All my hope on God is founded – Text: Joachim Neander (1650-1680); tr. Robert Bridges (1844-1930). Music: Herbert Howells (1892-1983)

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“Meine Hoffnung stehet feste”, a hymn of thanksgiving based on 1 Timothy 6:17, was written by Joachim Neander with the intention that it be used as “grace after meat”. What we have in our green hymn book (New English Hymnal) at 33 is not really a translation of Neander’s hymn, but a free response by Robert Seymour Bridges to the stimulus the hymn exerted upon him. Consequently, its connection to the passage in Timothy is less evident. A physician by profession, Bridges was a highly-accomplished poet and hymnist, resulting in his appointment as poet laureate of England in 1913.

The tune MICHAEL was written around 1930 to these words by Herbert Howells. Though Neander wrote his own tune for his original German text, Howells’ tune is firmly established as the setting for Bridges’ translation. MICHAEL, with its melodic contour and rhythmical freedom has established itself as one of the great hymn tunes of the twentieth century.

All my hope on God is founded;
He doth still my trust renew.
Me through change and chance he guideth,
Only good and only true.
God unknown,
He alone
Calls my heart to be his own.

Pride of man and earthly glory,
Sword and crown betray his trust;
What with care and toil he buildeth,
Tower and temple, fall to dust
But God’s power,
Hour by hour,
Is my temple and my tower.

God’s great goodness aye endureth,
Deep his wisdom, passing thought:
Splendour, light and life attend him,
Beauty springeth out of naught.
Evermore
From his store
New-born worlds rise and adore.

Still from man to God eternal
Sacrifice of praise be done,
High above all praises praising
For the gift of Christ his Son.
Christ doth call
One and all:
Ye who follow shall not fall.

 

I will lift up mine eyes – John Rutter (b. 1945)

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John Rutter, who describes himself as “an agnostic supporter of the Christian faith”, nevertheless also professes a lifelong love of the psalms, and this love is reflected in this melodic setting of Psalm 121 for choir and orchestra in the unusual 7/4 time signature that opens and closes with chord progressions reminiscent of Dvorak’s New World Symphony.

I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills: from whence cometh my help.
My help cometh even from the Lord: who hath made heaven and earth.
He will not suffer thy foot to be moved: and he that keepeth thee will not sleep.
Behold, he that keepeth Israel: shall neither slumber nor sleep.
The Lord himself is thy keeper: the Lord is thy defence upon thy right hand;
So that the sun shall not burn thee by day: neither the moon by night.
The Lord shall preserve thee from all evil: yea, it is even thee that shall keep thy soul.
The Lord shall preserve thy going out and thy coming in: from this time forth for evermore. Amen.

 

Master Tallis’s Testament (Six Pieces for Organ, No. 3) – Herbert Howells (1892-1983)

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The Six Pieces for Organ were not published until 1953, but were all composed from 1940 until 1945. Dedicated to Herbert Sumsion, then the organist of Gloucester Cathedral, they hold a significant spot in the organ repertoire. Howells considered the third in the group, Master Tallis’s Testament (1940) to be one of his most significant works.

It captures the essence of the “Second English Renaissance” of Howells, Vaughan Williams, and Holst with its seamless blending of sixteenth century modality and twentieth century sensuality. The work is essentially a set of gradual variations on the opening theme, each subsequent variation growing in intensity, complexity and volume. The tone of the piece at the beginning is that of a restrained pastoralism, with the modal G minor gently washing against the numerous Tudor chromatic inflections. It is performed in this recording by the English virtuoso organist Thomas Trotter.

Gerald Harder