Music for The Most Holy Trinity — Sunday May 30, 2021

Holy Spirit, ever dwelling – Text: Timothy Rees (1874-1939) / Music: Herbert Howells (1892-1983)

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Timothy Rees was a monk of the Community of the Resurrection and later Bishop of Llandaff. He wrote a small number of very useful hymns. This one first appeared in 1922, and has been a welcome addition to the repertoire of hymns on the Holy Spirit.

Herbert Howells was for a short time in 1917 the sub-organist of Salisbury Cathedral, and this may be remembered in the name of this tune. Thereafter he turned to composition and to teaching, both at St Paul’s Girls’ School in Hammersmith and at the Royal College of Music. Towards the end of his life he concentrated on church music, in particular writing a remarkable series of settings of the Magnificat and Nunc dimittis for cathedral evensong. In the 1930s he contributed a number of tunes for use initially in public school chapels. This is a distinguished example of such a tune.

Holy Spirit, ever dwelling may not be taken up easily in those situations that do not have the congregational rehearsals which were part of the life of such schools. It is likely for this reason that it is often heard sung in choral arrangements, which is the way it has been sung in the past several years at St. James’. This hymn can nonetheless be found at 141 in The New English Hymnal.

Holy Spirit, ever dwelling
In the holiest realms of light;
Holy Spirit, ever brooding
O’er a world of gloom and night,
Holy Spirit, ever raising
Those on earth to thrones on high;
Living, life-imparting Spirit,
You we praise and magnify.

Holy Spirit, ever living
As the Church’s very life,
Holy Spirit, ever striving
Through us in a ceaseless strife,
Holy Spirit, ever forming
In the Church the mind of Christ;
You we praise with endless worship
For Your gracious gifts unpriced.

Holy Spirit, ever working
Through the Church’s ministry,
Teaching, strength’ning, and absolving,
Setting captive sinners free,
Holy Spirit, ever binding
Age to age and soul to soul,
In communion never ending,
You we worship and extol.


Come, Holy Ghost, Our Souls Inspire – Text: Latin (9th cent.); tr. John Cosin (1594-1672). Music: Mechlin plainsong, Mode 8

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This great hymn, Veni creator spiritus, which “has taken deeper hold of the Western Church than any other hymn, the Te Deum excepted” (Dr Gibson, in Julian Dictionary of Hymnology), appears in manuscript as early as the 10th century. Pentecost has been the occasion for the liturgical use of this hymn since that time; it is also sung at ordination services, the consecration of bishops, and the dedication of churches. It appears in our blue hymn book (Common Praise) at 637, with a translation from the Latin by the 17th-century English bishop John Cosin.

Come, Holy Ghost, our souls inspire

and lighten with celestial fire;

thou the anointing Spirit art,

who dost thy seven-fold gifts impart.

Thy blessed unction from above is comfort,

life, and fire of love;

enable with perpetual light

the dullness of our mortal sight.

Anoint and cheer our soiled face

with the abundance of thy grace.

Keep far from foes, give peace at home:

where thou art guide, no ill can come.

Teach us to know the Father, Son,

and thee, of both, to be but one,

that through the ages all along

this may be our endless song:

Praise to thine eternal merit,

Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.



Festival Te Deum – Benjamin Britten (1913-1976)

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Most scholars agree the Te Deum was written at the beginning of the 5th century, and that it was originally composed in Latin and is not translated from the Greek. Its tripartite structure offers further insight into its origins. The first section is comprised of the first ten verses (a hymn of praise to God the Father which contains, in verses 5 and 6, the Tersanctus of the Mass), and concludes with a Trinitarian doxology in verses 11 to 13. The second section is Christological, a hymn in praise of Christ the Redeemer, the eternal Son, and the coming Judge. The third and concluding portion is derived almost exclusively from the psalms.

Since the 6th century the Te Deum has been sung at the end of Matins on Sundays and feast days except the Sundays of Advent and Lent, and has also been employed as a thanksgiving hymn at consecrations, ordinations, and royal coronations. Its parallels to the Creed and its praise of the Holy Trinity make it especially appropriate for Trinity Sunday.

This great hymn of praise has attracted the imagination of many composers. Benjamin Britten wrote two settings. This Festival Te Deum was composed in 1944 for the choir of St. Mark’s Church, an Anglo-Catholic parish in Swindon, Wiltshire, England. The opening section “We praise thee, O God” creates an almost trance-like, unworldly effect as the unison voices sing in apparently free time against strictly regular organ chords decorated with pseudo-Baroque ornaments. At “Thou art the King of glory” the music abruptly changes character; now it is driving and rhythmic and the organ part kinetic. The trebles reach a climactic high B at “in glory everlasting”, and then the music quickly subsides into the dreamy atmosphere of the opening. The next few lines of the text are taken by a treble soloist, who briefly re-emerges at the very end (“let me never be confounded”) to bring the canticle to a serene conclusion.

WE praise thee, O God: we acknowledge thee to be the Lord.
All the earth doth worship thee: the Father everlasting.

To thee all Angels cry aloud: the Heavens, and all the Powers therein.
To thee Cherubim and Seraphim: continually do cry,

Holy, Holy, Holy: Lord God of Sabaoth;
Heaven and earth are full of the Majesty: of thy glory.

The glorious company of the Apostles: praise thee.
The goodly fellowship of the Prophets: praise thee.
The noble army of Martyrs: praise thee.
The holy Church throughout all the world: doth acknowledge thee;
The Father: of an infinite Majesty;
Thine honourable, true: and only Son;
Also the Holy Ghost: the Comforter.

Thou art the King of Glory: O Christ.
Thou art the everlasting Son: of the Father.
When thou tookest upon thee to deliver man: thou didst not abhor the Virgin’s womb.
When thou hadst overcome the sharpness of death:
thou didst open the Kingdom of Heaven to all believers.
Thou sittest at the right hand of God: in the glory of the Father.
We believe that thou shalt come: to be our Judge.

We therefore pray thee, help thy servants: whom thou hast redeemed with thy precious blood.
Make them to be numbered with thy Saints: in glory everlasting.
O Lord, save thy people: and bless thine heritage.
Govern them: and lift them up for ever.
Day by day: we magnify thee; And we worship thy Name: ever world without end.

Vouchsafe, O Lord: to keep us this day without sin.
O Lord, have mercy upon us: have mercy upon us.
O Lord, let thy mercy lighten upon us: as our trust is in thee.
O Lord, in thee have I trusted: let me never be confounded.

Gerald Harder