St. Andrew’s Parish

The Venerable Canon Frederick W. Rivers, Rector
8433 N 12th Street Phoenix, AZ 85020

The Music of the Church

Anglican Liturgy

St. Cecelia playing the organ and singing with the angels


Anglican liturgy can often feel like the Sunday morning work-out of the people of God: Sit, stand, kneel, bow, turn, cross yourself, walk. In other words, a kind of spiritual aerobics. No surprise here. The word “liturgy” means “work of the people.”  

Jesus’ instructions about worship say “do this in memory of me.” Anglicans DO things together as a congregation, local community and world-wide body. They have been worshipping in the same manner for hundreds of years and continue to do so as one big world-wide community.  

When first encountered, Anglican liturgy can appear foreign, counter-cultural. But persevere! We shouldn’t be surprised that it appears counter-cultural because our culture is individual, “me”, instant gratification, “now”. Even the spirituality offered these days follows the individual, instant approach: what do I get out of it? Anglican liturgy is about transformation: bread, wine, me, our community, our culture, our world. In this picture, God doesn’t change us and then we do liturgy, although that may happen. In this picture I join the community that does liturgy and find, little by little (and sometimes by a surprising leap!) that God changes me!  

Anglican liturgy is action accompanied by interpretive words and music. Too often it is treated like lots of words with some illustrating actions. Liturgy is a discipline that takes time and patience to learn and grow into. It is also a most holy, reverent, relevant and uplifting weekly experience that keeps us grounded and forward-moving throughout each week.


Where Do Hymns Come From?

The first hymn comes from the Greeks. The word hymn comes from the Greek “hymnos” which has at least three meanings: (1) a song of any kind (2) any song in honor of a god (3) a particular type of song in honor of a god. Use (1) is standard in Archaic poetry (2) would perhaps have been judged normal by a Greek of the Classical period (3) distinguished the hymn from other forms of song in honor of gods.  

The only complete hymns that survive from before the year 400 B.C. are Homeric Hymns, hexameter compositions ranging from a handful of lines to several hundred lines. Typical features of hymns inlcude: lists of the god’s powers and interests and favorite places; portrayals of the god engaged in activities; greetings, summonses, and prayers to the god, and most important of all, accounts of how the god was born and acquired his/her honors and functions. For the hymn, the fundamental form of ‘theology’ is ‘theogony’.  

How things changed in a few centuries! A 6th century monk, St. Benedict, founded the Benedictine Order of monks. He looked for Latin texts to fit the structures and turned them into the plainsong hymns which have achieved such an important role in moastic liturgy. Tantum Ergo (1940 Hymnal; pg 200); Pange lingua (1940 Hymnal pg 66); Veni sancte spiritus (1940 Hymnal pg 109); Veni creator (1940 Hymnal pg 108) are a few examples from this date.  

Jumping ahead to the 16th century and the Reformations. Apart from the Lutheran Protestant Reformation there were two other brances of the Protestant Reformation: The Protestant movement in France/Switzerland and the Protestant movement in England leading to the development of the English metrical Psalmody.  

The reformers wanted the liturgy to be said in the vernacular, hymns which could be understood and sung by the people and to get away from plainchant that could only be sund by monks. The reformers also demanded that the new hymns should have a strictly scriptural basis and they began to inroduce metrical versions of the psalms, where psalms were given rhyme, rhythm and verse structure, making them easy to sing and understand. By doing this, they began the divide between metrical psalms and hymns which caused so much controversy in the Anglican Church during the 18th and 19th centuries. All of these events coincided with the world-shaking introduction of the movable type printing press (1450) and this gave church goers access to many vernacular hymns.  

Unlike the Protestant Reformation in Germany being led by Martin Luther to reform the Catholic Church with his 95 Theses (1517), the English Protestant Reformation was strictly political. Among the first acts of Henry VIII , who became king in 1509, was the confiscation of the Papal lands, moneys, jewels, gold and other valuables, all totaling around $150,000,000. Though Henry and his Archbishop, Thomas Cranmer, were able to break with Rome, they had a new problem on their hands. They had a national Church that had been and still was Roman Catholic with its services of prayers, plainsong hymns, sacraments and Mass in Latin. Now they had to make it over into an English Church so the people would have no excuse to go back to Roman ways. In the new English service, Cramner got rid of all but two Offices, Morning and Evening Prayer. He also omittedd ALL hymns. There were some practical reasons behind this act. Ordinary English folk couldn’t read Latin or English, for that matter, and without choirs and monks to sing the plainsongs, there could be no music. With one quick stroke of the Archbishop’s pen, hundreds of years of plainsong hymns went to the trash heap, not to recovered until the mid-19th century for English-speaking people.  

Perhaps the single greatest act performed by Cranmer was the creation of the English Book of Common Prayer. This was not a brand new creation, but a revamping and condensing of the altin material from the Roman Breviary. A breviary (from the Latih brevis, short, concise) is a book of Latin liturgical rites of the Catholic Church containing the public prayers, hymns, Psalms, readings and notations for everyday use by bishops, priests and deacons in the Divine Office or daily prayer. Now the word breviary can be used for any collection of Christian orders of prayers and readings, but it is used primarily to refer to the Catholic liturgical book. Actually, the first great landmark in the history of the English Church was the Book of Common Prayer being made compulsory by Parliament in 1552 and the Protestants rapidly adopted it. The Church of England, the Anglican Communion and The Episcopal Church still used modified versions of the BCP. The Traditional Anglican Communion and the Anglican Church in America, as well as other traditional Anglican jurisdictions use the 1928 Book of Common Prayer.  

Hymns of the 1940 Hymnal

Father, We Praise Thee
Tune: Christe sanctorum from “La Feillee’s Methode du plain-chant”
Text: Latin translated by Percy Dreamer
#157 in The Hymnal 1940  

During the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, concurrent with the “modernization” of the Breviaries, there arose in France a new kind of church tune. Although generally not clearly cast in a regular rhythmic meter, these tunes were more measured than the older plainchant and were also in the modern major and minor modes.  

These French melodies, some adapted from older plainsong chants and others from secular tunes, made their way to England when a number of them were taken from La Feillee’s Methode de Plain-Chant (published first in 1750 and later in 1782 and 1808) and incorporated into The Hymnal Noted, 1851, a work prepared by John Mason Neal and Thomas Helmore. From there they entered The English Hymnal, 1906, and later English collections.  

Christe sanctorum is one of a very few tunes that supports the peculiar Greek poetic form known as Sapphic meter ( named for a Greek poet who used this verse form for much of her work. This tune first appeared in the Paris Antiphoner, 1681, where it was the setting for the hymn “Ceteri numquam”.  

The musical setting of Christe sanctorum in the 1940 hymnal was composed by Ralph Vaughan Williams. His collection of folk tunes numbered over 800; many of which he set for various combinations of instruments or voice(s). That affection was matched by his curious attraction to sacred music, which inspired him to produce a substantial body of church music, mass settings and countless arrangements of hymns. “Curious” because he was an atheist in his early years and an agnostic in the latter part of his career. The setting in the 1940 hymnal was edited with Percy Dearmer in 1904-06 and revised in 1933.  

The origin of the text “Father, We Praise Thee” is thought to be Gregory the Great c.540-609. Early hymns were divided into Ambrosian, Italy; Gallician, France; and Mozarabic, Spain. Gregory brought the three together into Gregorian or Plain chant. This medieval office hymn ‘nocte surgente virgilemun omnes’ is dated c.580 and attributed to Gregory, but no actual evidence of authorship exists. Some say it is the work of Alcuin of York c.730-804.  

Percy Dearmer was born in 1867 at Kilburn, Middlesex, England. He earned a Bachelor of Arts from Oxford in 1892, a Master of Arts in 1896, was ordained a deacon in 1891 and a priest in 1892. From 1901-1915 he was vicar of St Mary the Virgin, Primrose Hill, London, where Martin Shaw was organist. Together with Shaw and Ralph Vaughan Williams, Dearmer edited Songs of Praise, 1925 and the Oxford Book of Carols, 1928. He is also responsible for numerous translations of hymns to English from their original languages as well as new texts to known tunes. The 1940 hymnal has nine of his hymns. Dearmer was also active in social issues, women’s concerns, chaplain of the British Red Cross in Serbia during WWI. He also published The Parson’s Handbook, a guide for Anglican priests. Until his death in 1936, he was professor of ecclesiastical art at King’s College and a canon of Westminster Abby. He is buried there.  

This hymn has a past; text from c580, translated by an Anglican priest born in 1867; music from 1681, hymn setting in 1904. This hymn has a present; it can be found in most protestant hymnals in the US and England and is currently sung by congregations in the US and England. There are many newly published choral settings, organ pieces, vocal solos of this tune and text as well as new texts, so “Father, We Praise Thee” Christe sanctorum moves into the future of hymnody.  

O Day of Peace

The text for this hymn was written by Carl P. Daw, who has been the executive director of the Hymn Society since 1996. He holds a Masters and Doctoral Degree in Divinity and is an Episcopal priest. He has served congregations in Virginia, Connecticut and Pennsylvania. Daw began writing hymns as a consultant member of the Text Committee for the 1982 Hymnal of the Episcopal Church. Since that time he has been recognized as one of the leading hymn writers in North America, with texts in most denominational and ecumenical hymnals published on this continent.  

O Day of Peace was created in response to special requests received by the Standing Commission of Church Music during its preparation of the 1982 Hymnal and other sources to include Charles Hubert Hastings Parry’s tune “Jerusalem”. The Commission called Carl Daw to compose a text that could be sung to the popular Parry tune. Dr. Daw was drawn to Isaiah 11: 6-8, and the heart of the hymn focused on the peaceable kingdom, paradise regained. Daw describes his thinking about the hymn: “This hymn deals with two aspects of peace: Pax, an understanding of peace based on the cession of conflict, and shalom, the condition of living abundantly in harmony and mutual goodwill. Although this hymn affirms that peace is always God’s gift, it also recognizes the importance of human responsibility in preparing an environment in which peace can flourish.”  

Sir Charles Hubert Hastings Parry wan an English composer, probably best known for his setting of William Blake’s poem, Jerusalem. He was born in 1848 in Hampshire and brought up in Highnam court, Gloucestershire. Parry wrote solo songs all his life and while studying at Eaton, two of his anthems were published in 1865. After finishing his studies at Oxford, he took a position at Lloyds. He worked there for four years, in duty to his father’s wish that he not make music his career. Fortunately for him, the business failed and he was set free and he immediately enrolled at Cambridge and earned Doctor of Music Degree in 1883, Oxford in 1884, and Dublin in 1891. In 1894 he became director of the Royal College of Music, following Sir George Grove and assisted him in the compilation of the Dictionary of Music and Musicians (known to all musicians as Grove’s Dictionary). Knighted in 1898, he was later also made a Baronet. He died October 7, 1918, at Rustington (the name of one of his many hymn tunes), Sussex, and is buried at St. Paul’s Cathedral.  

William Blake’s poem speaks of “evident pleasure”, “a green and pleasant land”, meaning England. The last stanza of his poem: “I will not cease from Mental Fight, Nor shall my Sword sleep in my hand: Till we have built Jerusalem, In England’s green and pleasant Land.”  

During World War II, England’s moral was declining because of the number of casualties and perception that there was no end in sight. This poem came to symbolize what England was fighting for, so Parry was asked to set it to music as a Fight for Right campaign to be sung at all meetings. Parry assigned the copyright to the NUWSS (Women Voters’ Hymn) in 1918. Parry’s executors re-assighted the copyright to the Women’s Institutues, where it remained until it entered the public domain in 1968. It became so popular it has been dubbed the unofficial national anthem of England. Set for solo voice, organ, orchestra and choral ensembles, it is known world wide.  

Love Divine, All Loves Excelling

Tune: Blaenwern

The text for this hymn was written by Charles Wesley (1707-1788). It first appeared in Wesley’s Hymns for those that Seek, and those that Have Redemption (Bristol, 1747). Judging by general repute, it is among his finest: “justly famous and beloved, better known than almost any other hymn of Charles Wesley.” Juding by its distribution, it is also among his most successful: by the end of the 19th century, it could be found in 15 of the 17 hymn books consulted by the authors of Lyric Studies. On a larger scale , it is found almost universally in general collections of the past century, hymnals associated with Reformed, Presbyterian, Baptist, Brethren, Lutheran, Congregational, Pentecostal and Roman Catholic traditions, among others. Specifically it appears in 1,328 of the North American hymnals indexed by the online Dictionary of North American hymnology.  

The first appearnace of the hymn was in four stanzas of eight lines each, and this four stanza version remains in common and current use to the present day, being taken up as early as 1760 in Anglican collections. It also appears in outside the mainstream hymnals such as Select Hymns of 1783, Spence’s Pocket Hymn Books of the early 19th century and the American “Wesleyan” Methodist hymn books.  

Blaenwern is a Welch tune composed by William Penfro Rowlands during the Welsh revival of 1904-1905. It was published in Henry H. Jones’ Can a Moliant (1915). The tune’s name refers to a farm in Pembrokeshire where Rowlands convalesced in his youth. It is commonly used as setting for Wesley’s text Love Divine, All Loves Excelling. Blaenwern became familiar to a wider audience through the Billy Graham Crusades when it was used as a setting to the text What a Friend We Have in Jesus. As a setting for Love Divine, it is a popular choice at English weddings and was voted as one of Britian’s favorite hymns in 2005. A church musician, Rowlands was a teacher in several schools. He composed hymn tunes and anthems and was conductor of the Morriston United Choral Society of Southern Wales and precentor of the Tabernacle Congregational Church in Morriston.  

John Merbecke

c. 1510 – c. 1588 Great Britain  

John Merbecke was an English theological writer and musician who produced a standard setting of the Anglican Liturgy. He is also known today for his setting of the Mass, Missa per arma iustite. Merbecke was probably a native of Beverley in Yorkshire. It appears that he was boy chorister at St. George’s Chapel, Windsor, and was employed as an organist there from c. 1541. Two years later he was convicted with two others of heresy and sentenced to be burned at the stake. He was pardoned by the intervention of Steven Gardiner, Bishop of Winchester. An English Concordance of the Bible which Merbecke was preparing was confiscated and destroyed at that time. A later version of this work, the first in English, was published in 1550 with a dedication to Edward VI. In the same year Merbecke published his Book of Common Prayer Noted. This book was to provide musical uniformity to the First Book of Edward VI. This set the service and Mass parts to semi-rhythmical melodies partly adapted from Gregorian chant. It was rendered obsolete when the Prayer Book was revised in 1552, but was rediscovered in the nineteenth century and adaptations for the 1662 liturgy are still in use. Merbecke also wrote several devotional and controversial works of a strongly Calvinistic nature, and a number of his musical compositions are preserved in manuscript in the British Library and at Oxford and Cambridge. He died, probably while still organist at Windsor, in 1585. His complete Latin Church music has been recorded by The Cardinal’s Musik under the direction of Andrew Carwood.  

Come Down, O Love Divine


“Laudi,” Italian vernacular hymns of praise and devotion, date from the period of St. Francis of Assisi and during the 13th and 14th centuries and were used especially by the “flagellants.”  The “flagellants” were groups of penitents who, frightened by the devastating wars and plagues of their time, sought atonement for the sins of the age by punishing themselves.  “Companie de Laudesi” or “Laudisti” were congregations which were formed later and cultivated devotional singing among the Italian people also using “Laudi.”  Out of the musical and dramatic representations which occurred in their meeings, the oratorio developed in the sixteenth century.  

This hymn is taken from an extended poem in a collection of Bianco de Siena’s Laudi Spirituali, published by Telesforo Bini at Lucca in 1851, and translated by Richard Littledale in the People’s Hymnal, 1867.  The hymn is printed in its entirety (Latin) pp. 242-243 in the 1940 Hymnal Companion.  

Bianco de Siena was born at Anciolina in the Val d’Arno in Italy.  In 1367 he entered the newly-formed Order of the Jesuates, a group of laymen following the rule of St. Augustine.  He lived  for a period of time in Venice and died there in 1434.  

Richard Frederick Little, the son of a merchant, was born in Dublin, Ireland in 1833.  He earned a Bachelor and Masters of Arts degrees in 1858, a Bechelor and Doctor of Laws degrees in 1862 from Trinity College, Dublin and a Doctor of Civil Law degree in 1862 from Oxford.  Littledale was ordained a priest in 1857 and served St. Matthew’s, Norfolk and St. Mary the Virgin, Soho.  Chronic ill health forced him to give up the ministy, so he devoted the rest of his life to literature, publishing nearly 50 works in the fields of theology, history, liturgy and hymnology.  Following the death of John Mason Neal, he completed Neal’s Commentary on the Psalms from Primitive and Medieval Writers, II-IV, 1868-1874.  He translated hymns from seven different languages, compiled Carols for Christmas and Other Seasons, 1863.  With James Edward Vaux he prepared the Priest’s Prayer Book, 1864; The People’s Hymnal, 1867; and The Altar Manual, 1863-1877.  Littledale died in January of 1890.  

Tune:  Down Ampney  

Down Ampney was composed by Ralph Vaughan Williams for this text in the 1906 English Hymnal.  Named after Vaughan William’s birthplace near Cirencester in Gloustershire, the tune was marked “Anon.” when it first appeared.  Well suited both to the unusual meter and to the introspective character of the text, the tune is described by Parry and Routley as “perhaps the most beautiful hymn tune composed since the ‘Old Hundredth.”  Ralph Vaughan Williams, the outstanding figure in English Church Music during the first half of the 20th century, was the son of the Vicar of Christ Church in Down Ampney.  Born October 12, 1862, he entered the Royal College of Music in 1890.  There he studied with Walter Parratt, Charles Hubert Hastings Parry, and Charles Villers Stanford.  He received a Bachelor of Music degree from Trinity College, Cambridge, 1894.  The following year he received a Bachelor of Arts degree and returned to the Royal College of Music, where he established a life-long friendship with Gustav Holst.  For three years beginning in 1896 he was organist at South Lambeth Parish Church.  In 1901 Vaughan Williams returned to Trinity College to complete a Doctor of Music degree after studies in Berlin with Max Bruch and in Paris with Maurice Ravel.  In 1904 he joined the Folk Song Society and for many years collected English folk songs.  These songs greatly influenced all his composition and served as a rich source of tunes for the collections he edited:  The English Hymnal, 1906; Songs of Praise, 1925; the Oxford Book of Carols, 1928.  During WWI he enlisted in the army and served in Macedonia and France.  On his return he became professor of composition at the Royal College of Music.  

Included in his compositions are sacred and secular works – songs, choral works, operas, orchestral works, organ works and hymns.  In 1922 Vaughan Williams came to the US to conduct his Pastoral Symphony at the Norfolk Festival in Connecticut.  In 1935 he was awarded the Order of Merit.  the Order of Merit is an award for notable work in the armed forces, science, art, literature and promotion of culture.  It was set up in 1902 by Edward VII.  Membership in the Order is a personal gift of its Sovereign who takes no advice from politicians about who should be a member.  The Sovereign of the Order is the reigning Monarch of the Commanwealth realms and is limited to 24 living recipients from these countries.  Vaughan Williams died august 26, 1958 at St. Marylebone.

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