Music for St. James the Apostle, July 26, 2020

For all the saints – Text: William Walsham How (1823-1897). Music: Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872-1958).

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Considered by many to be one of the best 19th-century hymn writers, William Walsham How was bishop of Wakefield, a man with broad, human sympathies and an inspiring ecumenical outlook who served and brought attention to the plight of the poor in East End London. For all the saints continues to be the most popular hymn for saints’ days. It was first published in 1864 in 11 stanzas of 3 lines, plus an Alleluia. Stanzas 3, 4, and 5 are omitted in our (and most) hymn books. In these stanzas thanks is offered for apostles, evangelists, and martyrs, respectively.

The greatest gift to this text is the tune SINE NOMINE, which rightly lifts the hymn to the place it occupies in our appreciation today. The tune first appeared in The English Hymnal 1906, and has become one of the greatest tunes of the 20th century. Vaughan Williams had no name for the tune, and so he christened it Sine nomine – “without a name.”

For all the saints, who from their labours rest,
who thee by faith before the world confessed,
thy name, O Jesus, be forever blest.
Alleluia! Alleluia!

Thou wast their rock, their fortress, and their might;
thou, Lord, their captain in the well-fought fight;
thou, in the darkness drear, the one true light.
Alleluia! Alleluia!

O may thy soldiers, faithful, true, and bold,
fight as the saints who nobly fought of old,
and win with them the victor’s crown of gold.
Alleluia! Alleluia!

O blest communion, fellowship divine!
We feebly struggle, they in glory shine;
yet all are one in thee, for all are thine.
Alleluia! Alleluia!

And when the strife is fierce, the warfare long,
steals on the ear the distant triumph song,
and hearts are brave again, and arms are strong.
Alleluia! Alleluia!

The golden evening brightens in the west;
soon, soon to faithful warriors comes their rest;
sweet is the calm of Paradise the blest.
Alleluia! Alleluia!

But lo, there breaks a yet more glorious day —
the saints triumphant rise in bright array;
the King of glory passes on his way.
Alleluia! Alleluia!

From earth’s wide bounds, from ocean’s farthest coast,
through gates of pearl streams in the countless host,
singing to Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.
Alleluia! Alleluia!


Os justi – Anton Bruckner (1824-1896)

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Bruckner composed this gradual on July 18, 1879. Bruckner dedicated it to Ignaz Traumihler, choirmaster of St. Florian Abbey. [The name “gradual” comes from the fact that a soloist originally chanted the psalm – in this case Psalm 37:30-31 – from an elevated place, the step (gradus) of the ambo where the subdeacon had just read the Epistle.] This work is one of the four graduals published in 1886, which together rank as some of the revolutionary and original liturgical settings of Bruckner’s Vienna years. The other settings are Locus iste, Virga Jesse, and Christus factus est. Bruckner’s infusion of Romantic feeling into a spare, archaizing choral language is unique.

Os justi meditabitur sapientiam,
et lingua ejus loquetur judicium.
Lex Dei ejus in corde ipsius:
et non supplantabuntur gressus ejus.

The mouth of the righteous utters wisdom,
and his tongue speaks what is just.
The law of his God is in his heart;
and his steps will not be impeded.


Variations sur “Sine nominee” – Denis Bédard (b. 1950)

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The “postlude” for this Sunday is a set of variations on SINE NOMINE, our “processional hymn.” Denis Bédard, Organist and Music Director at Holy Rosary Cathedral in Vancouver, writes music which is essentially tonal and melodic, characterized by a concern for formal clarity and flavoured by his affinity for jazz. On this recording, the composer himself plays the 120-year-old Karn-Warren/Casavant organ over which he has presided since 2000.


Gerald Harder