Music for Easter Sunday — April 9, 2023

Ye choirs of New Jerusalem – Charles Villiers Stanford (1852-1924)

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The mediaeval hymn Chorus novae Jerusalem was written by the eleventh-century Bishop of Chartres, St. Fulbert. The hymn was used in England during his lifetime, and became one of the office hymns in the Sarum, York, and Hereford breviaries for the Sundays after Easter. It was translated from the Sarum Breviary in the late 1840s by Robert Campbell (1814-68) and first appeared in his Hymns and Anthems 1850. The hymn takes the theme of Christ as the deliverer of the prisoners from hell, alluded to in the hymn of praise in Revelation 5.

Ye choirs of New Jerusalem, Charles Villiers Stanford’s setting of this hymn, was completed in December 1910 and published by Stainer & Bell the following year. Stanford’s anthem is based entirely on original material which alternates between two contrasting thematic ideas, one in the major mode in a lilting triple metre (‘Ye choirs of New Jerusalem’), the other in the minor and in quadruple metre (‘Devouring depths of hell their prey’).

Ye choirs of new Jerusalem,
Your sweetest notes employ,
The Paschal victory to hymn
In strains of holy joy.

For Judah’s Lion bursts His chains,
Crushing the serpent’s head;
And cries aloud through death’s domains
To wake th’imprison’d dead.

Devouring depths of hell
Their prey at His command restore;
His ransom’d hosts pursue their way
Where Jesus goes before.

Triumphant in His glory now
To Him all power is given;
To Him in one communion bow
All saints in earth and heaven.

While we, His soldiers, praise our King,
His mercy we implore,
Within His palace bright to bring
And keep us evermore.

All glory to the Father be,
All glory to the Son,
All glory, Holy Ghost, to Thee,
While endless ages run.

Alleluia! Amen.

Gerald Harder