God be in my head – John Rutter (b. 1945)

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The simplicity and directness of this moving expression of devotion are characteristic of prayers found in the ancient offices. The earliest appearance of the stanza, as far as has been discovered, is in the Book of Hours 1514, a collection of prayers for use at set times throughout the day. The hymn is also found in the Sarum Primer 1558, a prayer book used in Salisbury Cathedral. In typical style, John Rutter has provided here a well-crafted and beautiful original setting of this prayer.

God be in my head and in my understanding.

God be in mine eyes and in my looking.

God be in my mouth and in my speaking.

God be in my heart and in my thinking.

God be at mine end and in my departing.

 

Psalm 15 – Edward John Hopkins (1818-1901)

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Psalms are hymns or songs. In their original form the psalms were not pure poetry but songs, perhaps with instrumental accompaniment. Plainsong chant, almost as old as the church herself, came first in our singing of the hymns of our Hebrew forebears; this is what we use to sing the psalm on a typical Sunday morning at St James. In the sixteenth century, around the time John Merbecke published The Booke of Common Praier Noted, various English composers began writing multipart settings of the psalms, placing the original chant tone in the tenor part. The result is Anglican chant, heard in recording linked above.

Anglican chant is widely used for singing prose versions of the psalms and canticles in the Anglican Communion. The formula is made up of a reciting tone with middle and final cadences (mediation and termination), much like the Gregorian chant psalm tones from which Anglican chant derives. As is the case with its antecedent, Anglican chant is an ingenious way in which to sing a prose text, all the while allowing the text to come to the fore. As the English poet Robert Bridges pointed out in 1912, the chant must be fitted to the words and not the other way around.

The setting sung here by the choir of Westminster Abbey was written by the English organist and composer Edward Hopkins, who was for much of the 19th century the organist of the Temple Church in London. The translation is that of the Book of Common Prayer (1962).

LORD, who shall dwell in thy tabernacle? or who shall rest upon thy holy hill?

EVEN he that leadeth an uncorrupt life, and doeth the thing which is right, and speaketh the truth from his heart.

He that hath used no deceit in his tongue, nor done evil to his neighbour, and hath not slandered his neighbour.

He in whose eyes an ungodly man is despised, but he maketh much of them that fear the LORD.

He that sweareth unto his neighbour, and disappointeth him not, though it were to his own hindrance.

He that hath not given his money upon usury, nor taken a bribe against the innocent.

WHOSO doeth these things shall never fall.

 

Gerald Harder