Music for the Fifth Sunday after Pentecost – July 5, 2020

O taste and see – Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872-1958)


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The text of this motet is that of the ancient communion antiphon for this day in the church year, drawn from Psalm 34:8. Vaughan Williams’ setting of it was written for the for the 1953 Coronation service of Elizabeth II, and in its simplicity it was intended as a foil for the pomp of the royal occasion. The consoling words of the text and Vaughan Williams’ flowing soaring vocal line make this short motet one of his best loved works.


O taste and see how gracious the Lord is:

blest is the man that trusteth in him.



I heard the voice of Jesus say – Text: Horatius Bonar (1808-1889); Music: adapted from an English folk song by Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872-1958)


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This hymn was written by Horatius Bonar when he was minister at Kelso in Scotland; the first verse is based on Matthew 11, the Gospel reading for this Sunday. Altogether Bonar wrote about 600 hymns. None appears to have come spontaneously, and the sketch book which contains the first draft of “I heard the voice of Jesus say” has corrections, quaint marginal sketches and interlineations that clearly indicate the final product was not achieved hurriedly.

The tune KINGSFOLD, sung in this recording, is the one now most commonly associated with the hymn. It is a traditional melody of England and Ireland, arranged by Ralph Vaughan Williams, an avid collector and adaptor of folk songs. The name is that of a village in Surrey where Vaughan Williams is said to have heard a variant of the tune itself.


I heard the voice of Jesus say,

“Come unto me and rest;

lay down, thou weary one,

lay down thy head upon my breast.”

I came to Jesus as I was,

weary, worn, and sad;

I found in him a resting place,

and he has made me glad.

I heard the voice of Jesus say,

“Behold, I freely give

the living water; thirsty one,

stoop down and drink, and live.”

I came to Jesus, and I drank

of that life-giving stream;

my thirst was quenched, my soul revived,

and now I live in him.

I heard the voice of Jesus say,

“I am this dark world’s light;

look unto me, thy morn shall rise,

and all thy day be bright.”

I looked to Jesus, and I found

in him my Star, my Sun;

and in that light of life I’ll walk

till traveling days are done.


Gerald Harder