25 January 2017

Hymns to mark the feast of
the Conversion of Saint Paul

Saint Paul preaching in Athens … a panel on the Comerford Pulpit formerly in Carlow Cathedral (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2016)

Patrick Comerford

This is the Feast of the Conversion of Saint Paul [25 January 2017]. This evening in the chapel of the Church of Ireland Theological Institute, I am presiding at the Community Eucharist (Holy Communion 2, Prayer 1), and the Rector of Killiney, Ballybrack, the Revd Dr William Olhausen, is preaching.

The readings this evening are: Jeremiah 1: 4-10; Psalm 67; Acts 9: 1-22; and Matthew 19: 27-30.

These photographs and this introduction to the hymns are part of this evening’s service booklet:

A note on this evening’s hymns:

Processional Hymn: ‘Ye watchers and ye holy ones’ (Church Hymnal, 476) was written by John Athelstan Laurie Riley, who gathered material for his hymns as he travelled throughout the East Mediterranean and the Middle East, as chair of the Anglican and Eastern Church Association. He was a member of the editorial board of the English Hymnal (1906). This hymn reflects his Patristic interests. The melody, Lasst uns erfreuen (Easter Song) was found in Geistliche Kirchengesäng (Cologne, 1623) and was arranged by Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872-1958) for this hymn in the English Hymnal.

Gloria: ‘Glory in the highest to the God of heaven’ (Church Hymnal, 693) was written in 1976 by the Revd Christopher Idle, who has written over 300 hymns. He is now retired and is an Honorary Assistant Minister at Holy Trinity, Bromley Common. This hymn is a reminder of the Communion of Saints gathered around the Lamb on the throne. The tune ‘Camberwell’ was written in 1960 by the Revd John Michael Brierley while he was an ordinand at Lichfield Theological College and to honour the Revd Geoffrey Beaumont, then Vicar of Camberwell and remembered for composing the Twentieth Century Folk Mass while he was the chaplain of Trinity College, Cambridge.

Gradual: ‘For all your saints in glory’ (Church Hymnal, 460) was written by Bishop Edward Darling, general editor of the Church Hymnal (5th edition). The editorial committee wanted a composite hymn for saints’ days, with a common opening and closing stanza, and a choice of an intervening stanza. The tune ‘The Star’ (An Réalt) is an Irish traditional melody, arranged by Professor George Hewson (1881-1972), organist of Saint Patrick’s Cathedral, Dublin.

Offertory: ‘Hear from all nations, all tongues, and all peoples’ (Church Hymnal, 466), also by Christopher Idle, is a reminder of the Communion of Saints gathered around the Lamb on the throne. The tune, O quanta qualia, is an adaptation of a melody from François de la Feillée’s Méthode du Plainchant (1808). The tune takes its name from an earlier hymn on the same theme by the French mediaeval scholar Peter Abelard (1079-1142).

Communion Hymn: As we receive Holy Communion, we sing ‘Jesus, remember me’ (Church Hymnal, 617), by Jacques Berthier (1923-1994) and the Taizé Community. Berthier, in collaboration with Father Robert Giscard and Father Joseph Gelineau, developed the ‘songs of Taizé’ genre. He composed 284 songs and accompaniments for Taizé.

Post Communion Hymn: ‘For all the saints, who from their labours rest’ (Church Hymnal, 459) was written by Bishop William Walsham How (1823-1897). Bishop How, known as ‘the poor man’s bishop,’ was the first Bishop of Wakefield, and died in Leenane, Co Mayo, in 1897. The original form had 11 verses, although three are omitted from most versions. The verses extolling ‘the glorious company of the Apostles,’ ‘the godly fellowship of the prophets’ and ‘the noble army of martyrs’ were inspired by the 1662 Book of Common Prayer version of Te Deum. The tune Sine Nomine (‘Without Name’) was written for this hymn by Vaughan Williams while editing the English Hymnal.

Patrick Comerford,
25 January 2017

The Apostle Paul’s sermon inscribed on a plaque at the Areopagus in Athens (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

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