ist mein Leben
St Luke - Commemorated on 19 October
The words describing the work of St Luke the Evangelist were written by Archbishop William Dalrymple Maclagan (1826-1910) while he was still a parish priest in London. As Archbishop of York, he crowned Queen Alexandra in 1902. Originally there were nine verses. The missing ones are shown below. (In the original verse 5, the word "fane" is an old word for a temple.)
The words of the third verse refer to the Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis – these only appear in St Luke’s Gospel. Verse five refers to the travels of St Luke with St Paul; the later chapters of The Acts of the Apostles are mostly about St Paul, and St Luke features in some of St Paul’s epistles.
The tune Ivyhatch was composed by Bertram Luard Selby (1853-1918). He was organist of Rochester Cathedral (1900-1916) and Musical Editor of Hymns Ancient and Modern (1904).
 What thanks and praise to Thee we owe,
O Priest and Sacrifice divine,
For Thy dear saint through whom we know
So many a gracious word of Thine;
 Whom Thou didst choose to tell the tale
Of all Thy manhood’s toils and tears,
And for a moment lift the veil
That hides Thy boyhood’s spotless years.
 And still the Church through all her days
Uplifts the strains that never cease,
The blessèd Virgin’s hymn of praise,
The aged Simeon’s words of peace.
 O happy saint! whose sacred page,
So rich in words of truth and love,
Pours on the Church from age to age
This healing unction from above;
 The witness of the Saviour’s life,
The great apostle’s chosen friend
Through weary years of toil and strife,
And still found faithful to the end.
 So grant us, Lord, like him to live,
Beloved by man, approved by Thee,
Till Thou at last the summons give,
And we, with him, Thy face shall see.
 How many a soul with guilt oppressed
Has learned to hear the joyful sound
In that sweet tale of sin confessed
The Father’s love, the lost and found?
 How many a child of sin and shame
Has refuge found from guilty fears
Through her, who to the Saviour came
With costly ointments and with tears!
 What countless worshippers have sung,
In lowly fane or lofty choir,
The song that loosed the silent tongue
Of him who was the Baptist’s sire!
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."
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