Hymn: “God of our fathers”

Yesterday was Independence Day here in the United States, so the hymn I’d like to focus on in this month’s entry in my series is the one item, or one of the few items, in my hymnal’s “patriotic” section that is truly a hymn and something I would choose to sing. Continue reading

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Hymn: “Come, ye faithful”

John of Damascus, author of the original from which this hymn was translated

Eastertide is my favorite season of the Christian year. (Though that’s a hard choice to make, as I like all the others as well.) So it’s an additional pleasure to know that there are many truly excellent hymns for Easter and the Easter season. Last year in the Octave of Easter I wrote about one of my favorites, but today I’d like to continue this series with a brief discussion of another Easter hymn I like very much. Continue reading

Hymn: “Hosanna, loud hosanna”

Tomorrow is Palm Sunday, so today it’s fitting to add a Palm Sunday hymn to my occasional series of old and favorite hymns.

Hosanna, loud hosanna
the little children sang;
through pillared court and temple
the lovely anthem rang.
To Jesus, who had blessed them,
close folded to his breast,
the children sang their praises,
the simplest and the best. Continue reading

Hymn: “Praise, my soul, the King of Heaven”

Here on my blog, one Saturday a month (and every Saturday during Advent) for about the last year I’ve written about a “favorite hymn” or “great old hymn” that I’m fond of, for the reasons I explained in the introduction to this series. Today’s topic is a hymn that I don’t remember singing all that often as I was growing up, but that has become a favorite of mine in the last several years.

Praise, my soul, the King of Heaven;
To His feet thy tribute bring.
Ransomed, healed, restored, forgiven,
Evermore His praises should sing:
Alleluia! Alleluia!
Praise the everlasting King.

Praise Him for His grace and favour
To our fathers in distress.
Praise Him still the same as ever,
Slow to chide, and swift to bless.
Alleluia! Alleluia!
Glorious in His faithfulness.

Fatherlike He tends and spares us;
Well our feeble frame He knows.
In His hands He gently bears us,
Rescues us from all our foes.
Alleluia! Alleluia!
Widely yet His mercy flows.

Frail as summer’s flower we flourish,
Blows the wind and it is gone;
But while mortals rise and perish
Our God lives unchanging on,
Praise Him, Praise Him, Hallelujah
Praise the High Eternal One!

Angels, help us to adore Him;
Ye behold Him face to face;
Sun and moon, bow down before Him,
Dwellers all in time and space.
Alleluia! Alleluia!
Praise with us the God of grace.

Like many great hymns, this is (somewhat loosely) based on—a verse paraphrase of—one of the Psalms, in this case Psalm 103, from which both of its most common tunes take their title (“Lauda anima”, meaning “Praise, O [my] soul”, the opening words of the Latin of that psalm).

One reason I like this hymn is that while general enough that it is always appropriate and true, it lists, and explains succinctly, specific reasons that we ought to praise God. And even when considering what he has done for us, it always returns the focus to God.

I also like the standard tune that this is most commonly set to. The harmonization gets a little more dissonant than I like, but other than that is catchy and memorable, fairly straightforward and not too tricky (at least in the melody and alto), and melodic in more parts than just the hymn-tune melody.

As with many great hymns, I could wish that there were more verses, but I’m grateful that the author wrote a goodly number. And the hymn’s treatment of its subject is comprehensive enough that I can’t immediately think of anything any additional verses ought to say.

When I first really noticed the name of the tune, after I knew enough Latin to see that “Lauda anima” was approximately equivalent to the beginning of the hymn, I tried several times to fit those words (and what I thought might follow them) to the beginning of the tune—only to find that they don’t fit very well at all. It was only later that I realized that the tune name is so closely related to the first line of the text because both come from the Psalm, not because the text is a translation from the Latin.

If this hymn had come to mind when I marked Thanksgiving by featuring three favorite Thanksgiving hymns, I might well have added it to that list, because while it is not one that is traditionally sung at Thanksgiving, it is certainly a hymn of thanksgiving, along much the same lines as “Now thank we all our God.” But when I was preparing that post I didn’t think of this one, so my treatment of it had to wait until now.

Hymn: “O Morning Star, how fair and bright”

We’re nearly a fortnight into the Epiphany season, and after my annual Advent digression and year-end posts (at the end of both the liturgical and civil years), I’ve resumed my usual schedule. Today we look at one of my favorite hymns, a German chorale particularly suitable for the Epiphany season. Continue reading