Several years back I wrote about a discovery that the carol, While Shepherds Watched not only fits to the tune of On Ilkley Moor Baht 'at, the Yorkshire folk tune, but that may even have been the original tune.
Hymns and Songs
It's Advent, which traditionally has two focii.
The season is about preparing for the coming of Christ. The more obvious half of that is preparing to celebrate Christmas. The other side to it is about the final return of Christ to this world, when he comes to judge the living and the dead, to usher in the new heavens and the new earth, and to free the cosmos from its bondage to decay. What we, slightly mistakenly, call the "second coming". We remind ourselves that it's coming, and we prepare ourselves for it.
I love Christmas carols. Really I do. We had a great night yesterday, with about 20 from our church singing carols in lots of the public spaces in the village, joined in each place by some who live nearby.
But sometimes, honestly...
It's the time of year for Christmas carol services.
On Sunday night, at ours, we sang Wesley's final verse of "Hark! The herald-angels sing". It's an absolute cracker, rich in biblical theology, that praises Christ for his work in a full way, and prays that he would accomplish his work in us and in the world.
Next Sunday (24th June), at our 10.30 service, we will sing the hymn Immortal Invisible. It's well known.
And, it turns out, mis-known.
I simply copied the words from the recent hymn book, Praise!, to insert on our service sheet. The version they include is copyright to Jubilate Hymns, but what struck me was that there were more changes here than just modernised words. The last two verses contained (between them) some of the thoughts of the last verse most of us sing, but were clearly two entirely different verses.
Then enjoy the wisdom of William Cowper, as found in two verses of his hymn What various hinderances we meet:
Have we no words? But think again;
words flow apace when we complain
and fill our fellow-creature’s ear
with the sad tale of all our care.
Were half the breath thus vainly spent
to heaven in supplication sent,
our cheerful song would oftener be,
‘Hear what the Lord has done for me!’
I have once had the fortune to take part in a carol service where While Shepherds Watched was sung to the tune of On Ilkla Moor baht 'at. It was a slight novelty: "Did you know that these words can be made to fit to this tune? What fun - let's do it!"
I recently received an e-mail asking about how you work out what the "meter" for a hymn is, and how you go about finding a tune that fits the words of a particular hymn.
In case my reply helps anybody else, here's what I said:
I've discovered a relatively new, and absolutely brilliant website for anyone involved in picking hymns for congregational use.
The Church's one foundation
Is Jesus Christ, her Lord;
She is His new creation
By water and the word;
From heaven He came and sought her
To be His holy bride,
With His own blood He bought her,
And for her life He died.
Elect from every nation,
Yet one o’er all the earth,
Her charter of salvation—
One Lord, one faith, one birth;
One holy name she blesses,
Partakes one holy food,
And to one hope she presses
With every grace endued.