24 August 2022

Praying with USPG and the music of
Vaughan Williams: Wednesday 24 August 2022

‘Alleluia! Bread of heaven … / here proclaimed as priest and victim / in the Eucharistic feast’ … words from the hymn set to Vaughan Williams’s arrangement of ‘Hyfrydol’ … the Altar and Reredos in Saint Bartholomew’s Church, Farewell, visited by the Lichfield Peace Walk this week (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2022)

Patrick Comerford

Today in the Church Calendar is the Feast of Saint Bartholomew (24 August). Earlier this week, I visited Saint Bartholomew’s Church, Farewell, outside Lichfield, when I took part on Monday in the first stage of the three-day Lichfield Peace Walk from Saint Chad’s Church, Lichfield, arriving at Saint Chad’s Church, Stafford, later today.

Before today gets busy, I am taking some time this morning for reading, prayer and reflection.

This year marks the 150th anniversary of the composer Ralph Vaughan Williams, whose music is celebrated throughout this year’s Proms season. In my prayer diary for these weeks I am reflecting in these ways:

1, One of the readings for the morning;

2, Reflecting on a hymn or another piece of music by Vaughan Williams, often drawing, admittedly, on previous postings on the composer;

3, a prayer from the USPG prayer diary, ‘Pray with the World Church.’

A statue of Saint Bartholomew on the west front of Lichfield Cathedral (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2022)

The Gospel reading in Common Worship at the Eucharist on the Feast of Saint Bartholomew today is:

Luke 22: 24-30 (NRSVA):

24 A dispute also arose among them as to which one of them was to be regarded as the greatest. 25 But he said to them, ‘The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those in authority over them are called benefactors. 26 But not so with you; rather the greatest among you must become like the youngest, and the leader like one who serves. 27 For who is greater, the one who is at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one at the table? But I am among you as one who serves.

28 ‘You are those who have stood by me in my trials; 29 and I confer on you, just as my Father has conferred on me, a kingdom, 30 so that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom, and you will sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.’

Today’s reflection: ‘Hyfrydol’

For three mornings this week [Monday to Wednesday], I am listening to Vaughan William’s ‘Three Preludes Founded on Welsh Hymn Tunes,’ and I conclude this morning [24 August 2022] as I listen to the third of these preludes, ‘Hyfrydol.’

These three organ solos are based on Welsh tunes, which Vaughan Williams had already arranged for hymns in the English Hymnal, which he edited with Canon Percy Dearmer.

Vaughan Williams’s father, the Revd Arthur Vaughan Williams, came from a family of Welsh origins that had distinguished itself in the law.

The composer first published these organ preludes in 1920 and dedicated them to Alan Gray (1855-1935), who was the organist of Trinity College Cambridge (1892-1930) when Vaughan Williams was an undergraduate there.

Vaughan Williams studied the organ under Gray at Trinity, and with Gray’s patient help he passed his exams to become a Fellow of the Royal College of Organists (FRCO) in 1898, and received his Doctorate in Music (MusD) at Cambridge the following year. These three organ preludes are Vaughan Williams’s tribute as a grateful student to Alan Gray.

The third of these preludes, ‘Hyfrydol’ (pronounced ‘huv-rud-ol’, meaning “cheerful”) is based on the tune of that name composed around 1830 by the Welsh singer, Richard Huw Pritchard (1811-1887), when he was still only 19.

Pritchard was a grandson of the 18th century Welsh bard Rowland Huw. He lived for many years in Bala, where was a minister and precentor (or director of the choir) at the annual Sasiwns y Bala. Many of his tunes were published in Welsh periodicals, and ‘Hyfrydol’ was first published by Pritchard in 1844 with about 40 of his other tunes in his collection of hymns for children, Cyfail y Cantorion (‘The Singer’s Friend’).

He moved to Holywell, about 20 miles west of Chester, in 1880, when at the age of 69 he was forced by poverty to take a job as a loom tender’s assistant in the mills of the Welsh Flannel Manufacturing Company. He died in Holywell in 1887 at the age of 76.

‘Hyfrydol’ is Pritchard’s most enduring tune and was regularly sung to a number of Welsh hymns. However, it was almost 20 years after his death before ‘Hyfrydol’ was first sung to English words. Vaughan Williams arranged it in 1906 for the hymn ‘Alleluia, sing to Jesus’ by William Chatterton Dix in the English Hymnal (No 302; see New English Hymnal, No 271).

Hyfrydol has been used as a setting for many other hymns, including Charles Wesley’s ‘Love Divine, All Loves Excelling’ and ‘Come Thou Long-Expected Jesus,’ Francis Harold Rowley’s ‘I Will Sing the Wondrous Story,’ John Wilbur Chapman’s ‘Our Great Saviour,’ and Philip P Bliss’s ‘I Will Sing of My Redeemer’ (1876). In the Irish Church Hymnal it is the setting for John Bakewell’s hymn, ‘Hail, thou once-despised Jesus!’ (No 268).

‘Hyfrydol’ has a metre of (alternating lines of eight and seven syllables). Other examples of this metre include ‘Blaenwern’ by William Rowlands and ‘Abbot’s Leigh’ by Cyril V Taylor.

The best-known arrangement of ‘Hyfrydol’ is that by Vaughan Williams for his revision of the English Hymnal in 1906, and he also composed some variations on this theme. Here once again, as with so many arrangements, Vaughan Williams turns an apparently simple tune into a work of great beauty and with profound emotional impact.

The East End of Saint Bartholomew’s Church in Farewell retains parts of the older Benedictine priory church (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2022)

Today’s Prayer, Wednesday 24 August 2022:

The Collect:

Almighty and everlasting God,
who gave to your apostle Bartholomew grace
truly to believe and to preach your word:
grant that your Church
may love that word which he believed
and may faithfully preach and receive the same;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

The Post Communion Prayer:

Almighty God,
who on the day of Pentecost
sent your Holy Spirit to the apostles
with the wind from heaven and in tongues of flame,
filling them with joy and boldness to preach the gospel:
by the power of the same Spirit
strengthen us to witness to your truth
and to draw everyone to the fire of your love;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

The theme in the USPG prayer diary this week is ‘The Pursuit of Justice.’ This theme was introduced on Sunday by Javanie Byfield and Robert Green, ordinands at the United Theological College of the West Indies.

The USPG Prayer Diary invites us to pray today (Saint Bartholomew the Apostle) in these words:

We give thanks for the life and works of Bartholomew the Apostle, who is said to have spread the Gospel in various parts of Asia and Africa.

Yesterday’s reflection

Continued tomorrow

Saint Bartholomew’s Church and tower in Farewell, near Lichfield … now a Grade II* listed building because of its mediaeval fabric and fittings (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2022)

Scripture quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicised Edition copyright © 1989, 1995, National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. http://nrsvbibles.org

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