Monday, December 24, 2018

100 years of Lessons & Carols

Today is the 100th anniversary of the first Lessons and Carols service at King’s College Cambridge first done in 1918. It also marks the 90th live broadcast by the BBC Home Service (now BBC 4) that was done every year (except 1929) since 1928. It also marked the 37th and final service conducted by music director Stephen Cleobury. (The recording is available until Jan. 23 on the BBC website).

In preparation for this morning, I was reading from a book by William P. Edwards about the service, published in 2004.

History of King’s College Cambridge

Construction of King’s College Cambridge was begun in 1446 by Henry VI (son of Henry V), who reigned until 1471 (when he was murdered by his distant cousin, Edward IV). 

Henry VI took a unique interest in the chapel; according to the college,
Henry drew up detailed instructions for Eton and King's, and at both places his first concern was the chapel. He went to great lengths to ensure that King's College Chapel would be without equal in size and beauty. No other college had a chapel built on such a scale: in fact, the building was modelled on the plan of a cathedral choir, the architect being Henry VI's master mason, Reginald Ely.
The college was not finished until the Tudor kings, Henry VII (grandson of Henry V) and Henry VIII, who oversaw its completion.

The choir was created by scholarship for “poor and needy” boys, with the male singers being local lay clerks. As with all things choral in England, the program deteriorated in the late 18th and early 19th century, until it was re-invigorated with the choral revival sparked by the Oxford Movement.

History of the Service

The 1918 service was adapted from the service begun in 1880 by Edward Benson, Bishop of Truro, late Abp. of Canterbury from 1883 to 1896. It was begun by Rev. Eric Milner-White, whose service as chaplain of KCC was interrupted by service in the British Army from 1914-1918, when he served on the Western Front of World War I.

The 1918 service — published by the Cambridge archives — includes Milner-White’s bidding prayer, inspired by the loss of 199 King’s men who died in the Great War; the prayer, followed by the congregation saying the Lord’s Prayer (“Our father, which art in heaven”), remains to this day. The original service also ended with Hark the Herald Angels Sing, sung by the congregation.

However, the opening hymn — Once in Royal David’s City — did not begin until 1919; the opening first by the pubescent boy soprano is the signature of the service, widely emulated the world over. As last week’s New York Times article helpfully notes, the boy soloist is named by the choir director just before the service begins.

Today three congregation hymns are fixed: Royal David (1 verse by soloist, 1 verse by choir, rest by congregation) and the two closing hymns: O Come, All Ye Faithful and Hark the Herald. The database on the Sinden website shows that in recent years, several hymns are regularly repeated:
  • Between the 3rd (Isaiah 9) and 4th (Isaiah 11) Lesson: God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen; O Little Town of Bethlehem; It Came Upon a Midnight Clear; Unto Us Is Born a Son
  • Between the 7th (Luke 2) and 8th (Matthew 2) Lesson:  God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen; While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks
Only six men have led the choir during the 101 years of broadcasts:
  • 1918–1928: Arthur Henry Mann
  • 1929–1939,1946-1956: Boris Ord
  • 1940–1945: Harold Darke
  • 1957–1973: Sir David Willcocks
  • 1974–1981: Sir Philip Ledger
  • 1982–2018: Stephen Cleobury

This Year’s Service

In this year’s program, the lessons were as in previous years, except (as in 2017 and 1997-2007) the college censored Genesis 3:16 (“Your desire shall be for your husband”) from the opening lesson.

The program promised pieces by all six music directors. From the program, the (sung) music credits are:
  • [Hymn] Once in royal: words, C. F. Alexander; melody, H. J. Gauntlett, harmonized Gauntlett and A. H. Mann; descant Stephen Cleobury
  • Up good Christen folk: Melody: Piae Cantiones, 1582; words and harmony: G.R. Woodward
  • The tree of life my soul hath seen: words: anon, music: Elizabeth Poston
  • Adam lay ybounden: words: anon, 15th century; music: Boris Ord
  • In dulci jubilo: translated and arranged by Robert de Pearsall
  • I saw three ships: arranged by Simon Preston
  • In Bethl’em in that fair city: mediaeval, edited by Cleobury
  • [Hymn]  Unto us is born a Son: 15th C. Latin transl. G. R. Woodward. Music: Piae Cantiones, arr. David Willcocks
  • A spotless rose is blowing: trans. Catherine Winkworth; music: Herbert Howells
  • Little Lamb, who made thee: words, William Blake; music: John Tavener
  • Seven Joys of Mary: arr. Cleobury
  • Bogoróditse Dyevo (Rejoice, O virgin Mary): words, Orthodox liturgy; music: Arvo Pärt§
  • What sweeter music can we bring: words: Robbert Herrick; music: John Rutter§
  • Stille Nacht: words: Joseph Mohr; music: Franz Gruber, arr. Philip Ledger
  • In the bleak midwinter: words Christina Rossetti; music: Harold Darke
  • [Hymn] While shepherds watched: words, N. Tate; music, after C. Tye, descant Cleobury
  • O mercy divine: words, Charles Wesley; music: Judith Weir§
  • Nowell (who is there that singeth so): words, anon; music: William Mathias
  • [Hymn] O come all ye faithful: Adeste fideles, transl. Frederick Oakley; descant David Willcocks
  • [Hymn] Hark the herald: words, Charles Wesley “et al“; descant uncredited, but the only descant for this tune published by Encore is by Cleobury [as later acknowledged by his retweet]
§ carol commissioned for KCC’s annual service in 1990, 1987, 2018 respectively

Going Forward

Cleobury (who turns 70 a week from today) is retiring next Sept 30. KCC advertised for a new director and in May named Daniel Hyde, a former KCC organ scholar and currently organist and choir director at St Thomas Fifth Avenue, a wealthy Episcopal Church in Manhattan.

What is the future of the service and the choir? In light of claims that the choir is an obstacle to full gender equality, the Guardian [the official paper of the British Left] ominously predicts:
At some point, though, the BBC will come under pressure to rule on the issue, and whether they will be willing to hold the line is a moot point. Traditional practice and gender equality make for discordant partners.
The editorial statement ignores Cleobury’s remarks that gender integration would end the male singing program, a point echoed by Anna Lapwood, music director and conductor of a girl’s choir at Pembroke College, Cambridge.  Both refer to an experiment that showed in a mixed group, after two years all but two of the boys had dropped out — so an integrated choir means, in effect, a girl’s choir. Instead, Lapwood argues that Cambridge needs a full time girls choir so that the best young girls get the same training and experience as the best young boys.

As Cleobury says in the Guardian:
“Boys – certainly in the presence of girls – feel that singing isn’t a cool thing to do,” he says. “But they are the tenors and basses of tomorrow. Neglect them and you won’t have your symphony chorus, so you won’t have your Beethoven Nine or your Missa Solemnis or your Dream of Gerontius being performed.”
It is wonderful that this tradition has survived as long as it has. Hopefully the current dean of King’s College will do his part to make sure that the choir — and the annual service — continue for another century.

Update: In November 2019, a complete recording of this service was released for download or CD purchase

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Veni Emmanuel out of sync thanks to Hymnal 1982

Differences between hymnals — either in updates or between dominations — usually cause confusion due to the change in words. Differences in harmony are also widespread, but only impact those who sing parts (in my experience, less than 10% of those in the pews in most churches).

Earlier this week I witnessed a train wreck that I’d never seen before — due to a difference in the melody that everyone sings. Specifically, the congregation at an Anglican church was confused due to a unique change in the meter made by Hymnal 1982 to the oldest — if not the greatest† — Advent hymn of all time: “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel.”

To cut to the chase, today there are four different meters used for the tune Veni Emmanuel:
  1. There is the original version by John Mason Neale and Thomas Helmore in Hymnal Noted, published from 1851-1854.
  2. There is the way used by Hymns Ancient & Modern, The English Hymnal, the New English Hymnal, and any CD or YouTube video of English choristers that you might listen to. This also appears to be the way that most American Protestant hymnals do it: I’ve looked at Baptist, Lutheran and Methodist hymnals, and they all match this.
  3. There is the version of Hymnal 1940 and its recent update, the REC’s Book of Common Praise 2017.
  4. There is the unique version of Hymnal 1982.
At Sunday’s service, the organ and instruments were doing #4, while the choir and most of the congregation (largely ex-Baptist and Methodist) were doing #2 (perhaps some doing #3). After two verses, everyone gave in to the organ, but the confusion was clearly something that any parish would want to avoid.

1. Hymnal Noted

Earlier this year I published an academic article in The Hymn on the impact of Hymnal Noted upon 20th century American hymnody. “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” was the second most popular hymn in the American hymnals, with Neale’s translation credited in 16 of 24 hymnals; four hymnals included the hymn, but used a updated translation (based on Neale’s) that did not credit Neale.†† Here is how I summarized the origins of the text:
Neale translated “Veni Emmanuel” by selecting five daily Advent antiphons that date to the eighth century, compiled in the twelfth century and later published in a 1710 Cologne Latin psalter.  Neale re-ordered the final (Dec. 22) antiphon to be the first verse…
All versions of the hymn used a version of the tune arranged by Helmore. Here is how I summarized the tune:
All of these hymnals use the tune Veni Emmanuel from Volume 2 of HN (Figure 1). It was adapted by Helmore from a French missal discovered by Neale in Portugal, a manuscript that others have been unable to locate. In the 1960s, a parallel fifteenth-century processional from a French nunnery was rediscovered in the National Library in Paris and subsequent discoveries suggest that the tune may have originally been a Franciscan funeral chant.¶ However, the characteristic refrain that begins “Rejoice! Rejoice!” was of Helmore’s own creation.
Here is the first phrase. Note that each phrase of the chant ends with a two-beat note:

2. English Hymnals

The hymn was quickly picked up by Hymns Ancient & Modern, the most influential (and commercially successful) of all Victorian English hymnals. The text was slightly modified, most notably by changing Neale’s “Draw nigh, draw nigh, Emmanuel” to the now-familiar “O come, O come, Emmanuel.”

It was hymn #36 in the original A&M, while the much revised 2nd edition of 1875 lists it as #49. (The same numbering was retained in the 1889, 1916 and 1924 editions). Below is how the first phrase appears in the 1889 edition:
Note that each phrase ends on a three-beat note. Later on, in the refrain Helmore’s original “Rejoice, Rejoice” had 1,1,1,2 beats, while A&M uses 1,3,1,3.

In The English Hymnal (1906), the phrases of hymn #8 are counted as in A&M. The rejoice is counted the same, but the “joice” is listed as a two beat note with a one beat rest. Musically this is different, but for the purposes of congregation singing it would count the same.
Update: I found my copy of New English Hymnal, and Hymn #11 is almost like HN: one beat at the end of the first phrase, and two beats for the final note of 2nd, 3rd, 4th phrases — with the “Rejoice” matching TEH. (1 beat, 2 beat, 1 beat rest). I have recording of this hymn by three English cathedral choirs (King’s College Cambridge, Salisbury, Wells) that usually sing hymns as written in the NEH. In the KCC and Wells, they are clearly singing the NEH words but not rushing through the first phrase as NEH implies.

For this blog posting, I didn’t have a chance to look at all 24 hymnal. However, in the Baptist Hymnal 1991, Baptist Hymnal 2008, The Lutheran Hymnal (1940) and the United Methodist Hymnal (1989), all seem to follow the A&M pattern.

3. Hymnal 1940

In Hymnal 1940, hymn #2 goes back to Helmore’s two beat phrase endings rather than the three beat of the English (and subsequent American Protestant) hymnals:
The two beat pattern is also used on each Rejoice.

I won’t argue it’s morally superior to the English/Methodist/Lutheran approach — it’s just the way we’ve done it. In fact, it doesn’t feel all that different. If were singing from H40 (or BCP17) with an ecumenical audience, I might be inclined to add a breath (lift) after each phrase, to give the visitors a chance to keep up.

The one non-standard change, however. In the Helmore, A&M, TEH, Baptist and other versions of this hymn, the first syllable of “exile” is two beats. H40 changes it to one beat:

I believe that’s why the H40/BCP17 version was not used Sunday, and thus indirectly caused the train wreck.

4. Hymnal 1982

Hymnal 1982 made the most dramatic changes to the hymn of any hymns I’ve seen. Here I’ll respond to the effects of the changes in text and music — the cause of Sunday’s problems — and not to the reasons they chose to do so. 

In updating H40, H82 changed the words here and there (as they loved to do). They also repeat verse 1 as verse 8. In this case, with the words printed in the program, they were not the source of confusion.

For the music, they use a non-standard chant notation — neither modern Western nor the medieval neumes. However, anyone who’s opened H82 has seen it, and it’s easy enough to get used to — certainly easier than Helmore’s notation from Hymnal Noted. (Fortunately, the accompaniment uses conventional notation).

The even number phrases and the Rejoice match Hymnal 1940 by ending on a two-beat note. The extra beat of “exile” is restored from the English originals.

However, the odd number phrases (#1, #3) do not have any extra beat:

Whenever I sang from H82, this always rattled me — if for no other reason than I needed a breath. This certainly is what caused Sunday’s problem — the musicians went on without the choir and the congregation until eventually people figured out what was going on.

Since the very first time I sang it, this part of H82 seemed to be what IT people would call a needless incompatibility. I’m sure the editors had their reasons; to be fair, I would need to consult the Hymnal 1982 Companion, but I don’t have the $600 for this four volume set. And perhaps it makes sense if you’re going to get every ECUSA church in the country to buy your new hymnal (as most denominations try to do to make money). But for our current era of weakened denominational loyalty, today it appears to have been a mistake. For congregations that use H82, it would be more welcoming to add a breath or lift after the odd (or all) phrases to make the hymn more visitor-friendly.


To avoid problems like this in the future, here’s a summary of the different meters:
  • Breaks at the end of the phrase: 2 beats in Hymnal Noted, Hymnal 1940; 3 beats in Hymns A&M, The English Hymnal and (apparently) most modern Protestant U.S. hymnals. Hymnal 1982 does 1 beat for odd phrases, 2 beats for even phrases
  • The first syllable of “exile” has an extra beat in every hymnal except Hymnal 1940 (and the similar REC’s Book of Common Praise 2017)
  • The refrain “Rejoice, rejoice” has two beats for “joice” in H40/H82/BCP17, while the others have three beats. The original HN only lengthened the second “Rejoice”


  • J. M. Neale and Thomas Helmore, Hymnal Noted: Parts I & II (London: Novello, 1851, 1856), available at
  • J. West, “Neale’s Hymnal Noted and its Impact on Twentieth-Century American Hymnody,” The Hymn, 69, 3 (Summer 2018): 14-24.


† Yes I know the Lutherans would say “Wake, awake, for night is falling” by Philip Nicolai. And obviously many Protestants are partial (as am I) to “Come, thou long expected Jesus”, justifiably the first hymn in my favorite hymnal.
†† The most popular hymn was the Palm Sunday processional “All glory, laud and honour,” found in 22/24 hymnals — excluding only the Southern Baptist The Broadman Hymnal (1940) and The Lutheran Hymnary (1913)
¶ See Mother Thomas More, “O Come O Come, Emmanuel,” The Musical Times 107, no. 1483 (Sept. 1966): 772; C. E. Pocknee, “Veni, veni, Emmanuel,” Bulletin of the Hymn Society of Great Britain and Ireland 118 (Spring 1970): 65-69; Chris Fenner, “VENI EMMANUEL and its Manuscript Sources,” THE HYMN 65, no. 1 (2014): 21-26.

Monday, December 10, 2018

Unparalleled Lessons & Carols resource

In doing background research for the Lessons & Carols service at my daughter’s church, I found a unique resource: a website with a database of various Lessons & Carols services:

spreadsheets - carol service, FAQ

Frequently asked questions about's Carol Service Spreadsheets

Compiled by by Episcopal Church organist David Sinden, the website includes links to Google spreadsheets with
The Scripture lessons for SJC are more specific than for KCC. However, the hymns, anthems and the voluntary (postludes) appear to be complete for both. For example, the SJC Advent service always includes these four congregational carols:
  1. O come, O come, Emmanuel
  2. Come, thou long-expected Jesus
  3. On Jordan’s bank the Baptist’s cry
  4. Lo! he comes clouds descending
Similarly, in the past 20 years, KCC has always performed
  • Once in Royal David’s City
  • (nine lessons and various musical pieces)
  • O Come All ye Faithful
  • Hark! the herald-angels sing
The databases don’t seem to list the tune. Perhaps some of that is redundant: globally, “Lo! he comes” has at least three commonly used tunes,  but I’m guessing the English choirs always use Helmsley (as does their bible, the New English Hymnal). We also know that unlike this side of the Atlantic, the English never use St. Louis when they sing “O Little town of Bethlehem.”

For KCC, it does distinguish how the choir has alternated between the Ord, Ledger, Warlock and (recently) Howard versions of “Adam lay ybounden.” Overall, it provides an extremely valuable resource for anyone planning an Anglican Lessons & Carols service.

Thursday, December 6, 2018

George Bush's Houston Funeral

If Wednesday’s state funeral was a quasi-government event and (consistent with other presidents) a nationally televised spectacle, it appears that today’s invitation-only service for President Bush in Houston was a cross between a traditional funeral service (at a 1500-seat Gothic-style church) and a country music concert.

The service at St. Martin’s Episcopal Church — the largest by membership of any in North America — was officiated by Rev. Dr. Russell Levenson, Jr. The rector of SMEC since 2007, Levenson also officiated the service for Barbara Bush held here on April 21, and gave the homily at President Bush's D.C. funeral yesterday.

The program is posted to the church website and summarized on the ATWNews site. Among other TV stations, the funeral was broadcast live on the website of Houston station CW69 (and also available on C-SPAN).

Funeral Music

While the D.C. funeral was Rite II, today’s Houston funeral was Rite I. Below is a summary of the music by the congregation and the St. Martin’s choir; as with other SMEC service booklets, the full hymns with harmony are included in the appendices. The worship music comprised
  • Preludes
  • Brass voluntary: “America the Beautiful”
  • “O Beautiful for Spacious Skies” (H82: 719)
  • Anthem: “This is my Country” (choir)
  • Lessons: Psalm 23, 1 Cor 12:31-13:13, John 11:21-27
  • Sequence Hymn: “Eternal Father, Strong to Save”: rather than the H40 or H82 version, this is the version from Baptist Hymnal 1991 (“Eternal father, strong to save, Whose arm doth bind the restless wave”)
  • Anthem: “Battle Hymn of the Republic” (choir)
  • Recession Hymn: “Onward, Christian Soldiers” (H82: 562), announced by Fr. Levenson to be one of the late president’s favorites
  • Organ and Brass Voluntary: Widor “Toccata”
I’ve twice attended services at St. Martin’s and even under normal circumstances the choir is impressive as their voices echo through the resonant spaces of the poured-concrete Gothic structure. However, today’s augmented choir (which appeared to more than 50) must have offered an unmatched experience for those attending. I thought the choir’s talents were best demonstrated in the Battle Hymn, with an arrangement that separated the men and women’s choir and included an a capella verse.

While the front of the church was filled with VIPs, it appeared as though in the back rows of the parish were filled with parishioners who opened their 12-page booklets and sang the closing hymn. At least among those in the front rows, nobody crossed themselves during the Apostle’s Creed (in a normal service, my experience was 5-10%).

The Concert

During the middle of the service, there was a country-western music concert by some of the late president’s favorite entertainers. Having been on funeral standby for weeks, The Oak Ridge Boys sang three voices of “Amazing Grace”, as they had for the president’s 1989 inauguration and several other occasions. However, at ages 70,75,75,and 79 (rather than in their 40s), their singing was not what it used to be.

This was followed by Reba McEntire singing a version of the Lord’s Prayer. She paced across the stage chancel while singing.

My daughter and I were surprised to see the scattered applause after the first performance (including by Jeb Bush). The decision by some to applaud seemed to give permission for everyone (including former president Bush-43) to applaud the second performance. The later choir performances were also applauded.

Heading to the Burial

When the service was over, the casket was taken outside and loaded into the hearse while the family and a select group of St. Martin’s clergy participated in the final part of the service.
The military band played the customary flourishes and Hail to the Chief. Then it played Lobe den Herren, the tune for the Lutheran hymn “Praise to the Lord, the Almighty, the King of creation!” by Joachim Neander.

The former president was buried at his library at Texas A&M. When the service was ended, the casket was loaded into a hearse to take it to a special Union Pacific train traveling from Houston to College Station.

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Remember our last Episcopalian president

Today was the first of two funerals for George H.W. Bush (1924-2018), the 41st president whose term of office ran from 1989-1993. He was the last surviving World War II veteran to serve as president or vice president.

The 26 page service booklet for the funeral was posted by the National Cathedral and is also available here. Their 3:26 video is on YouTube while C-SPAN has a 2:26 video as well. (When the casket is being carried into the cathedral, the US Coast Guard band plays “For all the saints” at 15 minutes into C-SPAN and 1:14 into the cathedral video.) The latter has some interesting preludes (by the head organist of a Dallas Episcopal church) but the military orchestra and chorus spent more than 40 minutes on pieces that (other than America the Beautiful at the very end) I didn’t recognize.

Funeral Hymns

The liturgy was “Burial II” from the 1979 prayer book. The psalm was omitted, while the Scripture readings (from the NRSV) were Isaiah 60:1-5,18-20 and Revelation 20:1-4,6-7,23-25 (read by granddaughters) and Matthew 5:14-16 (read by the cathedral dean). The homily was by Bush's rector, Rev. Russell Levenson, Jr., who officiated the April funeral service in Houston for Barbara Bush.

It’s difficult to characterize a three hour service, so let me list the hymns:
  • "Praise my soul, the King of heaven,” 4 verses sung (in harmony) by the congregation, cathedral choir and Armed Forces Chorus
  • After the first lesson, “The King of love my shepherd is,” 6 verses by cathedral choir
  • Gospel hymn: “O god, our help in ages past,” 6 verses by military choir
  • Lord’s Prayer: the two choirs and Irish tenor Ronan Tynan
  • Before the commendation: “Eternal Father,” (the Navy version) 4 verses by the military choir for Mr. Bush (LTJG, USN, 1942-1945)
  • After the dismissal: “For all the saints,” 8 verses (unison) by all
CCM pop star Michael W. Smith also did a solo (backed by both choirs) of one of his pieces (“Friends”).

The Bush family sat on one side and the former presidents on another. During “Praise my soul,” Pres. Clinton sang the most enthusiastically, Pres. Obama next, and Mrs. Clinton sang portions; the video suggested that neither of the Carters (ages 94, 91) and the Trumps attempted to sing, nor did Mrs. Obama. On the Bush side, almost all of the children and grandchildren seemed to be singing (and some of the in-laws).

Monday's Ceremony

As is normal for a former president, Bush’s casket lay in state at the Capitol Rotunda before the funeral. When watching the ceremony Monday afternoon for the arrival of the casket, I heard three hymns played by the military band:
  • 4:28pm EST: The Navy hymn (while waiting for the casket to arrive)
  • 4:50pm EST: after Hail to the chief, the band alternated between the hymns “Fairest, Lord Jesus” and “A mighty fortress is our God” as the casket was carried up the steps
Since the latter is Martin Luther’s most famous hymn, I tend to associate it with Lutherans but I keep running into other Protestants who admire its statement of the Christian doctrine.

Update (Friday Dec 7): Bush's Pastor Describes His Faith

There were two GetReligion stories on Thursday and Friday by (and a Issues Etc. interview with) former Episcopalian GR editor Terry Mattingly, who quoted two reports on the sermon by Rev. Levenson. The first story points to a report by the New York Times which said
“My hunch is heaven, as perfect as it must be, just got a bit kinder and gentler,” the Rev. Dr. Russell J. Levenson Jr., rector of St. Martin’s, said on Wednesday in his homily. Turning to the coffin, he said: “Mr. President, mission complete. Well done, good and faithful servant. Welcome to your eternal home, where ceiling and visibility are unlimited and life goes on forever.”
When the casket arrived at the Rotunda Monday, I heard Vice President Pence explain that “ceiling and visibility unlimited” was a favorite phrase of the former naval aviator.

The later story quotes a Religion News Service story that says about the late president what any Christian would hope could be said about them
The Rev. Russell Levenson Jr., rector of St. Martin’s Episcopal Church in Houston, said the elder Bush made Levenson’s job as his pastor for almost a dozen years an easy one because of the late president’s concern more for others than for himself.
“Jesus Christ, for George Bush, was at the heart of his faith, but his was a deep faith, a generous faith, a simple faith in the best sense of the word,” said Levenson in his homily. “He knew and lived Jesus’ two greatest commandments: to love God and to love your neighbor.”

Legacies of the English State Church

This state funeral was unusual in that it was for an Episcopalian at the cathedral church of the Episcopal Diocese of Washington. The National Cathedral also host state funerals for other Christians, as it did with the 2004 funeral for Ronald Reagan (a Presbyterian) — just as Westminster Abbey did a 2013 state funeral for Lady Thatcher (a Methodist).

Bush was the last living Episcopalian president, marking the end of a run of 11 Episcopalian presidents out of the first 41. Three were founding fathers, five were among the 13 presidents from 1841-1885, and Bush was the last of the three in 20th century (that included F.D. Roosevelt and Gerald Ford).

When will the next Episcopalian become president? One proxy is the U.S. senate.

As the DC saying goes, “every senator thinks they should be president” (although in the past century, only Harding, Kennedy and Obama were senators when elected president). In today’s senate, there are only four Episcopalians (all Democrats), outnumbered by Lutherans and Mormons (6), Jews (7), Methodists and Baptists (11), Presbyterians (16) and Catholics (24). According to Wikipedia (and we all know how true it is),  Catholics are 21% of the country and Baptists 15%. The senators most visibly preening for a presidential run in 2020 or 2024 seem to be Baptist or Catholic.

I don’t expect to see another Episcopalian president in the next 30 years, as their influence has fallen dramatically. Some of it is the dilution of the English influence on America with generations of immigration; some is the shift of the American aristocracy from inherited status and wealth to one based on education. Some of it reflects the declining membership of mainline Protestantism, and Christianity more generally.

After G.H.W. Bush, there don’t seem to be a lot of prominent Republican officials who are Episcopalian. His eldest son, George W. (aka “Bush 43”) was raised Episcopalian, fell away from the church and later became a Methodist; second son, former governor and 2016 presidential candidate Jeb Bush converted to Catholicism in 1995.

As for Anglicans, 2016 presidential candidate John Kasich (governor of Ohio from 2011-2019) was raised Catholic, previously Episcopalian, and most recently reported to be attending an ACNA church. However, he would have to be considered a longshot candidate for president unless (like Bush, Ford, Nixon, Johnson, Truman, Coolidge) he was elected vice president first.

Sunday, December 2, 2018

Advent Lessons & Carols in Cambridge

The Chapel of St. John’s College at Cambridge University is broadcasting its Advent Lessons & Carols service today at 3pm GMT on the BBC series of Choral Evensong. The 90 minute service was recorded during worship Nov 27 and 28.

Less well known than its sister King’s College Cambridge, the SJC choir dates to 1670 and sings the daily offices every day but Monday in the chapel.

This Year's Service at St. John’s, Cambridge

Here is the program announced on the BBC website (also available as a PDF on the SJC choir website):
Carol: Adam lay ybounden (Ord)†
Processional Hymn: O come, O come, Emmanuel! (Veni Emmanuel) (descant: David Hill)†
Bidding Prayer
Carol: E’en so, Lord Jesus, quickly come (Manz)

I The Message of Advent
Sentence and Collect
Antiphons: O Sapientia and O Adonai
First lesson: Isaiah 11 vv.1-5
Carol: Tomorrow shall be my dancing day (James Burton)†
Second lesson: 1 Thessalonians 5 vv.1-11
Sacred Song: Einklang (Wolf)

II The Word of God
Sentence and Collect
Antiphons: O Radix Jesse and O Clavis David
Aria: Ach, so lass von mir dich finden, TVWV 1:1657a (Telemann)
Third lesson: Micah 4 vv.1-4
Carol: The Linden Tree Carol (Trad, arr. Jacques)†
Fourth lesson: Luke 4 vv.14-21
Hymn: Come, thou long-expected Jesus (Cross of Jesus) (descant: Christopher Robinson)

III The Prophetic Call
Sentence and Collect
Antiphons: O Oriens and O Rex Gentium
Carol: A Prayer to St John the Baptist (Cecilia McDowall)
Fifth lesson: Malachi 3 vv.1-7
Carol: Vox clara ecce intonat (Gabriel Jackson)
Sixth lesson: Matthew 3 vv.1-11
Hymn: On Jordan’s bank the Baptist’s cry (Winchester New) (descant: Christopher Robinson)

IV The God-Bearer 
Sentence and Collect
Antiphon: O Emmanuel
Carol: There is no rose (Elizabeth Maconchy)†
Seventh lesson: Luke 1 vv.39-49
Carol: Bogoroditse Dyevo (Arvo Part)
Carol: A Spotless Rose (Howells)†
Magnificat: Watson in E
Eighth lesson: John 3 vv.1-8
Sentence and Christmas Collect
Carol: Noe, noe (David Bednall)
Hymn: Lo! he comes with clouds descending (Helmsley) (descant: Christopher Robinson)
College Prayer and Blessing
Organ Voluntary: Chorale Prelude on ‘Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland’, BWV 661 (Bach)
As there are Nike and Adidas teams, this is not an Oxford Book of Descants choir — no Cleobury (or even Willcox) descants here. Instead, three of the four descants are by Christopher Robinson, editor of the Novello Book of Descants.

Advent: Not Just a Christmas Prequel

Many music directors and churchgoers know the KCC Christmas Eve service, broadcast annually on the BBC. It list of lessons are codified in the 2007 book on the KCC tradition, and least four other published books.

Instead, SJC is doing its Lessons & Carols on Advent 1. Right now I'm helping support my daughter’s church planning an Advent L&C service, so I'm becoming more aware of the differences, which include:
  • Different lessons: only one lesson overlaps the KCC (Isa 11:1). One could argue that the John the Baptist (Matt 3) is equivalent to one of the OT lessons at KCC, but clearly these lessons downplay the “baby Jesus is coming” and add the “Christ will come again” eschatological sense of Advent.
  • Different music: no baby Jesus songs, lots more Advent songs (4 explicitly about Jesus coming). Of the 14 carols or hymns, only 5 overlap (according to my files) the KCC choices from 1997-2017
IMHO a service on Advent 4 (particularly the evening of Dec 23, as in this year) would be almost indistinguishable from Christmas Eve. For their (our) Advent 3 service, there isn’t baby Jesus — except that (in a nod to the KCC tradition) they are opening with “Once in Royal David’s City.” (I’d argue this choice is more defensible than other Christmast hymns, because this one is clearly in the past tense, while “Hark the Herald Angels” and others are in the present tense.)


William Pearson Edwards, The Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols: As Celebrated on Christmas Eve in the Chapel of King's College, Cambridge (Rizzoli International, 2007)

Julian Elloway, ed., The Oxford Book of Descants (Oxford: Oxford, 2012)

Christopher Robinson, ed., The Novello Book of Descants (London: Novello, 2007)

Friday, November 30, 2018

St. Paul's remembers The Fallen

To mark the centenary of WW I, on Nov. 7 St. Paul’s Cathedral broadcast a live evensong service as part the incomparable BBC Radio 3 series of Choral Evensong. As with all broadcasts, it will be available for a month (i.e. until Dec 11) and then never again.

The program included one English composer who died in the Great War:
Introit: When you see the millions of the mouthless dead (Macmillan)
Responses: Radcliffe
Psalm 85 (Hemmings) 
First Lesson: Isaiah 57 vv.15-19
Canticles: William Denis Browne in A
Second Lesson: John 15 vv.9-17
Anthems: Lord, let me know mine end (Parry); For the fallen (Blatchly)
Hymn: O God our help in ages past (St Anne)
Voluntary: Chorale Fantasia on ‘O God our Help' (Parry)
Andrew Carwood (Director of Music)
Simon Johnson (Organist)
These composers (all English except for the Scottish MacMillan):
The service was not from the (1662) Book of Common Prayer, so presumably it was from the contemporary language Common Worship (2000).

The BBC series broadcasts confirm what is customary for a cathedral evensong: the only piece sung by the congregation is the closing hymn. In this case, it was all six verses of  “O God our help in ages past” (1719) by Isaac Watts with an earlier tune believed composed by William Croft.

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Little-known ancient Advent hymn: Come thou, redeemer of the earth

With Advent starting Sunday, Neale's hymn “Come, thou Redeemer of the earth” seems perfectly suited to the season. It is well known to English congregations, but not here in the U.S.

From Ambrose to the 20th Century via John Mason Neale

Neale’s translation of “Veni, Redemptor gentium” appears in Hymnal Noted. Then as now, the original Latin text is attributed to St. Ambrose (340-397). My copy of the (1909) hymnal companion to the New Edition (1904) of Hymns Ancient & Modern says that Augustine himself attests to the authorship by Ambrose, and the text has been used in the Mozarbic (Iberian), Ambrosian and Latin rites. It is based on Matthew 1:23 in the Christmas birth narrative.

The hymnal companion lists the first verse as
Veni, redemptor gentium;
ostende partum virginis;
miretur omne saeculum,
talis decet partus Deo.
The hymn was picked up in various English hymnals. Here is the version in 1906's The English Hymnal (hymn #14)
Come, thou Redeemer of the earth,
and manifest thy virgin-birth:
let every age adoring fall;
such birth befits the God of all.

Begotten of no human will,
But of the Spirit, thou art still
The Word of God, in flesh arrayed,
The promise fruit to man displayed,

The virgin womb that burden gained
With virgin honour all unstained;
The banners there of virtue glow;
God in his temple dwells below

From God the Father he proceeds,
to God the Father back he speeds,
His course he runs to death and hell,
Returning on God's throne to dwell.

O equal to thy Father, thou!
Gird on thy fleshly mantle now,
The weakness of our mortal state
With deathless might invigorate.

Thy cradle here shall glitter bright,
and darkness breathe a newer light,
Where endless faith shall shine serene,
And twilight never intervene.

All laud to God the Father be,
All praise, eternal Son, to thee:
All glory, as is ever meet,
To God the Holy Paraclete. Amen.
The 1986 New English Hymnal (#19) changes verse 2 to
Begotten of no human will,
but of the Spirit, thou art still
the Word of God, in flesh arrayed,
the Saviour, now to us displayed.
It also changes verse 7, as well as verse 8:
O Jesu, virgin-born, to thee
eternal praise and glory be,
whom with the Father we adore
and Holy Spirit, evermore. Amen.
Hymns A&M hews closer to Neale’s original, starting with “O come, Redeemer of the earth”.

I learned of the hymn while working on my next hymn research project. One of the people I met recommended Cantate Domino, a hymnal supplement (hymns #800-962) for traditional Episcopal parishes using Hymnal 1940. When I checked it out, #804 contains the Neale hymn.

Tune by Michael Praetorius

The two English hymnals list two tunes. One is the original tune from Hymnal Noted — listed as from the Salisbury Hymnal – which the A&M companion says is the tune used with the Sarum, York and Hereford hymns to this text. (As with all of Hymnal Noted, the tune was presumably adapted by its music editor, Thomas Helmore).

However, TEH and NEH list as an alternative Puer Nobis, the Michael Praetorius (1571-1621) tune that we already sing for Epiphany (“What star is this with beams so bright”) and Easter (“That Easter day with joy is bright”). 

All three hymnals use the 1901 harmonization by George Woodward (1848-1934); in Hymnal 1940, the harmony is listed (#47, #98) for accompaniment but the hymns are marked “unison” — i.e., few congregations have sung the parts. Hymnal 1940 lists a different harmonization (more like Praetorius’) for Hymn #158 (“O splendour of God’s glory bright”) while Hymnal 1982 (#124) lists a third harmonization attributed to Hymns Ancient & Modern, Revised Edition.

This Praetorius tune is found in the King’s College Cambridge recording on YouTube. The text skips verses 2 and 3, but follows the 1906 version except for the final verse (which is closer to but not exactly the same as the 1986 version). Unlike the Epiphany hymn, the tempo is almost dirge-like.

Inclusion in the Anglican Hymnal Supplement

My bishop doubts there will be demand for a 21st century Continuing Anglican hymnal, given the decline of books, traditional worship, and of course the 2017 publication of the REC hymnal. So instead he's encouraged me to think about what would go into a supplement to Hymnal 1940. (If H40 goes out of print, we might first have to assemble a public domain H40 based on Hymnal 1916 and other texts no longer in copyright).

Cantate Domino lists this for Advent, while the English list it for the 12 days of Christmas. An argument can be made for either one; for example, it was included in the 2016 Advent carols service by King’s College Cambridge. I would list it for Advent for two reasons. First, we need more good Advent hymns and don’t have enough time to sing all the Christmas hymns we have. Second, we already have a slightly different version of the tune (H40: 34) at Christmas, which would create even greater confusion.

For the text, I’m inclined to use the TEH text — improved through use over the 50 years after Neale’s original (but still out of copyright). With eight verses, at least some would need to be optional. Nowadays, there's an advantage to matching the recorded version, so I’d try to find the KCC text (and its copyright status).

The tune choice is much easier. In my research, I am realizing that beauty at the cost of complexity is still possible for choirs at medium or large sized Anglican (TEC, Continuing, ACNA…) churches. However, for hymns, a certain amount of realism is needed. I'm not sure that Helmore’s arrangement is worth the extra effort for the average choir or congregation, particularly when compared to this beautiful (and familiar) Praetorius tune.

Finally, I don't find the Woodward harmony particularly singable, and few Americans would know it already. So I would look at one of the other harmonizations, or even see about the original Praetorius version.


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

William H. Frere, ed., Hymns Ancient and Modern: Historical Edition, London: Wm. Clowes and Sons Ltd. 1909.

J. M. Neale and Thomas Helmore, Hymnal Noted: Parts I & II (London: Novello, 1851, 1856), available at

The English Hymnal, London: A. R. Mowbray, 1906. URL:

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

This week's collect for extra-ordinary time

In doing my daily office this week, this week the extra Ordinary Time — due to the extra-long season after Trinity — busted the two websites I use to show me the collect and lessons for Morning and Evening Prayer. So had to look up what the actual rules are for this occasion. (I would have realized that on Sunday, but I went to three different 3-year lectionary churches and used CradleOfPrayer for daily office).

This year Easter was April 1, 10 days after the earliest possible date. We also Advent 1 on December 2 — a week after Thanksgiving and one day before the latest possible date (Dec 3 as we had last year). So there are a total of 26 Sundays after Trinity in 2018, and there theoretically could be 27.

If you look at the 1928 Book of Common Prayer:
  • The Sunday lessons (and collect for the week) in the Trinity season go from 1-24, and then there is “The Sunday next before Advent"
  • The daily lectionary goes from 1-24, and then it lists the 3rd, 2nd and 1st Sunday before Advent. So this week — the week of the 2nd Sunday before Advent — the morning OT lesson is reading through Lamentations. Next week, we get to do Joel — a favorite because it’s short but punchy, and that (outside the Daily Office) we only hear on Ash Wednesday (“rend your heart and not your garments”). There is no chance of running out of lessons.
So the problem is scheduling one or two Sundays (depending on whether there are 26 or 27 Sunday after Trinity), plus reusing that collect the rest of the week for Daily Office. For the latter, we need a Collect for the 25th Sunday after Trinity (and possibly the 26th Sunday after Trinity).

During MP at the college chapel, I couldn’t figure this out on my iPad, with the websites and a PDF of the BCP; this is one day I needed the paper BCP. So when I got back, I flipped through the book and found the relevant rubric, just before the Collect for Sunday next before Advent, on page 224:
¶ If in any year there be twenty-six Sundays after Trinity, the service for the Sixth Sunday after the Epiphany shall be used on the Twenty-fifth Sunday. If there be twenty-seven, the service for the Sixth Sunday after the Epiphany shall be used on the Twenty-sixth, and the service for the Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany on the Twenty-fifth. If there be fewer than twenty-five Sundays, the overplus shall be omitted.
The logic of this is that in a year with an early Easter, you didn’t have as many Sundays after Epiphany. This year we had three Sundays, followed by Septuagesima, Sexagesima, and Quinquagesima, so weeks 4,5,6 did not get used. With clericalism, we just let the clergy worry about this, but anyone doing the Daily Office needs either to know the rule or at least where to look. If I ever teach the Daily Office, it’s a point I’ll be sure to make.

Meanwhile, I'll make myself a note so I have it next time:

Collect for the Twenty-fifth Sunday after Trinity

O GOD, whose blessed Son was manifested that he might destroy the works of the devil, and make us the sons of God, and heirs of eternal life; Grant us, we beseech thee, that, having this hope, we may purify ourselves, even as he is pure; that, when he shall appear again with power and great glory, we may be made like unto him in his eternal and glorious kingdom; where with thee, O Father, and thee, O Holy Ghost, he liveth and reigneth ever, one God, world without end. Amen.

Collect for the Twenty-six Sunday after Trinity

O LORD, we beseech thee to keep thy Church and household continually in thy true religion; that they who do lean only upon the hope of thy heavenly grace may evermore be defended by thy mighty power; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Monday, November 19, 2018

ACNA co-sponsors CCM-bluegrass Xmas concert tour

From the ACNA email blast this afternoon:

Getty Music Presents Sing!
Celebrate the Season at
Sing! An Irish Christmas

Enjoy an evening of inspirational carols and hymns with Keith and Kristyn Getty — and their band of top Irish & American instrumentalists fusing Celtic, bluegrass, Americana, classical and modern sounds into an evening of singing and celebration.

Dear Friend,

For the seventh year in a row, modern hymn-writers Keith and Kristyn Getty are returning with Sing! An Irish Christmas. As someone who appreciates great songs of the Christian faith, we hope you'll join us for the annual gathering of historic carols and congregational singing.

Sing! An Irish Christmas continues the great legacy of singing beloved holiday hymns.

Featuring classic Christmas carols as well as popular modern hymns and carols from the Gettys, the Sing! An Irish Christmas tour will make stops in renowned concert venues like Carnegie Hall and the Kennedy Center in DC - where it has had the distinction of being the only Christian concert to play during the Christmas season.

Special discounts for ACNA pastors & congregations are available by emailing

Guest artists for select concerts include:
Archbishop Foley Beach, Joni Eareckson Tada, Tim Keller, David Platt, Paul Tripp, Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth, Ricky Skaggs, Alison Krauss, Matt Redman, Sierra Hull, John Patitucci, Trip Lee, Phil Keaggy + many more! 

Check local concert listing at for more details!

The ACNA website explains the “guest artist” remark:
From Archbishop Beach: “I am grateful for the partnership we have with the Gettys! I and many in the Anglican Church in North America continue to be enriched by their ministry. As we prepare for the coming Christmas season, this tour is an opportunity to hear and sing some of the great hymns of the Faith. I’ll be participating in the concert in Atlanta on November 28th. If you or your church are looking for a fellowship opportunity this Advent, this is an excellent one to consider!”

Keith and Kristyn Getty are doing 16 concerts from Nov. 28 to Dec. 21, including two Presbyterian, one Baptist, one Lutheran and two (California) non-denominational churches. Tickets appear to range from $15 to $130 (at Carnegie Hall). The promotion video suggests the music is a mix of secular and sacred Christmas carols, Getty praise hymns and other music, all performed in a Celtic-bluegrass-Irish/American folk style.

Since the Getty website doesn’t name the “special guests” or mention the ACNA, it is not clear the ACNA role other than the Abp.’s guest appearance on Nov. 28. However, the Getty website does talk about the partnership with several pages:
I’m vaguely curious as to what a Christmas-CCM-folk-bluegrass concert looks like, but I can’t make any of the dates. Instead, I’ll be celebrating Advent at a local Lessons & Carols service, and of course listening to webcast of the 100th Kings College Cambridge service

Friday, November 16, 2018

Rev. John Mason Neale, D.D. (24 Jan 1818 – 6 Aug 1866)

On Wednesday, I gave a campus ministry talk on the influence of J.M. Neale, adapted from my recent research. Below is the handout I distributed to the students.

Born to Cornelius and Susanna Good Neale; named for Puritan cleric and hymn writer John Mason (1645–94). Cornelius was ordained a Church of England priest in 1822 and died in 1823. J.M. married Sarah Webster in 1842; three children: Agnes Neale, Vincent Neale, Mary Sackville (Neale) Lawson.

Cofounder of Cambridge Camden Society, later the Ecclesiological Society; from 1841-1866 co-editor (with Benjamin Webb) of its journal, The Ecclesiologist.

In 1846, he became warden of Sackville College, an almshouse in East Grinstead, but was inhibited by the local bishop from 1848-1860 for his “Puseyite” tendencies. In 1855, he founded the Society of St. Margaret, a women’s religious order that trained nuns to minister to the poor, which, after relocating to East Grinstead in 1856; his daughter Agnes was later its Mother Superior.

Died in 1866 at Sackville College, and buried 10 Aug 1866 in St. Swithun Churchyard, East Grinstead, West Sussex, England.


A great and mighty wonder
All glory, laud, and honor
Alleluia, song of gladness,
Art thou weary, art thou languid
Brief life is here our portion
Christ is made the sure foundation
Christian! Dost Thou See Them
Come, ye faithful, raise the strain
Draw nigh and take the Body of the Lord
Fierce was the wild billow
For thee, O dear, dear country
Good Christian men, rejoice
Holy Father, thou hast taught me
Jerusalem the golden,
Jesus, name all names above
Jesus, the very thought is sweet
Lift up, lift up your voices now
Now that the daylight fills the sky
O come, O come, Emmanuel
O happy band of pilgrims
O Lord of hosts, Whose glory fills
O sons and daughters, let us sing
O thou who by a star didst guide
O Thou, Who through this holy week
O what their joy and their glory must be
O wondrous type! O vision fair
Of the Father's love begotten
Safe home, safe home in port
That Easter day with joy was bright
The day is past and over
The day of Resurrection
The day, O Lord, is spent
The Royal Banners forward go
The world is very evil
To the name that brings salvation


  • “J.M. Neale,”, URL:
  • J.M. Neale, A Few Words to Church Builders (Cambridge: Cambridge Camden Society, 1841), URL:
  • J.M. Neale and Benjamin Webb, The Symbolism of Churches and Church Ornaments (London: T.W. Greene, 1843), URL:
  • Eleanor A. Towle, John Mason Neale, DD: A Memoir (London: Longmans, Green, 1907), URL:
  • James F. White, The Cambridge Movement: the Ecclesiologists and the Gothic Revival. (Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 1962).
  • Barry A. Orford, “Music and Hymnody” in Stewart J. Brown, James Pereiro, and Peter Nockles, eds., The Oxford Handbook of the Oxford Movement (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2017), 376-386.
  • J. West, “Neale’s Hymnal Noted and its Impact on Twentieth-Century American Hymnody,” The Hymn, 69, 3 (Summer 2018): 14-24.
  • J. West, “How Cambridge and John Mason Neale Continued the Oxford Movement,” Forward in Christ 11, 4 (October 2018): 18-20, URL:

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

New research on John Mason Neale

My first papers on church music were published last month, and one is now online. Both are on John Mason Neale, who — as I mentioned in January — is being honored in this the year of his bicentennial.

Neale’s Hymnal Noted

The main paper is about his most influential hymnal, Hymnal Noted, published with music editor Thomas Helmore. As the second paragraph summarizes:
In Hymnal Noted, Neale (1818-1866) and his colleagues compiled 210 hymns, with 105 unique texts translated from medieval Latin sources; many of these translations were later included in the major English hymnals of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. AB this paper will show, the influence of Hymnal Noted also extended to the United States. Of the 105 texts, twenty-six were adopted by one or more of the twenty-four twentieth-century hymnals from the largest American Christian denominations, with hymns such as “All glory, laud and honor,” and “O come, O come, Emmanuel.”
The paper reviews the history of hymnody in the Church of England before the Oxford Movement, Neale’s career, his contribution to hymnody, and then specifically Hymnal Noted and its impact. It was published in The Hymn, the main US journal for scholarship on hymn music. I had presented the original version at the 2017 Society for Christian Scholarship in Music conference — my first appearance at any academic conference for religion, liturgy or music — and got great feedback, a sense of the norms of the field, and met some of today’s established and up-and-coming scholars.

The published paper benefitted greatly from the editorial process. In particular, I greatly appreciate the patience of interim editor Robin Knowles Wallace, an endowed chair at the Methodist seminary near Columbus.

How Cambridge and John Mason Neale Continued the Oxford Movement

Stained glass window in St Swithuns
Source: Forward in Christ, Oct. 2018
In writing the original paper, I felt that the Neale bicentennial should not go unremarked among American Anglo-Catholics; because of my involvement in the Forward in Faith church planting task force, I reached out to the Forward in Faith magazine, Forward in Christ. The editor, Fr. Michael Heidt, graciously agreed to run 1,650 words on Neale in the October issue.

While in my January blog post, I emphasized Neale’s hymns, I felt this audience would also be interested in Neale’s impact in other areas. One part was about how Neale and his Cambridge colleagues created the gothic revival in English church architecture — including in their showpiece Victorian Gothic church, All Saints’ Margaret Street, which I was fortunate to visit in June. The other was how Neale was among those who pushed the envelope of liturgical practice — sometimes at great risk to his career and livelihood – to reinstate medieval practices decried as “Romish” by many English Protestants. While incense and the chasuble remain controversial, it’s hard to remember that choir vestments, candles, and singing the communion service were also controversial 150 years ago.

The article appeared in the printed glossy magazine, and the full text is available for free on the Forward in Christ website. The website includes one of the pictures from the magazine: the stained glass window showing John Mason Neale and two others at St Swithuns, East Grinstead, where he was laid to rest on August 10, 1866. The other picture in the magazine is a recent interior picture of All Saints’ Margaret Street, which is available on their website.


  • J. M. Neale and Thomas Helmore, Hymnal Noted: Parts I & II (London: Novello, 1851, 1856), available at
  • J. West, “Neale’s Hymnal Noted and its Impact on Twentieth-Century American Hymnody,” The Hymn, 69, 3 (Summer 2018): 14-24.
  • J. West, “How Cambridge and John Mason Neale Continued the Oxford Movement,” Forward in Christ 11, 4 (October 2018): 18-20, URL:
Thank you to everyone for their help and encouragement. I would be glad to email a scan of the printed copy of either article to anyone who’s interested — please contact me.

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Singing to end all wars

Today marks the 100th anniversary of the end of the War to End All Wars, what we now call World War I. With nearly 1 million dead from England and the rest of the United Kingdom, this date has been observed as Remembrance Day for the past century: the Church of England and other churches in the U.K. will be solemnly marking this occasion. Anyone who’s read biographies of Lewis, Tolkien and others of that generation know how much a mark the war made on the British people.

In the U.S., today is unlikely to be a big deal. The deaths were a factor of 10 smaller in absolute terms and 20x smaller in proportion of the overall population. The president (as any president would) is in Europe, not the U.S., to mark the occasion.

There isn’t really anything in the U.S. lectionary for Veteran’s (née Armistice) Day, and today’s readings don’t really lend themselves a sermon on the subject. However, I did find it was possible to gently remember the occasion through a choice of hymns.

The obvious hymn for the occasion is “Joyful, joyful, we adore thee”, which is missing from my favorite hymnal but #376 in Hymnal 1982 and #375 in Book of Common Praise 2017. This hymn was a pleasant surprise when, in our wanderings earlier this century to find a suitable Episcopal church, we found it was a quite popular recession hymn. I was struck how clever the adaptation was: the tune from the final movement of Beethoven’s 9th (“Ode to Joy”), with words that are roughly a paraphrase of Schiller’s 18th century text that was used in Beethoven’s German original.

The fit is that the melody is the EU national anthem, something hard to miss if you watch an EU gathering on TV. (Officially there are no words, but I recall seeing Europeans singing Beethoven’s words on TV). Of course, the EU is an institution created to prevent a repeat of World War II, but given that the 1918 Armistice did such a terrible job of preventing a repeat of World War I, in reality the Marshall Plan, Common Market and European Union were a do-over of what should have been done to provide peace 100 years ago.

Still, this was vaguely unsatisfying. Looking through the various topical indices, none of the first lines had an obvious fit to a more general desire for peace. But then a (sung) phrase kept rattling around in my brain: “Give to us peace in our time, O Lord.”

It turns out this is the end of verses 1-3 of the 19th century hymn, “God the Omnipotent! King, who ordainest.” The verses were fairly stable until the late 1970s, the first two in 1842 by Henry F. Chorley (a London music critic and opera librettist) and the last two in 1870 by Rev. John Ellerton, a graduate of Trinity College Cambridge and a contributor to Hymns Ancient & Modern.

The words I have sung from Hymnal 1940 (#523) since my childhood are:
God, the omnipotent! King who ordainest
Thunder thy clarion, the lightning thy sword;
Show forth thy pity on high where Thou reignest,
Give to us peace in our time, O Lord.

God the all merciful! Earth hath forsaken
Thy ways all holy, and slighted Thy Word;
Bid not thy wrath in its terrors awaken;
Give to us peace in our time, O Lord.

God the all righteous One! Man hath defied Thee;
Yet to eternity standeth thy Word,
Falsehood and wrong shall not tarry beside Thee;
Give to us peace in our time, O Lord.

God the all provident! Earth by thy chastening,
Yet shall to freedom and truth be restored;
Through the thick darkness Thy kingdom is hast’ning;
Thou wilt give peace in thy time, O Lord.

The same words are in BCP2017 (#613). Despite the strong imagery, H82 (#569) only gently updates it, replacing “Man” with “Earth” in verse 3. In all cases, we are singing either to petition God for peace in our time, or to acknowledge our trust that he will do so at the time of his choosing.

What I remember most about the hymn, however, is the march that makes it both memorable in imminently singable. The real irony, however, is that the tune was the Tsar’s national anthem — at least until the Romanov family was executed by the Bolsheviks in July 1918. So singing the tune also marks a link to an earlier era of Europe that (for better or for worse) came to a violent end in 1917-1918.

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Websites for Anglican hymnody

Oremus was an invaluable resource for comparing Anglican hymnals around the world, but last year they gave up because they were being hassled to death over supposed copyright concerns. (I have considerable knowledge of copyright and fair use, and they seemed to be very much on the side of being legal).

Over the last decade, Hymnary has gotten much much better, with good funding, a college and paid staff behind it. (It didn’t hurt that the federal government gave them a big grant to scan 2,000 hymnals from a college library.) It lists the hymn titles and tunes for all the American hymnals, as well as key Church of England hymnals of the past 150 years.

It has various layers of complexity: the searching by hymn, by hymnal, by tune and the ability to download CSV files of some of the data. I can't claim to be an expert on it yet, but would like to post a tutorial once I understand it better. However, I have consistently felt that (as in Oremus) when I pull up a hymn text, I have no assurance that the text I'm seeing matches the specific pew hymnal (in terms of verses and wording changes) in front of me.

During my field research for my next church music paper, I heard about some other resources that seem very useful.

The Episcopal Church’s Church Publishing Inc. has a website RiteSeries, which includes RiteBrain for liturgy and RiteSong for hymns.  In many ways, CPH is emulating what Concordia Publishing House ( does for the larger (Missouri synod) Lutheran denomination. However, RiteSeries only includes the most recent full hymnal (Hymnal 1982) and its supplements (Wonder Love & Praise), as well as the 1979 prayer book (and supplements such as Lesser Feasts and Fasts), and omits mention of liturgies that have been officially deprecated for the past 35 years. This is unlike CPH, which emphasizes its 2006 worship book (hymnal+prayer book) but still sells its 1982 and 1941 books, and even offers some resources for the older books.

Still, in this era of putting all the music (or at least lyrics) in the service booklet, both Hymnal 1940 and Book of Common Praise 2017 need resources like this. Hymnary has page images for much of Hymnal 1940, so that's a start.

Finally, my research interview yesterday with a long time choir member in Houston — who grew up with the 1928 prayer book and 1940 hymnal and never left — she pointed out It has MP3 files for Hymnal 1940, Hymnal 1982 and The English Hymnal. It also lists the 2006 LCMS hymnal and the 1990 Presbyterian hymnal, and several Methodist hymnals. For each tune, there are multiple MP3 files that list how many verses and what keys they are in. It also provides its own PDF of a score, its own standard lyrics (not specific to a hymnal), and links to pages on TheCyberHymnal and Hymnary for the hymn.

Like so many out there, I appreciate the work these individuals (or not-for-profits) are doing to make these resources available for those of us who still value hymns and hymn-singing in America.

Monday, November 5, 2018

Fr. Robert Taft (1932-2018) on the liturgy

Fr. Robert Francis Taft, S.J., died Friday in Weston, Mass., where he had retired in 2011 after 46 years at the Oriental Institute of Rome. Born in Rhode Island, he was best known as a Roman Catholic scholar of Eastern liturgies and was in fact a priest in Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, an Eastern Rite church in communion with Rome. The Pray Tell blog posted an obituary by John F. Baldovin, S.J., a friend and colleague who stayed in touch with Fr Taft after his retirement.

Fr. Taft was a highly knowledgeable, influential and opinionated contributor to the postwar ecumenical movement that called itself “Liturgical Reform”. While for the Roman church this specifically meant bringing the liturgy into the vernacular, the broader movement sought to bring new evidence, insights and opinions to change the liturgy in the direction the reformers believed best. Over the past 70 year, this movement that impacted almost the entire swath of liturgical Western Christianity.

I knew of Taft’s work from his definitive 1986 book The Liturgy of the Hours in East and West, which is on the future reading list of my ecumenical liturgy reading group. As a student of liturgy — rather than a scholar making original contributions — today I can only scratch the surface of assessing his contribution.

(For those that wonder why I spend so much time on liturgy in a music blog, please bear with me).

Pray Tell also posted the 1985 speech Fr. Taft gave upon receiving an award for his liturgical studies. From this 8,800 word speech, I will (cherry) pick some on how this priest and scholar found that a proper liturgy is important for congregational worship:
…what the Vatican II reforms initiated was a return of the liturgy to the people. … But the only way it can remain popular is if we leave it alone. … What ordinary people in ordinary parishes need is familiarity, sameness, the stability of a ritual tradition that can be achieved only be repetition, and that will not tolerate change every time the pastor reads a new article. The only way people are going to perceive liturgy as their own, and therefore participate in it, is when they know what is going to happen next.

So let me enunciate a liturgical principle: ritual – or call it order of worship, if you belong to a tradition that dislikes the word ritual – a certain stability in the déroulement of worship, far from precluding spontaneity and congregational participation, is its condition sine qua non, as is indeed true of any social event. Italian crowds spontaneously shout “brava” to divas at the opera – but not in the middle of an aria – because the conventions of civility dictate that there is a time and place for everything.

Like medieval cathedrals, liturgies were created not as monuments to human creativity, but as acts of worship. The object of worship is not self-expression, not even self-fulfillment, but God. “he must increase, I must decrease,” John the Baptist said of Jesus (Jn 3:30) and that is an excellent principle for liturgical ministers. Anyway, experience shows that most spontaneity is spontaneous only the first time around. Thereafter it always sounds the same. Furthermore, most people are not especially creative in any other aspect of the existence, and there is no reason to think that they will be when it comes to liturgy. They can, however, be drawn to participate in a common heritage far nobler and richer than the creation of anyone of us individually. What we need is not further to reinvent the wheel, not to reshape our liturgy every time we read a new article, but just to take what we have and use it very well.

In other words, liturgy is a common tradition, and ideal of prayer to which I must rise, and not some private game that I am free to reduce to the level of my own banality. And when the rite has something I do not understand, especially if it is something that Christians in almost every tradition, East and West, have been doing for about a millennium, then perhaps my initial instinct should be to suspect some deficiency in my own understanding, before immediately proceeding to excise whatever it is that has had the affrontery to escape the limits of my intelligence.
Requiescat in pace.