Sunday, September 29, 2019

Singing to angels and arcangels

The Feast of Michaelmas

The feast of St. Michael is celebrated on Sept. 29 by the liturgical Western churches. The celebration of St. Michael dates to 5th century Rome on Sept 30, and on Sept. 29 from the 7th century onward. In England, Michaelmas was once one of the major English quarterly holidays (along with Christmas, Lady Day and Midsummer), and was traditionally celebrated by a feast with a fatted goose.

The Catholic church today remembers the three archangels named in scripture: Michael, Gabriel, Raphael. In the Anglican church, the feast is for St. Michael and All Angels. This is also the observance of the Lutheran church, which kept it despite dropping so many other Roman holidays; as an LCMS writer explains:
At the time of the Reformation, the Lutherans revised the celebration of former holidays and saint days in order to give greater prominence to the work of Jesus. St. Michael and All Angels was retained in the Lutheran liturgical calendar because it was seen as a principal feast about Christ. In fact, Philip Melanchthon, a colleague of Dr. Martin Luther, even wrote a hymn about St. Michael and All Angels (LSB 522, “Lord God, To Thee We Give All Praise”).

At first, this might strike us as strange. How is a feast named after an archangel about Jesus? But as with all commemorations within the Lutheran Church, the focus is not on the person but held in grateful thanksgiving to our Lord for using this person (or His holy angels) to give glory to His name and to bring about salvation for His people. The event celebrated on the Feast of St. Michael and All Angels is thus important both in regard to our salvation and to the comfort it brings the Christian conscience.
The website Text This Week helpfully lists readings for Roman Catholic, Episcopal and Lutheran congregations. All agree on the appointed reading for today: Revelation 12:7-12, telling how St. Michael leads the victorious battle in heaven. (I would probably still be chanting this Epistle today — as I did 25 years ago — if we hadn’t changed churches).

Anglican Hymns

I had trouble finding familiar hymns with texts that fit today. The LiturgyTools website has a list of hymn (most of which I don’t know), but perhaps the most obvious hymn (for “All Angels” if not St. Michael) is a Victorian hymn:
Ye holy angels bright,
who wait at God's right hand,
or through the realms of light
fly at your Lord's command,
assist our song,
for else the theme
too high doth seem
for mortal tongue.
I remember it from childhood because it is the last hymn of the first edition of Hymnal 1940 (600), it is also the last hymn of Book of Common Praise 2017 (#639); it is also found in The English Hymnal (#517); the New English Hymnal (#475) and Hymnal 1982 (#625). The tune is Darwall’s 148th, published by John Darwall in 1770, with a wonderful four part harmony. says it’s found in 95 hymnals — basically Anglican hymnals worldwide — but not in Catholic or Lutheran ones, and only the earliest (1933) US Methodist hymnal. It has a descant by Sydney Nicholson, published both in Hymnal 1982 and the Oxford Book of Descants.

This hymn is recommended for this day in Hymnal 1940, as is “Ye watchers and the holy ones” (H40: 599, H82: 618; BCP17: 637). While this connection to the feast day seems less direct, this hymn is also found in Catholic, Lutheran, and Methodist hymnals (for those that still use hymnals). The tune is Lasst uns enfreuen, from a 17th century German Catholic hymnal and harmonized by Ralph Vaughan Williams. There is a descant by Christopher Gower in the Oxford Book of Descants, while my own music director (J. Davis Simmons) has written his own magnificent descant.

Hymnal 1940 lists four hymns for the feast day:
  1. “Around the throne of God,” written by John M. Neale, and set to the (quite singable) 1873 tune Abends.
  2. “Stars of the morning, so gloriously bright,” a 9th century Greek text translated by Neale in Hymns of the Eastern Church, set to Trisagion, a tune composed for this purpose and published in the 1868 edition of Hymns Ancient & Modern.
  3. “Angels and ministers, spirits of grace,” by Percy Dearmer in his 1933 Songs of Praise, Enlarged Edition (one of the few hymns from this hymnal that made it into H40). It is set to the Irish tune Slane; two different descants are in the Oxford Book of Descants. 
  4. “Christ the fair glory of the holy angels,” the official office hymn for this date — a 9th century Latin text translated by The English Hymnal and updated by H40. It has a choice of two tunes: Christ Sanctorum (a Sarum plainsong) and the 17th century Coelites Plaudant.
The New English Hymnal has only one text — the latter — with Iste Confessor (also a plainsong) and Coelites Plaudant. Book of Common Praise 2017 also retains only this one text, but with the tune Supplication by W.H. Monk (music editor of Hymns A&M).

For once, Hymnal 1982 does not have the widest selection of hymns for saints’ days. For the office hymn, it retains Coelites Plaudant (#282) and adds a second plainsong (#283), Caelitum Joseph (adapted in 1983 by Schola Antiqua). The other text it has is “O ye immortal throng of angels” (#284), a text by Philip Doddridge) set to Croft’s 136th.

Lutheran Hymns

With DuckDuckGo, I also found a Lutheran website with hymn suggestions for this date: the Free Lutheran Chorale-Book. It writes
The most well-known is Paul Eber’s “Lord God, to Thee We All Give Praise” (“Herr Gott, dich loben alle wir“), 1554. It appears in The Lutheran Hymnal, 1941, as No. 254, “Lord God, We All to Thee Give Praise,” and in the Lutheran Service Book, 2006, as No. 522, “Lord God, to Thee We Give All Praise.” Eber’s German hymn is a paraphrase of a Latin composition by Philipp Melanchthon, “Dicimus gratias tibi” (“We give thank to Thee”), 1543. The tune, which in the Lutheran chorale tradition is known as “Herr Gott, dich loben alle wir,” is well known among English speakers as “Old Hundredth” due to its association with the metrical setting of Psalm 100 in the Geneva Psalter. 
Hymnary lists 22 (18th and 19th century) hymnals with the German text, and 18 (Lutheran) hymnals with the English text, including the current LCMS and WELS (but not ELCA) hymnals. However, the text is more generically about angels than specific to St. Michael.

It mentions a second hymn, the 17th century “Aus Lieb läßt Gott den Christenheit,” but that was only published in the U.S. in an 18th century German Lutheran hymnal by C.F.W. Walther.

I pulled out my copy of the 1941 The Lutheran Hymnal, and it offers its own assortment of hymns that overlaps H40:
  1. “Lord God, we all to thee give praise,” set to Old Hundredth.
  2. “Stars of the morning, so gloriously bright,” set to O Quanta Qualis, a 17th century plainsong tune.
  3. “Around the throne of God,” set to Winchester New (a descant is available in the Oxford Book of Descants).
  4. “Jesus, brightness of the Father,” a 9th century text translated by Edward Caswall, set to Neander (a descant is available in the Oxford Book of Descants).
The latter two familiar tunes seem a great way to get Anglicans to sing these lesser known Anglican texts.

Sunday, September 22, 2019

A hymn worthy of an Apostle

A Bright Contribution to Saints’ Hymns

September 21 is the feast of St. Matthew. In observance of the feast day, today we sang a hymn intended for the occasion: “He sat to watch o’er customs paid” by Rev. William Bright (1824-1901). I didn’t recognize it because it’s not in Hymnal 1916, Hymnal 1940 or Book of Common Praise 2017.

According to Julian’s Dictionary of Hymnology (via Hymnary), Bright was an Oxford grad, fellow and later chaired professor (and canon of Christ Church Oxford). Julian concludes: “Canon Bright's hymns merit greater attention than they have received at the hands of compilers.” Indeed, his best known hymn, “And now, O Father, mindful of the love”, appears in only 73 hymnals. By comparison, John Mason Neale has 24 hymns in more than 100 hymnals, although such prodigious output of timeless hymns (e.g., “All glory, laud and honor,” “Good Christian men rejoice” and “O come, O come Emmanuel”) is impossible to match.

“He saw to watch o’er customs paid” appears in 11 hymnals. In Songs of Praise Discussed, it is described thus
Dr. Bright’s hymn, which is one of  the really good saint’s day hymns, combining in lines of classical finish the historical facts with their practical application, was first published in the Supplementary Hymns to Hymns Ancient and Modern (1889).
The first and last of the six verses summarize the premise of the hymn:
He sat to watch o’er customs paid,
A man of scorned and hardening trade,
Alike the symbol and the tool
Of foreign masters’ hated rule.

Who keep thy gifts, O bid them claim
The steward’s, not the owner’s name;
Who yield up all for thy dear sake,
Let them of Matthew’s wealth partake.

Tuning In

Alas, both my favorite Anglican hymnal and the newest Anglican hymnal don’t include this hymn. Hymnal 1940 is lamentably sparse in its coverage of saints’ days, something that Hymnal 1982 certainly improves upon.

While there is a consistent pattern of the text, the choice of tune was highly fragmented. Because it is Long Metre (, there is an embarrassment of options.

Of the 11 hymnals, 7 are familiar Anglican hymnals. Not surprisingly, the hymn first appeared with the 2nd supplement (1889) to original 1861 Hymns Ancient & Modern (aka “original edition” aka “standard edition”). In these, it is hymn #615 with the tune Gloucester, while the same text and tune are #238 in the “New Edition” (1904). Finally, the Hymns Ancient & Modern Revised  (1950, aka the “Revised edition”) it was #563, to Thomas Turton’s tune Ely.

The English Hymnal (1906) published the hymn (#240) to the tune Alfretòn. The same text and tune are also found in the 1925 Songs of Praise (#237), and the 1986 New English Hymnal (#189).

A third tune was chosen by Hymnal 1982 (#281). Breslau is a 15th century German tune, harmonized by Mendelssohn.

Today, however, we sang none of the above. Instead, our choir director selected Creator Alme Siderum. This Sarum plainsong tune is one of my favorites — and beloved by many — from its use with the hymn “Creator of the Stars of Night.”

No matter what the tune, the text is one that one that deserves to be in any Anglican hymnal.

Collecting Our Thoughts

For mass, the gospel is the calling of Matthew (Matthew 9:9-13), and for mass and daily office the collect from 1549 until 1928 is the same
O ALMIGHTY God, who by thy blessed Son didst call Matthew from the receipt of custom to be an Apostle and Evangelist; Grant us grace to forsake all covetous desires, and inordinate love of riches, and to follow the same thy Son Jesus Christ, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Ghost, one God, world without end. Amen.
The collect in the 1979 ECUSA prayer book is inexplicably different (even in Rite I)
We thank you, heavenly Father, for the witness of thine apostle and evangelist Matthew to the Gospel of thy Son our Savior; and we pray that, after his example, we may with ready wills and hearts obey the calling of our Lord to follow him; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
For this collect, the 2019 ACNA prayer book does not follow the 1979 (as it often does), but more closely follows the historic Anglican liturgy:
Lord Jesus, you called Matthew from collecting taxes to become your apostle and evangelist: Grant us the grace to forsake all covetous desires and inordinate love of riches, that we may follow you as he did and proclaim to the world around us the good news of your salvation; for with the Father and the Holy Spirit you live and reign, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Sunday, June 30, 2019

Dear Lord, we give thanks for Hubert Parry

In doing my research this past year on Anglican parish hymn singing, I made up a list of litmus questions to ask music directors, all of which got at a tension in the American interpretation of English hymn-singing. One was “Hail thee, Festival Day!” — which is both the great Vaughan Williams tune from The English Hymnal and a difficult hymn to sing.

Another was using Repton for Whittier’s text “Dear Lord and Father of Mankind.” When it was mentioned this month on our favorite Facebook group, my daughter had never realized that it was missing from the hymnal she grew up on (her dad’s favorite hymnal) but was instead a later addition.

Two years ago I blogged on this combination — one of five tunes used for this text by Anglican hymnals — because the music director at my current church loves Repton. It was only in the past month that I realized how rare — and recent — the pairing is. Hymnary lists the hymn text as appearing in 434 hymnals, with tune names for 134. Of these 134, only 23 list Repton.

Songs of Praise

The first example of this pairing was in Songs of Praise (1925), where it was the first tune of Hymn #481 in both SOP and Songs of Praise, Extended Edition (1933).

SOP had Martin Shaw and Ralph Vaughan Williams as music editor, and Percy Dearmer as text editor. This hymnal is little known among Americans, but it was the key English hymnal between The English Hymnal (1906) and the New English Hymnal (1986). If you look at writing about 20th century British hymnody, the only other seminal hymn book during this period is the 1928 Oxford Book of Carols — with the same three editors.

Vaughan Williams and Dearmer had played the same roles in The English Hymnal, the most influential English hymn book of the 20th century. This is ironic, since (according to Wikipedia quoting a Dearmer biography) SOP was created by the two men (plus Shaw) because TEH was too “high church”. I don’t have direct knowledge of early 20th century COE politics, but clearly TEH was less high church than Hymns Ancient & Modern, which is undeniably among the most high church English-language hymnals of all time.

We could just take the editors at their word. Here is how the newer preface in SOPEE (1933) begins
When Songs of Praise was first published in 1925, the object to make, so far as then possible, a collection of hymns that should be national in character; and a hope was expressed in the Preface that the book might be of use to those who bear the responsibility of our national education.
The preface then elaborates on how the original SOP was adopted in British schools, and how the editors of SOPEE sought to incorporate their feedback in the revision.

Parry’s Tune Repton

This is what the hymnal companion to SOP (Songs of Praise Discussed, 1933) says about the tune
repton, by Sir Hubert Parry, is from his oratorio Judith (1888), where in Scene ii, a dialogue between Meshollemeth and a Child, it is sung by the former to the words beginning ‘Long since in Egypt’s plenteous land’. The tune is typical of the composer in its broad melody, and especially in the elliptical rhythm of the last three lines. In its present form it makes a fine, strong unison tune.
Charles Hubert Hastings Parry (1848-1918) was the English composer who was an Oxford music professor from 1900-1908, succeeding John Stainer.  Unlike the other tunes, the lilting pastoral melody drives to a conclusion. Note that with Repton, the last phrase (“In deeper reverence praise”) is repeated but not with the other tunes (Rest, Nicolaus, Hammersmith).

The Parry-Whittier Combination

As elsewhere in SOP, the new tune for words previously in TEH retained the TEH text — in this case, the same five verses as TEH #383, beginning with
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.
The original text also continued in later hymnals through the 1980s.

The use of Repton in SOP was ignored by Hymnal 1940 (#435). The Hymnal 1940 Companion (pp. 270-271) says Whittier’s text was written in 1872, first published as a hymn in 1884, and first published in an ECUSA hymnal in Hymnal 1916. The H40C notes the second tune (Rest) was written for this specific text in the Congregational Hymnal (1887).

Cantate Domino, #922
However, the next three American hymnals did include Repton:
  • Cantate Domino (#922), the 1979 Anglo-Catholic supplement to Hymnal 1940 (sequentially numbered from H40) that was prepared by the ESCUA diocese of Chicago. It has a simplified version of the SOP harmonization.
  • Hymnal 1982 (#653), simplified to unison — with the accompaniment printed only in the organist accompaniment edition.
  • Book of Common Praise 2017 (#602), with a slightly more complex version than the 1979 hymnal. This is the only edition not marked “unison”, with the implication the harmonization can be sung — but (as with much of BCP17) not all that singable by a congregation or unrehearsed choir.
The first three staves of the arrangement
in the New English Hymnal.
In the second half of the century, Repton was the preferred tune of most Anglican hymnals:
  • Hymn Book of the Anglican Church of Canada and the United Church of Canada
  • (1971), #249
  • Australian Hymn Book with Catholic Supplement (1977), #519 (2nd tune)
  • New English Hymnal (1986), #353, with the same harmonization as SOPEE
  • Common Praise (2000), #411, with a simplified harmonization
Despite the longstanding respect for Whittier’s text, later hymnals rewrote the text to serve their sociopolitical goals. The aggressive inclusivity in 1995 of The New Century Hymnal by the United Church of Christ bowdlerizes Whittier’s opening phrase as “Dear God, embracing humankind.”

Meanwhile, the 1998 English Common Praise twists it to become “Dear God, compassionate and kind.” The harmonization is the same as the subsequent 2000 edition of Common Praise with the original words.


This is a clear case where the original (arguably most authentic) tune has become obsolete — the revised pairing 40 years later (by Vaughan Williams and/or Shaw) has become the new standard. Sometimes the adoption of a new tune is (arguably) an inferior choice, but — according to the consensus of music directors that I interviewed for my study — this is clearly a better choice.


Percy Dearmer, Songs of Praise Discussed, London: Oxford, 1933.

Percy Dearmer, Ralph Vaughan Williams and Martin Shaw, eds., Songs of Praise, London: Oxford, 1925.

Percy Dearmer, Ralph Vaughan Williams and Martin Shaw, eds., Songs of Praise, Enlarged Edition, London: Oxford, 1933.

Episcopal Diocese of Chicago, Cantate Domino: Hymnal Supplement G-2264, Chicago: GIA, 1979.

New English Hymnal, London: Canterbury Press, 1986.

The Hymnal 1940 Companion, 3rd rev. ed., New York: Church Pension Fund, 1951.

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Evangelical worship at ACNA Synod

Over the weekend, I spoke to several people who attended the ACNA’s Provincial Synod. (It would be a national synod but the ACNA includes both the US and Canada). From a musical standpoint, the general opinion was that first service was the most blended, the last was almost as blended, and the middle two services were all praise band all the time.

The service took place at Christ Church Cathedral Plano (née Christ Church Plano), the largest ACNA parish, which provided the sanctuary, instruments and musicians.


A major focus of the service (and conference) was celebrating the ACNA’s new 2019 Book of Common Prayer, intended to replace the 1979 Book of Common Prayer that ACNA clergy used originally in The Episcopal Church and in the first years of the ACNA. The first printing of the prayer book was provided to all who registered for the conference.

According to the 24-page worship booklet (which I scanned), the service began with the liturgy task force (led by retired Abp. Bob Duncan) presenting the new prayer book.

The service then continued with the “Renewed Ancient Text,” the ACNA’s modified version of the 1979 Rite II service. This is the most commonly used Eucharist in the ACNA, which should not be a surprise given that most clergy (and parishes) were using it when they left the ACNA.


From the worship booklet, I wrote down the set list of all the music:
  • Call to Worship [i.e. prelude]: “Jesus Shall Reign” on piano, setting by Ted Cornell
  • Processional: “Come, Christians, Join to Sing,” commissioned for the occasion by CCP: words by CH Bateman (1813-1889), setting by John Wasson [b. 1956]
  • Songs of Praise: 
    • “Living Hope,” words and music by Phil Wickham and Brian Johnson, © 2017
    • “Who You Say I Am,” © 2017 Hillsong Music
  • Offertory Anthem: “The Church’s One Foundation,” words by S.J. Stone, tune by S.S. Wesley, setting by Dan Forrest [b. 1978], with verses 1,4 sung by the choir & congregation
  • Sanctus [no Benedictus]: © 2005 by Christ Church Plano
  • Communion Music:
    • Agnus Dei (Requiem): words public domain, music by Mark Hayes [b. 1953]
    • “Just as I Am,” [opening verse by Charlotte Elliott, 1789-1871], ©2009, words and music by William Bradbury, Charlotte Elliott, Travis Cottrell, Sue C. Smith and David Moffitt
    • “Take My Life and Let it Be” with chorus/bridge by Chris Tomlin and Louie Giglio [c. 2003]
  • Closing Hymn: “Joyful, Joyful We Adore Thee,” words by Henry van Dyke (1852-1933), music Ode to Joy by Beethoven, harmonized by Johnnie Carl (1947-2004)
  • Postlude: “Toccata” from Symphonie No. 5 in F minor, Op. 42 by Charles-Marie Widor
So overall the music combined modern adaptations of traditional hymns with 21st century praise music, concluding with a single organ postlude.

Friday, June 21, 2019

Peter Toon’s Last Days

Even before I started seminary studies, it was clear that Peter Toon was one of the leading (if not THE leading) liturgical theologians in the Anglican church of the late 20th century. At seminary, I learned that all his many works are available for free download at the New Scriptorium website.

Toon died in 2009. But last month the blogger at Wannabe Anglican reported on a sermon about Toon at Pusey House, Oxford. The guest preacher was Fr. Tony Noble, who administered last rites to Toon. At the time, Noble was the rector of what was then the most Anglo-Catholic parish in the Diocese of San Diego — All Saints San Diego — which was where many of the local A-C priests did their curacy.

Toon was a theologically conservative evangelical, so not an Anglo-Catholic by any means. For him, the 1662 was the pinnacle of the BCP — which is why he was the first to do a modern language version of this, the all-time bestselling prayer book. For Toon and others,  the American (or English) 1928 would be a little too Anglo-Catholic.

Noble begins his story as follows:
I first met Peter Toon about 12 years ago, when I was Rector of All Saints, San Diego. I knew of him as an evangelical scholar, writer & defender of the 1662 Book of Common Prayer.

It was a Saturday night & my phone rang. The voice said, “Is that Fr Noble?”. I replied, Yes. “I understand that you use Rite 1 with catholic close to the Prayer Book are your Services?”, he asked. I said that the 8 am Mass was mostly from the Prayer Book.

Next morning Peter & his wife, Vita, attended the 8 am Mass. he introduced himself & I felt quite honoured that such a notable evangelical had attended my church. They continued to attend faithfully every Sunday. Thus began a pastoral relationship which became a friendship.
In addition to the insight into this influential theologian and his final days, it also touches on the nuances of the differing liturgical preferences with Anglicanism. These nuances of preferences (or beliefs) go beyond the more familiar dimensions, which are usually thought of modern vs. traditional theology, and contemporary vs.  Elizabethan language. In some ways, they were the disputes over the BCP (and liturgy and worship) that were the main tension in the Anglican church for the first 400 years of the BCP, before the tumult of the last 50 years.