Thursday, February 20, 2014

Emma Mundella

Emma Mundella, a somewhat obscure British composer, died on this day in 1896, but her birth date in 1858 seems to be unknown.  She is described in Otto Ebel's Women Composers (1913) as "a highly gifted lady" who had written part-songs, piano pieces, and "some church music."  She also wrote an oratorio, Victory of Song, for female voices and strings which was published by Novello.

Among her music instructors were Arthur Sullivan and John Stainer, and she attended the Royal College of Music, becoming one of the first students to receive the Associate of the R.C.M. degree.

I mention her here because she was the editor of The Day School Hymn Book (1896)., which was also published by Novello.  She writes in the foreword that it was her aim to

...provide a Hymn Book for school use which should combine throughout an elevated tone of thought and feeling, both in the words and the music, with sufficient sympathy of ideas to make it acceptable to the young people for whom is is especially intended

Of course, dozens, if not hundreds, of other hymnbooks for the use of young persons had already claimed and would continue to express similar intentions.  At any rate, this book included hymns in German, Latin, and French in addition to many standard Church of England hymns.

In the foreword she also thanks her former teacher John Stainer for "his invaluable help and the unfailing interest he has shown throughout the preparation of this book." Stainer had provided her with a previously-unpublished tune by John Bacchus Dykes as well as composing six new tunes for the book.  

Twelve of Mundella's own tunes appear in the book (remember, the best way for women to get their tunes or texts into a hymnbook was to edit it themselves).  Several of these tunes are in unusual meters that would make them unlikely to be used today, but there are a few possibilities. Unfortunately, none of her tunes are available to hear online.  The Cyber Hymnal does not list Mundella at all, and only acknowledges her as the editor of a hymnbook, without listing any of her tunes.  Maybe someday.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

A Hush of Expectation

In some traditions we are still in the liturgical season of Epiphany, which will run until the Sunday before Lent -- March 2 this year (when we hear the story of the Transfiguration of Jesus).  It's a long season in 2014; often we have already passed Ash Wednesday by this time.

There are still hymns that can be used for the season without singing about the three kings and the star over Bethlehem, even though some worship planners are out of ideas.  Light is a recurring Epiphany theme, as well as the spreading of the awareness of Jesus.  Today the light comes from the dawn of the coming day of God, which seems appropriate for Epiphany, and also for other times of the year as well.

I encountered this text in an interesting collection I recently found, Social Hymns of Brotherhood and Aspiration (1914), though I suspect it was not first published there.

There’s a light upon the mountains,
As we greet the coming morn;
When our eyes shall see the beauty
And the splendors of the dawn;
Weary was our heart with waiting,
And the night-watch seemed so long,
But the jubilee is breaking
And we hail it with a song.

There’s a hush of expectation
And a quiet in the air
And the breath of God is moving
In the fervent breath of prayer;
Then we hear a distant music
And it comes with fuller swell;
’Tis the triumph-song of Jesus,
Promised One, Immanuel!

Christ is breaking down the barriers,
He is casting up the way;
He is calling for his angels
To build up the gates of day:
But his angels here are human,
Not the shining hosts above;
For the drumbeats of this legion
Are the heartbeats of our love.

Henry Burton, 1910; alt.
Thomas J. Williams, 1890

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Thomas Turton

Bishop Thomas Turton (February 5, 1780 - January 7, 1864) was born in the town of Hatfield, in South Yorkshire, the son of Thomas and Ann Turton.

He graduated from St. Catherine's College (part of the University of Cambridge) in 1805, and treturned there to teach, eventually serving as Professor of Mathematics (1822-1826) and of Divinity (1827-1842). In 1834 he published a pamphlet opposing the admission of non-Anglicans for univerity degrees.  During his teaching career, he also served in various clerical capacities following his ordination in the Church of England in 1813, which led to his inclusion in The Extraordinary Black Book (1832) by John Wade, a catalog of corruption and abuse in church and state. After leaving St. Catherine's, he became Dean of Westminster Abbey for three years, and in 1845 he was made Bishop of Ely.

He was also a composer of some church music, and two hymn tunes (including today's) were included in Hymns Ancient and Modern.

O thou, in all thy might so far,
In all thy love so near,
Betond the range of sun and star,
And yet beside us here.

What heart can comprehend thy Name,
Or searching, find thee out,
Who art within, a quick'ning Flame,
A Presence 'round about.

Yet though we know thee but in part,
We ask not, God, for more,
Enough for us to know thou art,
To love thee, and adore.

Frederick Lucian Hosmer, 1876; alt.
Thomas Turton, 1860

This tune was named for Saint Etheldreda, the patron saint of the Diocese of Ely, while Turton's other tune in Hymns Ancient and Modern was called ELY.

Turton was in poor health during much of his term as Bishop and died in 1864, leaving much of his estate to charity.  He was buried next to his friend Dr. Thomas Musgrave, Archbishop of York.

This text, by Frederick Lucian Hosmer, written while he was pastor of the Unitarian congregation in Quincy, Illinois, is described in Hymn Lore (1932) by Calvin Laufer as suggestive of Psalm 139.

Five Years Ago: Joy is like the rain

Four Years Ago: Roger Williams

Sunday, February 2, 2014

The Feast of the Presentation

 Joy! joy! the Mother comes,
And in her arms she brings
The Light of all the world,
The Ruler of all things,
And in her heart the while
All silently she sings.

Saint Joseph follows near,
In rapture lost, and love,
While angels 'round about
In glowing circles move,
And o'er the Mother broods
The everlasting Dove.

There in the temple court,
Old Simeon's heart beats high,
And Anna feeds her soul
With food of prophecy;
And see! the shadows pass,
The world's true Light draws nigh.

Frederick William Faber, 1854; alt.
Tune: BACA (
William Henry Havergal,
19th cent.

P.S - The illustration above is from The Presentation of Christ in the Temple by Albrecht Durer.

One Year Ago: In the temple now behold him

Three Years Ago: In peace and joy I now depart

Four Years Ago: O Jerusalem beloved

Five Years Ago: Hail to the Lord who comes

Six Years Ago: O Zion, open wide thy gates

Sunday, January 12, 2014

The Baptism of Christ

The Sunday after the Feast of the Epiphany sometimes commemorates the baptism of Jesus in the Jordan River by his cousin John, as told in Matthew 3: 13-16.  Infant or adult baptisms are often performed today in churches which mark this day, but even if there are no such celebrations the people of the congregation may renew their baptismal vows together.

O God, our strength in weakness,
We pray to you for grace,
Patience to trust your promise,
And speed to run the race;
When your baptismal waters
Were poured upon our brow,
We then were made your children
And pledged our earliest vow.

So we on earth are bless├Ęd
For we shall see the Lord,
Forever and forever,
By seraphim adored;
And we shall drink the pleasure
Such as no tongue can tell
From heav'ns clear crystal river,
And life’s eternal well.

Then sing to our Creator,
Who formed us with great love;
And sing to God the Savior
Who leads to realms above;
Sing we with saints and angels
Before the heavenly throne,
To God the Holy Spirit,
Sing to the Three in One.

Christopher Wordsworth, 1881; alt.
Tune: STOKE (
Mrs. G. E. Cole, 1889

Christopher Wordsworth wrote this text toward the end of his life, long after his major collection The Holy Year (1862).  He was Bishop of Lincoln from 1868 until his death in 1885, and apparently wrote this hymn for the handbook of the Lincoln Girls' Friendly Society.   Many of his other hymns have already appeared here (click on the tag below).

I am unable to find anything more about Mrs. G. E. Cole, whose tune first appeared in the 1889 supplement of Hymns Ancient and Modern (not even her name!).  It's likely that the initials belong to her husband.

Five Years Ago: 'I come,' the great Redeemer cries

Monday, January 6, 2014

The Feast of the Epiphany

Twelve days after Christmas we come again to the Feast of the Epiphany, marked by the familiar story of three royal visitors to the infant Jesus (Matthew 2:1-12).  

Many churches probably celebrated this occasion yesterday but there will be some service today in various places.

Lo! the pilgrim magi
Leave their royal halls,
And with eager footsteps
Speed to Bethlehem's walls;
As they onward journey,
Faith, which firmly rests,
Built on hope unswerving,
Triumphs in their breasts.

Praise to the Creator,
Fount of Life alone;
who unto the nations,
made Christ's glory known.

O what joy and gladness
Filled each heart, from far
When, to guide their footsteps,
Shone that radiant star;
O'er that home so holy,
Pouring down its ray,
Where the cradled infant
With his mother lay.


Costly pomp and splendor
Earthly kings array;
Christ, a mightier Monarch,
Hath a nobler sway;
Straw may be his pallet,
Mean his garb may be,
Yet with power transcendent
He all hearts can free.


At his crib they worship,
Kneeling on the floor,
And their God there present,
In that babe adore;
To our God and Savior
We, as seekers true,
Give our hearts o'erflowing,
Give our tribute due.


Charles Coffin, 1736;
tr, John David Chambers, 1857; alt.
Tune: ARMAGEDDON ( with refrain)

Luise Richardt, 19th cent.;
adapt. John Goss, 1871 

The Roman Catholic Charles Coffin wrote his hymns in Latin, most for the Paris Breviary (1736).  We saw a much more familiar Epiphany hymn by Coffin a few years ago.

Luise Reichardt (1779-1826), born in Berlin, was the daughter of two composers, Juliane Reichardt and Johann Friedrich Reichardt.  One of her grandfathers had been concert master in the court of Frederick the Great.  Her earliest published songs appeared in 1800 in a collection of her father's work.  This particular melody was adapted into a hymn tune by John Goss, and has been used most often with the text Who is on the Lord's side.

Five Years Ago: Saw you never, in the twilight

Four Years Ago:  Earth has many a noble city

Three Years Ago: What star is this, with beams so bright

Two Years Ago: As with gladness those of old

One Year Ago:  O thou, who by a star didst guide

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Prophet to the Multitudes

John the Baptist always gets a week or two to himself during Advent worship, and several Advent hymns are about John and his proclamations about the coming Savior.

Today's gospel lesson in many churches was Matthew 11:2-11.  John was in jail again for his unpopular preaching, but was questioning whether Jesus (his cousin!) was truly the Promised One that John had been talking about.  Jesus responds with reminders of his works thus far, and praises John for his prophetic voice.

Today's hymn traces the whole of John's life, all the way to his death at the hands of King Herod. 

Herald, in the wilderness,
Breaking up the road,
Sinking mountains, raising plains,
For the path of God;

Prophet, to the multitudes
Calling to repent,
In the way of righteousness
Unto Israel sent;

Messenger, God’s chosen one
Foremost to proclaim,
Proffered titles passing by,
Pointing to the Lamb.

Captive, for the word of truth
Boldly witnessing;
Then in Herod’s dungeon cave,
Faint and languishing;

Martyr, sacrificed to sin
At that feast of shame;
As his life foreshowed the Word,
In his death the same—

Holy Jesus, when he heard,
Went apart to pray:
Thus may we our lesson take
From this saint today.

Henry Alford, 1866; alt.
Tune: BRUCE (
The Hymnal, 1907

Five (Liturgical) Years Ago: On Jordan's bank the Baptist's cry

Four (Liturgical) Years Ago: The great forerunner of the morn

One (Liturgical) Year Ago: O Wisdom, spreading mightily

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Knowing You Are On Your Way

Another year in the church's calendar begins today, with the first Sunday in Advent.  These four Sundays before Christmas serve as a time of waiting and expectation as the commemoration of the birth of Christ approaches.  We have seen many Advent hymns over the last five years here at the blog, and they aren't used up yet.

Emily May Grimes (May 10, 1864 - July 9, 1927) was born in England but went to South Africa as a missionary in 1893.  In 1903, she married Dr. T. W. W. Crawford, another missionary in the Anglican church who was stationed in Africa.  Many of her hymns (such as today's) were written before her marriage and were attributed to 'E. May Grimes.'

Her texts seems to have appeared in more and more hymnals as the twentieth century progressed, unlike many of her contemporaries, though this is probably largely due to her most well-known hymn, Speak, Lord, in the stillness.

In the Advent light, O Savior,
We are living day by day;
Waiting, working, watching ever,
Knowing you are on your way.

In the Advent light rejoicing!
Songs of praise along the road
Seem to make the journey shorter,
Mounting upward to our God!

So from glory unto glory,
Gladdened by the Advent ray;
All the path is growing brighter,
Shining unto perfect day.

Christ is coming! Christ is coming!
Pass the heavenly watchword on!
Go we forth to meet the Savior
Hail! the heavn'ly promised one!

E. May Grimes, 1902; alt.
The Southern Harmony, 1835

Five (Liturgical) Years Ago: Lo! Christ comes with clouds descending

Four (Liturgical) Years Ago: Jesus came, adored by angels

Three (Liturgical) Years Ago: Lift up your heads, ye mighty gates

Two (Liturgical) Years Ago: The King shall come when morning dawns

One (Liturgical) Years Ago: Once he came in blessing

Another Anniversary Today: World AIDS Day

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Claudia Frances Hernaman

Claudia Frances Hernaman was born in the village of Addlestone, Surrey on this day in 1838, the daughter of W. H. Ibotson, a Church of England minister.  Like many clerical daughters, she grew up to marry another minister, the Reverend J. W. D. Hernaman, in 1858. Not much else seems to be known of her life except the more than 150 hymns she wrote or translated from Latin, mostly for children.  These were published in several books written by her.

We have already seen her most familiar hymn, first published in her collection The Child's Book of Praise (1873), which still appears today in many modern hymnals.  Today's hymn, appropriate for this season of Hernaman's birthday, is matched with a sprightly tune that children would probably like to sing.

Come, children, lift your voices, 
And sing with us today,
As to the Lord of harvest
Our grateful vows we pray,
We thank thee, God, for sending
The gentle showers of rain,
The summer suns which ripened
The fields of golden grain.

Come join our glad procession
As onward still we move,
Rejoicing in the tokens
Of our Creator's love;
All good is God's creation,
All beautiful and fair,
Birds, insects, beasts and fishes
Our harvest gladness share.

May we by holy living
Thy praises echo forth,
And tell thy boundless mercy
To all the list'ning earth;
May we grow up as branches
Of Christ, the one true Vine,
Bear fruit to life eternal,
And be forever thine.

Claudia Frances Hernaman, 1878; alt.
Traditional English melody, 17th cent.

The well-known and traditional tune BRITISH GRENADIERS was used since the eighteenth century as a march for several different divisions of the British and Canadian military, though it has since been heard in many different contexts.  I actually remember it from a long-ago television commercial for Chef Boy-ar-dee's Beefaroni.

Five Years Ago: Emily Swan Perkins

Four Years Ago: Emily Swan Perkins

Four Years Ago: John White Chadwick

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Edwin Hatch

Edwin Hatch (September 4, 1835 - November 10, 1889) was a member of the Anglican clergy and a renowned theologian and Biblical scholar.

He was ordained in 1859 after graduating from Oxford, and moved to Canada, where his first position was professor of classics at Trinity College in Toronto.  He returned to England in 1867, and worked at Oxford as vice-principal of St. Mary Hall until 1885.

Most of his writing was scholarly in nature, his most famous book being The Influence of Greek Ideas and Usages Upon the Christian Church (1897).  Published after his death, it was compiled from a series of lectures he delivered in 1888.

His hymns and poetry, a much smaller percentage of his writing, were collected as Toward Fields of Light (1890).  Today's hymn had appeared earlier in Hatch's privately printed book, Between Doubt and Prayer (1878), and then in The Congregational Psalmist Hymnal  (1886).  J. R. Watson, in An Annotated Anthology of Hymns (2002), describes how the hymn "moves through various stages of Christian experience and discipline towards a unity with God."

Breathe on me, Breath of God,
Fill me with life anew,
That I may love what thou dost love,
And do what thou wouldst do.

Breathe on me, Breath of God,
Until my heart is pure,
Until with thee I will one will,
To do and to endure.

Breathe on me, Breath of God,
Till I am wholly thine,
Until this earthly part of me
Glows with thy fire divine.

Breathe on me, Breath of God,
So shall I never die,
But live with thee the perfect life
Of thine eternity.

Edwin Hatch, 1878
Robert Jackson, 1888

The tune TRENTHAM, by Robert Jackson, often appears with this text in American hymnals, but according to Watson, several different tunes are used in the United Kingdom.

Hatch continues to appear in hymnals to the present day, many more than in his own lifetime, thanks to this particular text which remains well-known.