O Praise Ye the Lord – Text: Ps. 150; para. Henry Williams Baker (1821-1877) / Music: Charles Hubert Hastings Parry (1848-1918)
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This Sunday’s entrance hymn in church, O Praise Ye the Lord, first appeared in the revised edition of Hymns Ancient & Modern, 1875. A paraphrase of Psalm 150, it is considered the best of the many hymns written by Henry Williams Baker. Baker attended Trinity College, Cambridge, from which he graduated BA in 1844. In the same year he was ordained, and in 1851 he was made vicar of Monkland in Herefordshire, where he remained for 26 years. A life-long student of hymnody and a high churchman, he was one of the original members of the committee for Hymns Ancient & Modern in 1859.
There was “no side of musical life in England which was not the better and nobler because he had lived.” So wrote Sir W H Hadow about his friend, Charles Hubert Hastings Parry, the composer of Laudate Dominum, the tune to which O Praise Ye the Lord is sung. In Parry, the English choral tradition, virtually dormant for two centuries following Henry Purcell, awakened with new energy. Particularly in the writing of choral music, he brought a breadth of style and a purity of technique which most Victorians lacked. Parry was not first and foremost a church musician, but he knew how to write an imaginative tune for voices. The best of his hymn tunes were not designed for hymns at all; Laudate Dominum, for example, is the concluding section to the anthem “Hear my words, O ye people”, written for the Salisbury Diocesan Festival Association in 1894. Its name is taken from the Latin incipit to Psalm 150.
O praise ye the Lord! Praise him in the height;
rejoice in his Word, ye angels of light;
ye heavens, adore him by whom ye were made,
and worship before him, in brightness arrayed.
O praise ye the Lord! Praise him upon earth,
in tuneful accord, ye sons of new birth;
praise him who hath brought you his grace from above,
praise him who hath taught to sing of his love.
O praise ye the Lord! all things that give sound;
each jubilant chord re-echo around;
loud organs, his glory proclaim in deep tone,
and sweet harp, the story of what he hath done.
O praise ye the Lord! Thanksgiving and song
to him be outpoured all ages along;
for love in creation, for heaven restored,
for grace of salvation, O praise ye the Lord! Amen.