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Hymn of the Month

January
Songs of Thankfulness and Praise

Christopher Wordsworth, the author of this text, may not be as well known today as his famous uncle, William. But during his lifetime (1807-85) Christopher distinguished himself as a scholar, professor, pastor, and eventually a bishop in the church of England.

Bishop Wordsworth included this hymn in his Holy Year: or Hymns for Sundays, Holidays, and Other Occasions Throughout the Year, with the following heading:

Sixth Sunday after Epiphany.
A Recapitulation of the successive Manifestations of Christ, which have been already presented in the services of the formal weeks throughout the season of Epiphany; and Anticipation of that future great and glorious Epiphany, at which Christ will be manifested to all, when He will appear again to judge the world.

"Songs of Thankfulness and Praise" is usually set to the tune SALZBURG, which is much older than the text and is attributed to Jakob Hintze (1622-1702), a court musician to the Elector of Brandenberg. The range of the tune is a very comfortable D-D octave, and the stepwise motion and repetition of the first line make the tune easy for a congregation to learn. The Psalter Hymnal's harmonization of the tune is a simplified version of the chorale setting by J. S. Bach. The more elaborate Bach chorale setting is found in Rejoice in the Lord and the Hymnal 1982.

An organist could introduce this hymn to the congregation through preludes or alternative accompaniments for congregational singing. Since the tune SALZBURG has been set to other texts as well, organists should also look for settings of "At the Lamb's High Feast" or "Alle Menschen." A wonderful prelude, "Chorale and 8 Partitas on Alle Menschen' " (several variations are for manuals only) is included in Johann Pachelbel Selected Organ Works, Vol IV (Barenreiter, 1016). An arrangement by David N. Johnson is found in Free Accompaniments to Hymns, Vol. Ill (Augsburg, 11-9189). His fourth variation lends itself well to a trumpet or flute descant.

When both choir and congregation are familiar with the tune, try singing the hymn together, as follows:

Stanza 1: choir and congregation in unison

Stanza 2: choir in parts, perhaps using the more elaborate Bach setting, found in Rejoice in the Lord #251,The Hymnal 1940 #53, or the new Hymnbook 1982 #135

Stanza 3: congregation and choir in unison or harmony (or, for an easier choral variation, the women of the choir can sing the tenor line an octave up, with the men on the melody).

For a more elaborate and festive setting of "Songs of Thankfulness and Praise," you may want to try Robert Powell's hymn con-certato for congregation, SATB, organ, 2 trumpets, 2 trombones, and timpani (G. I. A. Publications, G-2456).

February
Out of the Depths

Psalm 130 is very appropriate to the season of Lent, especially for a service of confession, when we acknowledge how great our sins are and how in need we are of the mercy of the Lord. Actually, the text, especially stanza 2, also serves well during Advent, when the emphasis is on watching and waiting for the coming redemption of the Lord.

The text in the Psalter Hymnal, versified by Robert Swets of Grand Rapids, Michigan, follows the biblical text very closely. Swets chose to work without rhyme in order to make the text as concise as possible; the whole psalm is covered in two stanzas.

The tune from the Genevan Psalter has been associated with this text since the early days of the Reformation (1539). The combination of text and tune bears a striking resemblance in mood to Luther's text and tune for Psalm 130: "Aus defer not." Both melodies begin with a falling fifth, and are somber in character. Rejoice in the Lord (#97) includes this Genevan melody set to Psalm 32, "How Blest Are They Whose Trespass"; the rhythm has been altered in a few places.

The harmony is adapted from Claude Goudimel's complete four-part settings (1564) of all the Genevan Psalter tunes. Since in those days the Reformed churches sang only in unison, these settings were intended for home use. Goudimel's original, like most harmonies of the time, placed the melody in the tenor.

The organist may want to introduce the tune of this psalm to the congregation by playing the tenor melody in the left hand on a solo stop. John Hamersma has composed four variations on Psalm 130, available in The Composers' Workshop Series II, Calvin College Department of Music, Grand Rapids, MI 49506.

Once the tune is relatively familiar, the choir should introduce the words. The psalm serves well as a call to confession (both stanzas) or as a combination call to confession (stanza 1) and assurance of forgiveness (stanza 2).

After both words and tune have been introduced, invite the congregation to join the choir, singing the psalm in unison (at least for the first few times). A somber sound for the first stanza should be followed by a brighter and fuller sound on the second.

March
All Glory, Laud, and Honor

This hymn, one of the oldest in our hymnals, is translated from a ninth-century Latin text by Theodulph, bishop of Orleans and counselor to Charlemagne. Theodulph apparently was arrested for conspiracy following Charlemagne's death and wrote this text while in prison. When Louis I heard the singing of this processional hymn on Palm Sunday, he immediately freed the good bishop.

Melchoir Teschner's tune is so strongly associated with this text that it is called ST. THEODULPH. However, the name VALET WILL ICH DIR GEBEN, after the original German text for which the tune was written, is also important for organists; much organ music is based on the original title.

The tune, as it appears here, is harmonized by Bach, with two descants by Randall DeBruyn, a composer and editor with the Oregon Catholic Press in Portland.

Like many traditional processional hymns, "All Glory, Laud, and Honor" is often sung with the first two lines serving as a refrain, and the rest of the text sung as verses to the last half of the melody (Rejoice in the Lord and The Hymnbook 1982 are so arranged.). That way the singing (and the processional) can last longer, and everyone can join in the refrain—even without books.

Some congregations may wish to begin their services outdoors and enter church singing on Palm Sunday. Other congregations may enjoy singing this hymn as the children march around the church aisles, waving palm branches.

"All Glory, Laud, and Honor" provides a marvelous opportunity to involve children in learning key tenets of the Christian faith through the use of a hymn interpretation on Palm Sunday. Recently I used The Singing Bishop by Hal Hopson, published by the Choristers Guild (CGCA-200), with a youth choir (grades 3-5) of twenty to twenty-five children at the Palos Heights Reformed Church. We rehearsed once a week during the six weeks before Palm Sunday.

On Palm Sunday morning the congregation found an explanation of the service in their bulletins. At 10:30 a.m., in place of an organ prelude, the youth choir would present the story of St. Theodulph and "All Glory, Laud, and Honor." After the fifteen-minute interpretation, cast, choir, and congregation would rise and sing the hymn together.

The children loved participating in the service, and the whole congregation appreciated the presentation. Best of all, children and adults alike learned the issues at stake in the struggle of faith that gave birth to this hymn.

Production Notes

Costumes and props were kept to a minimum. We purchased palm branches from a local nursery and used recycled shepherd robes for costumes. For King Louis we fashioned a gold crown out of cardboard, and we outfitted the jailer with oversized keys on a large ring. A rolled-up piece of paper served as the scroll for the public proclamation.

Our church maintenance man helped us with the cell, creating a basic three-sided wood frame that suggested bars and a window. A single bench completed the set.

To make certain our production would fit smoothly and meaningfully into the flow of the service, we gave the pastor a copy of the script months in advance. He read it, offered some suggestions, and visited our rehearsals a few times. He also integrated selected points of the interpretation into his message, giving a marvelous sense of unity to every part of that Palm Sunday service.