Music for the Fourth Sunday of Advent — December 24, 2023

Tell Out, My Soul – Text: Song of Mary (Luke 1:46-56); para. Timothy Dudley-Smith (b. 1926) / Music: Water Greatorex (1877-1949)

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This Sunday’s offertory hymn in church, Tell out, my soul, points the singer to the mighty acts of God, as these are mirrored in the Magnificat. Any specific relation it bears to the mother of Jesus is secondary to its primary theme. The author, Timothy Dudley-Smith (b. 1926), is really proclaiming “the greatness of the Lord” and calls upon the singer to witness to “his name… his might… his word.” The diction is forthright, the cause is urgent, and the time is ripe. Dudley-Smith is a graduate of Pembroke College, Cambridge, and was Bishop of Thetford from 1981-1992.

The tune Woodlands is a perfect match for this bold text. Walter Greatorex (1877-1949) composed it in 1916; the tune’s title refers to one of the schoolhouses at Gresham’s School, Holt, Norfolk, where Greatorex was director of music from 1911-1936. Greatorex’s musical education began as a chorister at King’s College, Cambridge, and he received his university music training at St John’s College, Cambridge. A dramatic tune, Woodlands is marked by irresistible melodic gestures and the “breathless” cadence of line 2, which propels singers forward into line 3.

Tell out, my soul, the greatness of the Lord!
Unnumbered blessings give my spirit voice;
tender to me the promise of his word;
in God my Saviour shall my heart rejoice.

Tell out, my soul, the greatness of his name!
Make known his might, the deeds his arm has done;
his mercy sure, from age to age the same;
his holy name — the Lord, the mighty one.

Tell out, my soul, the greatness of his might!
Powers and dominions lay their glory by;
proud hearts and stubborn wills are put to flight,
the hungry fed, the humble lifted high.

Tell out, my soul, the glories of his word!
Firm is his promise, and his mercy sure.
Tell out, my soul, the greatness of the Lord
to children’s children and forevermore!

Gerald Harder