Music for the Baptism of Our Lord — January 7, 2024

O Love, How Deep, How Broad, How High – Text: Latin (O amor quam, 15th cent.); tr. Benjamin Webb (1819-1885) / Music: (Puer Nobis Nascitur) Melody Trier MS (15th cent.); adapt. Michael Praetorius (1571-1621); harm. George Ratcliffe Woodward (1848-1934)

Click to view video on Youtube.

This Sunday’s offertory hymn in church is based on a Latin poem of twenty-three stanzas, beginning ‘Apparuit benignitas’, and found in a 15th-century manuscript from Karlsruhe, Germany. Though this text has been attributed to Thomas à Kempis because of its similarity to a Brussels manuscript which has been identified as his autograph, it is likely an anonymous text. The translation included in our hymnals is that of Benjamin Webb, who translated eight of the twenty-three stanzas. these were published in The Hymnal Noted 1854. The hymn as we now have it serves a didactic purpose, as indeed it may have in its original form. It begins with the incarnation of Christ and proceeds through his baptism, temptation, works and signs, his trial and death, and culminates in the resurrection.

This hymn is one of those texts for which there has not been agreement about the tune. In thirty hymnals we find eleven tunes, and most of these are used at least twice. Common Praise has selected ‘Puer nobis nascitur’, whereas in The New English Hymnal the tune ‘Eisenach’ is used. The latter is the tune sung in the recording linked above.

Gerald Harder