Music for the Fourteenth Sunday after Pentecost

Teach me, O Lord – William Byrd (c. 1540-1623)


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William Byrd’s setting of Psalm 119:33-38 was likely written for the choir of Lincoln Cathedral during his tenure there. Its presence in his second collection of Preces & Psalms suggests that it was not designed as an anthem, but as a truly liturgical piece, a festal Psalm to be sung after the Preces. The piece might almost have been written to exemplify the Royal Injunction, during a particularly turbulent period in English history, that required “a modest distinct song, so used in all parts of the common prayers in the church, that the same may be as plainly understood, as if it were read without singing.” The “verse anthem”, in which the music alternates between sections for a solo voice or voices (called the “verse”) and the full choir grew out of this particular Reformation impulse, and this piece by Byrd is a fine example of this form.


Teach me, O Lord, the way of thy statutes :
and I shall keep it unto the end.
Give me understanding, and I shall keep thy law :
yea, I shall keep it with my whole heart.
Make me to go in the path of thy commandements :
for therein is my desire.
Incline my heart unto thy testimonies :
and not to covetousness.
O turn away mine eyes, lest they behold vanity :
and quicken me in thy ways.
O stablish thy word in thy servant :
that I may fear thee.
Glory be to the Father, and to the Sun, and to the Holy Ghost.
As it was in the beginning, and is now, and ever shall be,
world without end. Amen.


Eternal Ruler of the ceaseless round – Text: John White Chadwick (1840-1904); Music: Orlando Gibbons (1538-1625)


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This hymn was written by John Chadwick for the graduating class at Harvard Divinity School in 1864. It followed by a few weeks the desperate battle that brought the American Civil War to its close. At such a time, when hate and resentment were still smouldering, these lines of peace and good will were mightily significant. The theme is summed up in one word – unity – which finds resonance with today’s Gospel from Matthew 18. Although this rendition omits verse 2, I have included it in the text below, as it speaks most poignantly of our unity as sisters and brothers in Christ.

SONG 1 was composed by Orlando Gibbons for George Wither’s collection Hymnes and Songs of the Church1623. In his day, Gibbons was the finest composer and organist in England, and this is recognized as one of the finest melodies he ever wrote. This hymn is found in Common Praise at number 497; in the New English Hymnal at 355.


Eternal Ruler of the ceaseless round
of circling planets singing on their way;
guide of the nations from the night profound
into the glory of the perfect day;
rule in our hearts, that we may ever be
guided and strengthened and upheld by thee.

We are of thee, the children of thy love,
companions of thy well-belovèd Son;
descend, O Holy Spirit, like a dove,
into our hearts, that we may be as one:
as one with thee, to whom we ever tend;
as one with him, our Brother and our Friend.

We would be one in hatred of all wrong,
one in our love of all things sweet and fair,
one with the joy that breaketh into song,
one with the grief that trembles into prayer,
one in the power that makes thy children free
to follow truth, and thus to follow thee.

O clothe us with thy heavenly armour, Lord,
thy trusty shield, thy sword of love divine;
our inspiration be thy constant word;
we ask no victories that are not thine:
give or withhold, let pain or pleasure be;
enough to know that we are serving thee.


Fancy for six viols – Orlando Gibbons (1538-1625)


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In addition to being perhaps the finest English composer and organist of his generation, Orlando Gibbons was one of the most complete musicians of the Elizabethan era. He made talented contributions to every genre of vocal and instrumental music. In the domain of the fantasia for viols, he wrote for numerous combinations of between two and six instruments and elaborated endlessly inventive formal structures, replete with evidence of Italian influence. In this recording made at the Église de Centeilles in Mervois, France, the group L’Achéron play on viols based on early seventeenth-century English models.


Gerald Harder