Music for St. James the Apostle, Sunday July 25, 2021

How beauteous are their feet – Charles Villiers Stanford (1852-1924)

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Composed in 1923, How beauteous are their feet is arguably the finest of a number of anthems Stanford wrote in the years shortly after the war. For the four verses of Isaac Watts’s hymn (published originally as six verses in Hymns and Spiritual Songs of 1707) Stanford produced a sophisticated variation form based on the opening melodic idea D-E-D-B-C-D. This fragment is used to begin each of the first three verses; on each repetition, however, the polyphonic treatment is subtly varied and the consequent material is also quite different. In the fourth verse (‘The Lord makes bare his arm’) the tonic minor temporarily brings a moment of gravitas to the work together with an imitative exposition of the principal idea in augmentation (a lengthening of the note values). This is soon dispelled by the return of the major mode, which, still retaining the melodic augmentation, underpins the uplifting conclusion.

This anthem will be sung at Evensong & Benediction in the church this Sunday, July 25 at 4:00 pm.

How beauteous are their feet
Who stand on Zion’s hill!
Who bring salvation on their tongues,
And words of peace reveal!

How happy are our ears
That hear this joyful sound,
Which kings and prophets waited for,
And sought, but never found!

How blessed are our eyes
That see this heavenly light;
Prophets and kings desired it long,
But died without the sight.

The Lord makes bare his arm
Through all the earth abroad;
Let every nation now behold
Their Saviour and their God!


Ave verum corpus – William Byrd (1539/40-1623)

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The short eucharistic hymn Ave verum corpus is said to have been written by either Pope Innocent III (1198-1216) or Pope Innocent IV (1243-1254). It has been used liturgically during Benediction and during the Offertory or Communion of the Mass. This hymn has a strong association with Holy Thursday and with the feast of Corpus Christi. The text of Ave verum corpus commemorates Christ’s redemptive sacrifice, and especially focuses on the great symbol of baptism: the pouring forth of water from his pierced side.

Today no composition by Byrd is performed and recorded more often than this motet, partly because it is such a gem, partly because it offers such rich opportunities for expressive singing, and partly because it is technically not hard for choirs to sing. Nonetheless, this setting of the 13th-century text, like Byrd’s Masses, attained its popularity only in the modern era; being strictly a Catholic work, it was totally shunned by English church musicians until its revival by Catholic choirs late in the nineteenth century. In an age of greater religious tolerance its popularity quickly spread, and by a pleasing twist of fortune Byrd’s Ave verum corpus is now a staple not only of Catholic choral worship, but of Anglican too.

This motet will be sung at Evensong & Benediction in the church this Sunday, July 25 at 4:00pm.

Ave, verum corpus natum

de Maria Virgine:

vere passum, immolatum

in cruce pro homine:

cuius latus perforatum

fluxit aqua et sanguine:

esto nobis praegustatum,

in mortis examine.

O dulcis, O pie,

O Jesu Fili Mariae.

Miserere mei. Amen.

Hail the true body, born

of the Virgin Mary:

You who truly suffered and were sacrificed

on the cross for the sake of man.

From whose pierced flank

flowed water and blood:

Be a foretaste for us

in the trial of death.

O sweet, O merciful,

O Jesus, Son of Mary.

Have mercy on me. Amen.


Gerald Harder