Music for the Sixth Sunday after Pentecost — July 4, 2021

Liebster Jesu, wir sind hier (BWV 731) – J. S. Bach (1685-1750)

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From the Netherlands Bach Society web site:

Does this sound familiar, but not on the organ? That’s very possible. This early chorale arrangement is on the Bach Album by The Swingle Singers, who had a smash hit in 1963 with their LP of jazzed up instrumental music by Bach, sung a capella. This recording coloured the sound of Bach for at least a couple of generations of listeners. In among all the extremely virtuoso arrangements, their version of Liebster Jesu, wir sind hier is a welcome respite, precisely as it was intended.

The chorale on which Bach based the work was written for Whitsuntide. God proclaims his word of salvation, while the faithful ask whether their hearts can be drawn from the earth to join him wholly in heaven. It is a prayer of resignation and desire.

In Bach’s version for two keyboards and pedal, an early work with no direct source or precise dating, the highly embellished melody is reminiscent of a slow concerto movement, such as the Andante from the Concerto nach Italienischen Gusto, BWV 971. Below the melody, Bach weaves a simple yet effective three-part accompaniment, in which the alto and tenor continually pass the musical movement back and forth.


Blessed Jesu, Mary’s son – Text: George Boorne Timms (1910-1997) / Music: Melody Johann Rudolf Ahle (1625-1673); Harm. J. S. Bach (1685-1750)

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George Boorne Timms was the second Archdeacon of Hackney, a post he held from 1971 to 1981. Educated at Derby School and St Edmund Hall, Oxford he was ordained after a period of study at the College of the Resurrection, Mirfield in 1936. After curacies at St Mary Magdalen, Coventry and St Bartholomew, Reading he was the Oxford Diocesan Inspector of Schools from 1944 to 1949. He was Sacrist of Southwark Cathedral from 1949 to 1952 then Vicar of St Mary, Primrose Hill until 1965. After this he was Rural Dean of Hampstead and then Vicar of St Andrew, Holborn before his Archdeacon’s appointment. This eucharistic hymn, one of twenty or so hymns written by Timms, appears in only one hymnal, The New English Hymnal, where it is found at 275.

The melody of this hymn, heard above in the organ chorale of J. S. Bach, was written by Johann Rudolph Ahle, who studied theology at Erfurt University. Little is known about his musical education, but be became well known as an organist while he was in Erfurt. He returned to Mühlhausen and became an organist at St. Blasius Church, he composed organ music but is known for his sacred choral music. He was the father of Johann Georg, who was also a composer and succeeded his father as organist at St. Blasius Church. Johann Rudolf became mayor of Mühlhausen late in his life and died there in 1673.

Blessed Jesu, Mary’s son,

for mankind to earth thou camest,

but the saving battle won,

now at God’s right hand thou reignest:

on thy people pour thy blessing,

gathered here, thy name confessing.

By this sacramental sign,

token of thy bitter passion,

through these gifts of bread and wine

thine own image in us fashion:

by this food thy grace doth send us

from all ills of soul defend us.

In this mystery of grace

which we celebrate before thee,

come, O Saviour, show thy face

to the faithful who adore thee:

all our sins by thee forgiven,

grant us here the joys of heaven.


O taste and see – Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872-1958)

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The outstanding figure in English church music during the first half of the 20th century was Ralph Vaughan Williams. Born in Down Ampney, Gloucestershire, in 1872, he went to the Royal College of Music to study with Parratt, Parry, and Stanford. Two years later he enrolled at Trinity College, Cambridge, and graduated with degrees in arts and music, embarking thereafter on a career in composition and teaching.

The text of this motet is drawn from Psalm 34, the text of the ancient Communion antiphon for this Sunday. Vaughan Williams’ setting of it was written for the for the 1953 Coronation service of Elizabeth II, and in its simplicity it was intended as a foil for the pomp of the royal occasion. The consoling words of the text and Vaughan Williams’ flowing soaring vocal line make this short motet one of his best loved works.

O taste and see how gracious the Lord is:

blest is the man that trusteth in him.


Gerald Harder