ABIDE WITH ME AND OTHER FAVOURITE HYMNS (Marlowe Brass Ensemble/ St. George's Chapel Choir/ Windsor/ Tim Byram-Wigfield) (Naxos: 8.557578)
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Abide with me and other favourite hymns
Vernacular hymns, etymologically songs of praise, are aparticular feature of the worship of the ProtestantReformation, assuming various forms over the centuries,as Christian beliefs and practices have undergonechanges. The German hymns of Martin Luther, chorales,some derived both in text and melody from earlierCatholic Latin hymns, came to form an idiosyncratic andessential element in Lutheran worship, while extremerReformers, following Calvin in Geneva, favouredversions of the Psalms, the pattern adopted in theSternhold and Hopkins English metrical Psalter of 1562,which included 65 melodies from the Genevan Psalter.
Succeeding generations brought additions to therepertoire of popular hymns, enjoying varied success.
George Wither, in 1623, managed to ensure that his TheHymnes and Songs of the Church, a collection to whichOrlando Gibbons contributed, should be bound togetherwith all copies of the metrical psalms, but his attempts,with his own feeble verses, were frustrated by theStationers' Company, which had its own monopoly toprotect. Collections of hymns were published later in theseventeenth century by Playford, and in 1700 came Tateand Brady's Supplement to the New Version of thePsalms, a compilation that included a small number ofhymns. Nahum Tate, the librettist of Purcell's Dido andAeneas and poet laureate, survives as a hymnodist in hisWhile shepherds watched, and with Nicholas Brady in Aspants the hart, Through all the changing scenes of life,and Have mercy, Lord, on me.
The eighteenth century brought the significant Hymnsand Spiritual Songs of Isaac Watts, author of some of themost popular hymns still sung. His influence wasapparent in the hymns of Charles Wesley, and the form ofpopular worship fostered by the Wesleys, with its strongemphasis on singing, as Methodism developed,challenging the established Church. Some of these hymnsfound their way into Anglican worship, in spite oftraditional objections to any alteration of the liturgy asestablished by law and enshrined in The Book of CommonPrayer. The result in the nineteenth century was theflourishing of the Anglican hymn, now drawing onProtestant and Catholic sources. A suitable Anglicancompromise between the two was reached in 1861 withHymns Ancient and Modern, a collection that won thewidest currency, and, while Tractarian in originalinspiration, nevertheless managed to cater for a widerange of theological opinion. The English Hymnal of1906, edited by Percy Dearmer, with music edited byVaughan Williams, might have displaced Hymns Ancientand Modern had it not been seen as too 'Catholic', in spiteof its address to 'all broad-minded men'. Songs of Praise,published in 1925, won less favour, discarding, as it did,elements of popular Victorian repertoire in favour of newmelodies.
The present anthology of English hymns opens withAll people that on earth do dwell by William Kethe, fromDaye's Psalter of 1500-01, sung to the tune of the OldHundredth from the Genevan Psalter, a melodyharmonized by John Dowland for Ravenscroft's Psalter in1621. This is followed by Dear Lord and Father ofmankind, with words by the American Quaker poet JohnGreenleaf Whittier, author of the ballad BarbaraFrietchie, and music taken from Hubert Parry's Judith.
George Herbert's King of glory, King of peace is set to theWelsh hymn-tune Gwalchmai by the Victorian J.D.Jones,and Athelstan Riley's Ye watchers and ye holy ones usesthe melody Lasst uns erfreuen from the CologneGeistliche Gesangbuch of 1623. Let all mortal flesh keepsilent has a text derived from the Greek Liturgy of StJames by the Victorian hymnodist Gerard Moultrie. Theimpressive melody, Picardy, is from a French traditionalcarol.
The Welsh hymn tune St Denio is familiarlyassociated with Immortal, invisible, God only wise, by theScottish minister Walter Chalmers Smith, a Moderator ofthe Free Church of Scotland. It is followed by All my hopeon God is founded with a text by Robert Bridges,translating a hymn by Neander. The melody Michael, byHerbert Howells, recalls the tragic death of thecomposer's nine-year-old son in 1935 from polio. TheLord's my shepherd, a version of Psalm 23 from theScottish Psalter of 1650 has a tune by the nineteenth-century Jessie Irvine, daughter of a Scottish minister. Tellout, my soul, the words based on the Magnificat byTimothy Dudley-Smith, Bishop of Thetford from 1981until his retirement in 1991, is set to the tune Woodlandsby Walter Greatorex, who taught at Gresham's School,Holt, from 1911 until his death in 1949, doing little, itseems, to encourage the musical ambitions of BenjaminBritten, a pupil at the school. Christ is made the surefoundation is an adaptation of the seventh-century Latinoffice hymn Angularis fundamentum by John MasonNeale. It is sung to the tune Westminster Abbey, adaptedfrom Henry Purcell.
Come down, O Love divine is a translation by theVictorian clergyman and theologian Richard FrederickLittledale of Bianco da Siena's fifteenth-centuryDiscendi, Amor santo , sung to a tune by VaughanWilliams, Down Ampney, and Praise to the Lord, theAlmighty, the King of creation, is a version by CatherineWinkworth and others of the Lutheran Lobe den Herrenby the German Pietist theologian, poet, and composer,Joachim Neander, whose hymns largely followed themetrical patterns of the Genevan Psalter, allowing theirperformance with music drawn from there or withmelodies of his own composition. The melody here istaken from the Stralsund Gesangbuch of 1665.
Jerusalem, intended by its writer William Blake for quiteother purposes, is now traditionally coupled with therousing music of Hubert Parry, written in 1916.
The words of Abide with me are by the Scottishclergyman Henry Francis Lyte, whose Poems chieflyReligious was published in 1833. The well-knownmelody Eventide is by William Henry Monk, musicaleditor of Hymns Ancient and Modern, a Tractarianorganist and choirmaster. Alleluya, sing to Jesus haswords by Bristol-born William Chatterton Dix, his secondname proclaiming his father's literary interests. The tuneHyfrydol (Good Cheer) was written by the Welsh hymncomposer Rowland Huw Prichard, born in Bala in 1811,but later employed in Holywell, where he died in 1887. Yeholy angels bright has words by the seventeenth-centurydivine Richard Baxter, with nineteenth-century additionsby John Hampden Gurney. The eighteenth-century tuneDarwall's 148th is by John Darwall, Vicar of StMatthew's, Walsall, and a contributor to Tate and Brady'spsalter. My song is love unknown, with words by SamuelCrossman, a Puritan sympathizer, who recanted after theRestoration, to become Dean of Bristol Cathedral. Thehymn was published in 1664 in his The Young Man'sMeditation. The tune is the work of the twentieth-centuryEnglish composer John Ireland.
The hymn Holy, holy, holy! Lord God Almighty! is byBishop Reginald Heber, briefly, from 1823, Bishop ofCalcutta. The tune Nicaea is by one of the most dramaticof Victorian hymn composers, John Bacchus Dykes,precentor of Durham Cathedral, sixty of whose hymnswere accepted for the first edition of Hymns Ancient andModern. Glorious things of thee are spoken has words byJohn Newton, who after an early adventurous careereventually settled as a curate at Olney, publishing with thepoet William Cowper the Olney Hymns. It used to be sungto the tune of Haydn's Emperor's Hymn, but when thisseemed unsuitable it was coupled with the tune Abbot'sLeigh by Cyril Taylor, Precentor of Bristol and SalisburyCathedrals. O for a thousand tongues to sing by CharlesWesley is here sung to the tune Arden, followed byPraise, my soul, the King of Heaven, another example ofVictorian hymnody, with words by Henry Francis Lyteand music by Sir John Goss, a pupil of Mozart's pupilAttwood, whom he succeeded as organist of St Paul'sCathedral, and composer to the Chapel Royal