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St Oswald's

The parish church of Bollington

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



Sing-Along Hymns

The Lost Chord and The Holy City


Two songs from the late 19th century.

Back in days before the internet, before television, and yes, even before radio broadcasting, people had to make their own home entertainment. Both of these songs were popular for singng in the parlour round the piano, as well as in the concert hall and more recently in films.

The Lost Chord

The poem was written by Adelaide Anne Procter (1825-1865) and set to music by Sir Arthur Sullivan in 1877. He had tried unsuccessfully to write music for the poem five years previously, but found inspiration as he sat at the bedside of his dying brother.

Adelaide Procter was a very popular poet in Victorian times. Her poems were published by Charles Dickens and she was Queen Victoria's favourite poet. She was an early feminist and her poetry deals with such subjects as homelessness, poverty, and fallen women, among whom she performed philanthropic work. However, her literary work fell out of favour after the early 20th century. This is probably the only piece that anyone has heard of these days.

The Lost Chord is one of the very first pieces of music to be recorded. It was used to demonstrate Edison's Phonograph at a press conference in London on 14 August 1888.

Seated one day at the organ
I was weary and ill at ease,
And my fingers wandered idly
Over the noisy keys.

I know not what I was playing,
Or what I was dreaming then;
But I struck one chord of music,
Like the sound of a great Amen.
Like the sound of a great Amen.

It flooded the crimson twilight,
Like the close of an angel's psalm,
And it lay on my fevered spirit
With a touch of infinite calm.

It quieted pain and sorrow,
Like love overcoming strife;
It seemed the harmonious echo
From our discordant life.

It linked all perplexèd meanings
Into one perfect peace,
And trembled away into silence
As if it were loth to cease.

I have sought, but I seek it vainly,
That one lost chord divine,
Which came from the soul of the organ,
And entered into mine.

It may be that death's bright angel
Will speak in that chord again,
It may be that only in Heav'n
I shall hear that grand Amen.

It may be that death's bright angel
Will speak in that chord again,
It may be that only in Heav'n
I shall hear that grand Amen.

The Lost Chord

The Holy City

This ballad dates from 1892, with music by Michael Maybrick writing under the alias Stephen Adams, and lyrics by Frederic Weatherly. Its sheet music sales made it one of the most commercially successful songs in the UK and United States around the beginning of the 20th century.

Legend has it that the song was sung by an opera singer awaiting trial for fraud in his cell while a group of men arrested for drunk and disorderly conduct were before the judge. The men were said to have dropped to their knees as the song began 'Last night I lay a-sleeping, There came a dream so fair.', the lyrics contrasting with their previous night's drunkenness. The song's conclusion resulted in the judge dismissing the men without punishment, each having learned a lesson from the song.

Wetherly and Adams also collaborated on The Star of Bethlehem. A century ago this was more popular than The Holy City, but it is the latter song that has proved to be a lasting favourite.

Last night I lay a sleeping, there came a dream so fair,
I stood in old Jerusalem, beside the temple there.
I heard the children singing, and ever as they sang,
methought the voice of Angels from Heaven in answer rang;
methought the voice of Angels from Heaven in answer rang,-

Jerusalem! Jerusalem!
Lift up your gates and sing,
Hosanna in the highest!
Hosanna to your King!

And then methought my dream was changed, the streets no longer rang.
Hushed were the glad Hosannas the little children sang.
The sun grew dark with mystery, the morn was cold and chill,
As the shadow of a cross arose upon a lonely hill,
As the shadow of a cross arose upon a lonely hill.

Jerusalem! Jerusalem!
Hark! how the Angels sing,
Hosanna in the highest,
Hosanna to your King.

And once again the scene was changed, new earth there seemed to be.
I saw the Holy City beside the tideless sea;
the light of God was on its streets, the gates were open wide,
and all who would might enter, and no one was denied.
No need of moon or stars by night, or sun to shine by day,
it was the new Jerusalem, that would not pass away;
It was the new Jerusalem, that would not pass away.

Jerusalem! Jerusalem!
Sing, for the night is o’er!
Hosanna in the highest,
Hosanna for evermore!
Hosanna in the highest,....
Hosanna for evermore!

The Holy City

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: 26 March 2021