Music for the Second Sunday after Epiphany–Sunday, January 17, 2021

O Jesus, I have promised – Text: John Ernest Bode (1816-1874); Music: William Harold Ferguson (1874-1950)

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John Bode wrote this hymn c. 1866, in six stanzas of eight lines, on the occasion of the confirmation of his daughter and two sons. He entitled it “A hymn for the newly confirmed” and appended to it the text of Luke 9:57. Throughout the prayer the dominant motif is dedication, and the focus centres on the word “servant”, echoing the calling of the boy Samuel and of Philip and Nathanael, in this Sunday’s Old Testament and Gospel readings, respectively.

Poet, priest and scholar John Bode graduated from Christ Church, Oxford, with a BA in 1837, and MA in 1840. He became rector at Westwell in Oxfordshire in 1847, and at Castle Camps in Cambridgeshire in 1860, where he remained until his death.

Wolvercote was composed to these words by William Ferguson when he was director of music at Lancing College, England. First printed anonymously in The public school hymn book 1919, it has gradually replaced all other tunes for Bode’s text. Wolvercote is the name of a northern suburb of Oxford.

O Jesus, I have promised
To serve thee to the end;
Be thou for ever near me,
My Master and my Friend;
I shall not fear the battle
If thou art by my side,
Nor wander from the pathway
If thou wilt be my guide.

O let me hear thee speaking
In accents clear and still,
Above the storms of passion,
The murmurs of self-will;
O speak to reassure me,
To hasten or control;
O speak, and make me listen,
Thou guardian of my soul.

O Jesus, thou hast promised
To all who follow thee,
That where thou art in glory
There shall thy servant be;
And Jesus, I have promised
To serve Thee to the end;
O give me grace to follow,
My Master and my Friend.

O let me see thy footmarks,
And in them plant mine own;
My hope to follow duly
Is in thy strength alone;
O guide me, call me, draw me,
Uphold me to the end;
And then in heaven receive me,
My Saviour and my Friend.


Campanile (Esquisses byzantines No. 5) – Henri Mulet (1878-1967)

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Henri Mulet was Organist at St-Roch, Paris and Professor of Organ at l’École Niedermeyer. Equisses byzantines is a set of ten pieces, of which Campanile is the fifth. Rather than being dedicated to an individual, the inscription at the head of the collection is “En mémoire de la Basilique du Sacré-Coeur de Montmartre 1914-1919”, and the title of each piece refers to either a part of this Romano-Byzantine Parisian basilica, or another religious reference. Mulet forms an important link within the long dynasty of French composers associated with the organ; he was a student of Charles-Marie Widor and the teacher of Gabriel Fauré.

Most of Mulet’s organ pieces are of a quiet and reflective nature, well suited for musical preludes and interludes. Campanile (“bell tower”), although inspired by the sound of festival bells ringing simultaneously, fits this mould. It is played here, not on the organ of Sacré-Coeur, but on the great organ of Saint-Antoine des Quinze-Vingts built by the legendary French builder Aristide Cavaillé-Colle in 1894 originally for the grand home of the Baron de l’Espée in Paris but transferred to the new Church of Saint-Antoine in 1909.


Jubilate Deo universa terra – Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina (1525-1594)

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In 1593 Palestrina published his Offertoria totius anni secundum Sanctae Romanae Ecclesiae consuetudinemfor five voices, containing settings of the proper Offertories for all Sundays and major feasts of the church year, 68 in total. Jubilate Deo universa terra is number 14 in this collection, the Offertory for the Second Sunday after Epiphany and the Fifth Sunday of Easter. These polyphonic masterpieces, written just one year before the composer’s death, are among his most refined and focused. It is perhaps telling that Palestrina spend his last days not in composing extended works displaying his artistic prowess, but rather a useful and timeless collection of liturgical music, setting to music the Propers of the Mass, an essential part of the fabric of the liturgy.

Jubilate Deo universa terra,
psalmum dicite nomini eius.
Venite et audite, et narrabo vobis omnis qui timetis Deum quanta fecit Dominus animae meae.

O be joyful in God, all ye lands:
sing praises unto the honour of his Name:
O come hither, and hearken, all ye that fear God: and I will tell you what he hath done for my soul.

(Psalm 66:1, 2a, 16)

Gerald Harder