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Music Notes from John Bailey

Posted by St. Alban's Episcopal Church on October 11, 2022 at 4:05 PM

Music Notes October 13, 2022

Our appointed Psalm reading for this coming Sunday is Psalm 121. The first two verses of this Psalm are: “I lift up my eyes to the hills; from where is my help to come? My help comes from the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth.” In a world that can seem more dysfunctional every day, these are reassuring words. Whether it be the exposing of the inequities in our society, distrust of our leaders and judges or fears of many kinds, there is much that can rattle our faith. While the words of this psalm are profound, they are but one passage of many in the scriptures that remind us not to put our faith in things that mankind has constructed: not in political constructs; not in financial systems, but in God alone. Our hope is in the Lord.


There is a wonderful hymn text that reminds us, yet again, of this eternal truth. It is hymn #665 in The Hymnal 1982, and is entitled “All My Hope on God Is Founded”. We will sing it when Bishop Sam is with us on October 23rd. Our hymnal includes five stanzas: the first three were written by a German theologian and hymn writer named Joachim Neander, and the other two were added by an English doctor and poet(actually a Poet Laureate of England) named Robert Seymour Bridges, who translated the three original stanzas from German. Joachim Neander wrote many hymn texts: hymn #390 “Praise to the Lord, the Almighty” is one that is very familiar. In his short life(1650-1680) Neander developed a deep faith from the time of his conversion at age twenty until his death at age thirty. The text was first sung to a German chorale tune, but was later set to a new tune by the great English composer, Herbert Howells. Having grown up in a family with eight children that struggled financially, Howells was well acquainted with stress, and later, with great grief. His son, Michael, contracted polio and died at the age of nine. Surely, this was a time when he needed a sure foundation to survive such grief.


You may have noticed that in the Sunday bulletin there is usually a word or a name off to the right side of the hymn’s title. This is called the hymn tune name, or simply the tune name. The tune names may derive from the church or place where it was originally written or sung. For example, the tune name for the well-known hymn “Christ Is Made the Sure Foundation” is WESTMINSTER ABBEY, which is the church that Henry Purcell served when he wrote it. Not all places are as familiar as Westminster Abbey. Another well-known tune is sung to three different texts in our hymnal alone(hymns 349, 640 and 699), and other texts in different hymnals. Upon first reading, I thought someone had mis-spelled it. The tune name is ABERYSTWYTH. It is a town and university in Wales. However, sometimes tune names are given by the composer for another reason. In the case of Herbert Howells, he named the new hymn tune written for “All My Hope on God Is Founded” MICHAEL, in memory of his son. Naming the tune after his son is a fitting tribute to him, but is also a reminder that all lasting hope must be founded on God. As is so often the case, God accomplishes things for our benefit over time and generations. Thus, a hymn text written in the 1670s and expanded in the 1800s brought comfort and perspective to a composer in the early 20th century, and still speaks to us today. Below is the text of this wonderful hymn. I hope it will be more meaningful to you when we sing it later this month.




All My Hope on God Is Founded

All my hope on God is founded; he doth still my trust renew, me through change and chance he guideth, only good and only true. God unknown, he alone, calls my heart to be his own.

Mortal pride and earthly glory, sword and crown betray our trust; though with care and toil we build them, tower and temple fall to dust. But God’s power, hour by hour, is my temple and my tower.

God’s great goodness e’er endureth, deep his wisdom passing thought: splendor, light, and life attend him, beauty springeth out of nought. Evermore from his store newborn worlds rise and adore.

Daily doth the almighty Giver bounteous gifts on us bestow; his desire our soul delighteth, pleasure leads us where we go. Love doth stand at his hand; joy doth wait on his command.

Still from earth to God eternal sacrifice of praise be done, high above all praises praising for the gift of Christ, his son. Christ doth call one and all: ye who follow shall not fall.


Text: Joachim Neander (1650-1680) and Robert Seymour Bridges (1844-1930).



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