Sunday, July 16, 2017

Picking a tune for Whittier’s greatest hit

This morning’s bulletin included a copy of “Dear Lord and Father of mankind,” which meant it wasn’t in the hymnal — but it was. So this warranted further investigation.

When I got home, I checked my six 20th century Anglican hymnals — it’s in all of them, but with different tunes. All seem to use the same five verses — dropping the 4th verse of Whittier’s original 6 — and it appears to have escaped bowdlerization in the later hymnals (perhaps because the only offensive word, “mankind”, appears in the first phrase). However, there are five different tunes.

In chronological order:
  • The English Hymnal (1906): #383, Hammersmith
  • Hymnal 1916: #120, 1) Newcastle; and 2) Rest
  • Songs of Praise, Enlarged Edition (1931): #481, 1) Repton; 2) Nicolaus (Lobt Gott)
  • Hymnal 1940: #435, 1) Hermann (same as Nicolaus); 2) Rest
  • Hymnal 1982: #652, Rest; #653, Repton
  • New English Hymnal (1986): #353, Repton

Text

The 1872 text is by John Greenleaf Whittier (1807-1892), the American poet whose work I had heard of as a kid but (it appears) I never read any of it. His name is more familiar because it was attached to a street near my elementary school (and high school), a town (where Richard Nixon grew up) and a college. The Cyber Hymnal reports that this abolitionist was known as “America’s ‘Quaker Poet’,” that he authored nearly 100 hymns and perhaps 20 are still found in hymnals. Of these texts, “Dear Lord” is the only one I recognize.

Here are the five verses, in the form that (according to Hymnal 1940 Companion) it was first adapted in 1905:
Dear Lord and Father of mankind,
forgive our foolish ways;
reclothe us in our rightful mind,
in purer lives thy service find,
in deeper reverence, praise.

In simple trust like theirs who heard
beside the Syrian sea
the gracious calling of the Lord,
let us, like them, without a word
rise up and follow thee.

O Sabbath rest by Galilee,
O calm of hills above,
where Jesus knelt to share with thee
the silence of eternity,
interpreted by love!

Drop thy still dews of quietness,
till all our strivings cease;
take from our souls the strain and stress,
and let our ordered lives confess
the beauty of thy peace.

Breathe through the heats of our desire
thy coolness and thy balm;
let sense be dumb, let flesh retire;
speak through the earthquake, wind, and fire,
O still, small voice of calm!

Usage

The hymn is listed as a general hymn except in 1916, when it’s called out for Septuagesima. The Liturgical Index of Hymnal 1940 lists it for morning prayer at Trinity VII MP, and evening prayer on Lent III and St. Matthias. In the Lectionary hymn choices by Rev. Richard R. Losch on DrShirley.org, it is recommended for
  • Epiphany 3A/St. Andrew: Matthew 4:12-23
  • Epiphany 3B: Mark 1:14-20
  • Epiphany 5C: Luke 5:1-11
  • Last Epiphany B/Proper 8C: I Kings 19: 9-21
  • Proper 7B: Mark 4:35-5:20
  • Proper 14C: Hebrew 11:1-16

Tunes

These are the five tunes across the six hymnals:
  • Hammersmith, by William Henry Gladstone, M.P. (1840-1891), eldest son of the famous British prime minister.
  • Newcastle, written in 1875, it is the only surviving hymn of English organist Henry L. Morley (c. 1834).
  • Nicholaus, written in 1554 by Nicholaus Hermann (c.1500-1561), the early Lutheran hymnwriter; the tune was arranged and harmonized by J.S.  Bach (apparently for his BWV 151 cantata).
  • Hermann, the same tune, but harmonized by Winifred Douglas for his Hymnal 1940.
  • Repton, written in 1888 by Sir C. Hubert H. Parry (1848-1918), second director of the Royal College of Music who is buried in the Chapel of the OBE at St. Paul’s Cathedral. The New English Hymnal says it was “from a song in his oratorio Judith.
  • Rest, by English organist Federick Maker (1844-1927), written in 1887 specifically for this text.
All except the Parry have four part harmonies. If the hymnal choices reflect broader congregational popularity, today the choice seems to be between Rest and Ripton.

Rest is the one we sang as a kid, is familiar to an Episcopalian of the past century, and has four part harmonies; however, cradle Episcopalians are no longer the core audience for Anglican churches. Ripton has only a melody — the Parry harmonization is for organ and not voices — but is the one that’s on all the recordings (by English choirs, naturally).

Because the range is better for lower voices, I vote for Rest. Our music director (an Anglophile) votes for Ripton because, well, it’s Parry; my teenage daughter also votes for it, because it’s the one she’s learned on YouTube.

I get the argument about Parry, but musically I don’t give Parry, Stainer, Stanford or even Elgar the same deference as Purcell or Tallis. (I would put Holst and Vaughan Williams in the latter category). So here it seems like a matter of taste or congregation familiarity. But in the long run, if Americans don’t record their tunes they’ll be forgotten by future generations.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Luke, John and Zechariah

June 24 is the Nativity of St. John the Baptist, in the Anglican, Lutheran and Roman Catholic calendars of saints’ days. Because the Annunciation takes place when Elizabeth’s pregnancy is six months along, the Western church traditionally dates John’s birth six months before Jesus.

This week, Issues Etc. reran an hour-long show on this feast day — a 2016 interview with Pastor David Peterson, an LCMS pastor from Ft. Wayne, Indiana. Although the Anglican and Lutheran liturgies are different, most of the points are applicable to Anglican liturgy as well.

There are many elements of the life of John — and Jesus — that are only told in the first two chapters of Luke. This includes three key canticles of the traditional liturgy: the Magnificat (Luke 1:46-55), Benedictus (1:68-79) and Nunc Dimittis (2:29-32) — respectively the songs of Mary, Zechariah and Simeon.

The Benedictus, of course, is what Zechariah says at the ceremony that names (and circumcises) John. While the 1549 BCP is derived from the Coverdale (and Tyndale) translations, the same similarities can be seen in more modern spelling in the 1662 and KJV
Benedictus (BCP 1662) Luke 1:68-79 (KJV)
Blessed be the Lord God of Israel: for he hath visited and redeemed his people;
And he hath raised up a mighty salvation for us: in the house of his servant David;
As he spoke by the mouth of his holy Prophets: which have been since the world began;
That we should be saved from our enemies: and from the hand of all that hate us;
To perform the mercy promised to our fore-fathers: and to remember his holy covenant;
To perform the oath which he sware to our forefather Abraham: that he would give us;
That we being delivered out of the hands of our enemies: might serve him without fear;
In holiness and righteousness before him: all the days of our life.
And thou, child, shalt be called the Prophet of the Highest: for thou shalt go before the face of the Lord to prepare his ways;
To give knowledge of salvation unto his people: for the remission of their sins,
Through the tender mercy of our God: whereby the Day-spring from on high hath visited us;
To give light to them that sit in darkness, and in the shadow of death: to guide our feet into the way of peace.
Glory be to the Father and to the Son: and to the Holy Ghost;
As it was in the beginning, is now: and ever shall be, world without end. Amen
Blessed be the Lord God of Israel; for he hath visited and redeemed his people,
And hath raised up an horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David;
As he spake by the mouth of his holy prophets, which have been since the world began:
That we should be saved from our enemies, and from the hand of all that hate us;
To perform the mercy promised to our fathers, and to remember his holy covenant;
The oath which he sware to our father Abraham,
That he would grant unto us, that we being delivered out of the hand of our enemies might serve him without fear,
In holiness and righteousness before him, all the days of our life.
And thou, child, shalt be called the prophet of the Highest: for thou shalt go before the face of the Lord to prepare his ways;
To give knowledge of salvation unto his people by the remission of their sins,
Through the tender mercy of our God; whereby the dayspring from on high hath visited us,
To give light to them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.
As the the New Advent encyclopedia states
The whole canticle naturally falls into two parts. The first (verses 68-75) is a song of thanksgiving for the realization of the Messianic hopes of the Jewish nation; but to such realization is given a characteristically Christian tone. As of old, in the family of David, there was power to defend the nation against their enemies, now again that of which they had been so long deprived, and for which they had been yearning, was to be restored to them, but in a higher and spiritual sense. …

The second part of the canticle is an address by Zachary to his own son, who was to take so important a part in the scheme of the Redemption; for he was to be a prophet, and to preach the remission of sins before the coming or the Orient, or Dawn, from on high.
According to the New Advent encyclopedia, it was Benedict who added this canticle to the morning office (lauds) in the 6th century. In Cranmer’s original 1549 BCP, the Benedictus was the only canticle available after the second lesson of Matins. The 1552 BCP — Cranmer’s final prayer book before his execution— gives a choice of the Benedictus or the Jubilate Deo (from Psalm 100); this pattern continues into the 1559 and 1662 BCP, as well as the US prayer books from 1789 to 1928. (The 1979 prayer book, as is its wont, gives a choice of 21 canticles after either reading).

As a choirboy (prior to H82 and the 1979 prayer book), we sang morning prayer every other Sunday, and the words of the Jubilate Deo are etched in my brain; for the Jubilate Tune 645, the F-major chant by William Russell (1777-1813) seems the most familiar. It’s rare nowadays that I see a sung morning prayer, but if I were to pick a sung Benedictus, it would be #634, the G major chant by James Turle (1802-1882).

The podcast made one additional point. Zechariah (like his wife) is from the priestly line of Aaron. When Zechariah meets Gabriel in the temple, he lost his ability to speak for doubting the angel. According to Pastor Peterson, this means that he cannot finish the service, which would have concluded with the Benediction of Aaron (which is also called the Priestly Blessing) from Numbers 6:24-27:
The Lord bless thee, and keep thee:
The Lord make his face shine upon thee, and be gracious unto thee:
The Lord lift up his countenance upon thee, and give thee peace.
And they shall put my name upon the children of Israel, and I will bless them.
As Pr. Peterson reminded me — from my Missouri Synod days — this benediction is the closing prayer of the LCMS Holy Communion service. A quick check of my bookcase shows this benediction closes the Divine Service both in the 1941 and 2006 LCMS hymnals, as well as the 1978 LCA hymnal. In American Anglican liturgy, this benediction can be found in the Rite I Evening Prayer in the 1979 prayer book — but it is dropped in the ACNA draft liturgy (which most often follows Rite II in form and wording).

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Farewell, Oremus

At a sacred music class last month, we compared notes about favorite websites for Anglican church music. I think Oremus was at the top of the list.

Alas, that was past tense. For a term paper (for this class), I went to Oremus to look up hymns from my favorite hymnal, and found this sad notice:
Started in 1997, the Oremus Hymnal is no more as May 30, 2017 due to copyright concerns. As I do not have the time or interest to update hundreds of webpages, I have taken the long overdue step of closing down this site. I am sorry that the material here will no longer be available here, but in the over two decades since starting this project, many other, excellent sites have become available. Google Books also has hundreds of historical hymnals available to browse for free.

If you need further help finding hymns, I suggest you go to Hymnary.org, which contains many more texts and audio files than I could ever hope to produce on my own.

Due to many requests, I have put the hymn suggestions for the lectionary back up. None of the links work, but they do list the first lines.
Lectionary Year A
Lectionary Year B
Lectionary Year C
This site was created by Steve Benner and was last modified on May 30, 2017.
On the one hand, I can sympathize with Steve, having created a much simpler website (on a different topic) the same year. Rather than a single guy, Hymnary.org has behind it the resources of Calvin College and its Calvin Instiute of Christian Worship.

From a legal standpoint, it should have been possible to include U.S. hymnals prior to 1923. British copyright law seems to provide 50 years after the death of the author (which means The English Hymnal and other Vaughan Williams has been available almost a decade). But again, I still understand why it wasn’t worth separating the wheat from the chaff.

There is one other reason I go to Oremus: the Liturgical Psalter, a little-known (but beautiful) translation whose licensing rights reverted to the authors in 2001. It's almost as poetic as the Coverdale psalter (found in most prayer books of the past 400 years), and a lot easier to understand.

Still, the index of dozens of Anglican hymnals at Oremus will be missed. I’m not sure if Hymnary can fully replace it, but that's a question for another time.



Monday, May 29, 2017

Another progressive theological innovation

Mainline Protestantism Declared A Safe Space For Those Offended By The Gospel
The Babylon Bee
May 25, 2016

LOUISVILLE, KY — … Speaking on behalf of [mainline] Protestant denominations… a spokesperson issued the following statement: “We are in agreement that there is a great need for churches to rise up and create spaces that are safe for questioning and accepting our identities, doubts, fears, failures, and blatant sins. Effective immediately, we are declaring all mainline Protestant churches safe spaces, where there are no judgments, conviction, repentance, or gospel presentations whatsoever.”''

The statement listed elements that safe space churches should remove from their premises, including “crosses, Bibles, pulpits, organs, hymnals, systematic theologies, and sermons exhibiting any form of triggering micro-aggression. Be considerate.” Words like “sin,” “hell,” “death,” “wrath,” “propitiation,” and “substitutionary atonement” are also on the ban list.

On behalf of all of mainline Protestantism, the spokesperson expressed heartfelt joy that they were able to make such a major step toward accepting—and not judging—anyone who may be on a path toward God’s judgment. …

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Ecumenical funeral music

Over the weekend, I went to the funeral of an old friend of my father’s. He was both younger than my dad (by 13 years) and died at an older age (81 vs. 90), so I went to represent my father’s gratitude to someone who’d been very good to him.

The title of the church didn’t make it obvious, but in the pews the hymnals were embossed “First Assembly of God” which made this the first time I’d ever attended an Assembly of God service. (The local AoG church had rented its space in the past to the ACNA, and I’ve seen AoG televangelists on TV, but never actually attended a worship service). The preaching and use of the Bible matched my expectations (and I mean that in positive way).

The hymnal (Sing His Praise,  Gospel Publishing House, 1991), was little used by those attendees (two of us pulled it out), as the church had long since converted to praise band and projection screens. The drums were at the center of the stage, behind a plexiglass shield, for the next day’s performance worship music.

There was no choir, only a pianist. Other than her prelude and postlude, the music consisted of
  • “That Will be Glory,” solo by one of the pastors
  • “What a Friend We Have in Jesus,” instrumental trio
  • “It is Well with my Soul” (#112, verses 1,3,4), sung by the congregation. It had the familiar harmony so in the refrain, I was able to do the men’s part in response to the upper (and unison) voices.
  • “How Great Thou Art” (#9, verses 1,3,4), sung by the congregation but interrupted by the pastor to make a point prior to the final verse
The pianist knew what she was doing. The pastor seemed to think changes in tempo made his singing more dramatic, which worked for the solo but not when he was leading 150 voices in singing. This approach to singing the music is undoubtably a local practice that would have been familiar to the many parishioners in attendance; I found it unfamiliar if not slightly confusing. 

It made me think that if you have a service with a large number of visitors — given how rarely non-Christians attend baptisms nowadays, that would mean a wedding or funeral — it's not just the choice of hymns (including tunes and words) that will make a difference on congregational participation. It’s also the style of performance.

Finally, it reinforced my prior prejudices: if you are going to have Christians in the room who are used to singing hymns, three hymns is the minimum and four is better. Those in attendance sang with gusto, and I think would have welcomed more verses if not more hymns.