The long summer season after Pentecost (in many churches called Ordinary Time) offers an opportunity for congregations to become acquainted or reacquainted with hymns that, while not seasonally specific, are especially appropriate for certain times in the worship service. On these pages we will look at a hymn particularly suited to the opening of worship, a communion hymn, and a hymn for the close of worship.
I Greet My Sure Redeemer
This hymn has long been a favorite of mine, in part, perhaps, due to its legendary association with John Calvin. The text is strong and solid, especially when wedded to the sturdy tune JE te salue, rather than the more commonly-used TOULON.
Although people assumed for years that the text's first apperance in the 1545 Strassburg edition of Clement Marot's Psalms made Calvin the likely author, recent scholarship finds little evidence to support that claim. In 1868 Elizabeth Lee Allen Smith translated the text into English, keeping the original French meter (10.10.6.6.126.96.36.199). Later someone condensed the text to its current 10.10.10.10 meter, possibly the same unknown person who adapted the melody. The melody JE TE SALUE, named after the opening line of the original French, is an adaptation of Louis Bourgeois's GENEVAN 101 (see Psalter Hymnal 101). Although Calvin's authorship may now be questioned, the beauty and depth of the hymn's text cannot be. Each stanza illustrates a different aspect of Christian living, and as such, might well be interspersed throughout a service, following appropriate Scripture passages. The first stanza focuses on Christ as Redeemer, the second on Christ's kingship over all, the third on Christ as the source of our strength and faith, the fourth on Christ's grace that helps us live in unity, and the fifth on Christ's revelation through Scripture. One possibility for calling attention to the various emphases of the stanzas would be to include stanzas 1 and 2 as part of the Call to Worship, stanzas 3 and 4 as part of a time of Confession and Assurance or Guide for Living, and stanza 5 as preparation for the reading of Scripture.
Many congregations will need some additional assistance with this hymn and would benefit from having the melody played through completely, perhaps in simple octaves to reinforce its rugged, sturdy nature, prior to singing. Having a trumpet double the melody would also be helpful, but consider having the player rest during stanzas 3 and 4 to call attention to the shifting textual emphasis. By that point, most congregations will be fairly familiar with the tune.
Although organ arrangements for JE TE SALUE are not readily available, settings of the GENEVAN 101 would work very well for introducing the hymn. Check old Dutch psalm accompaniment editions or use the bright prelude for this psalm by the Dutch composer Leen Schippers (available from Church Music and Records, Box 154, Neerlandia, AB TOG 1R0, Canada; 403-674-3949). For congregations who are already used to singing this text to TOULON, a fine SATB choral arrangement by Arthur Frackenpohl is available from Mark Foster (#MF 2061).
Come, Let Us Eat
This African hymn was first written in the Loma language by Billema Kwillia, a Liberian literacy worker, evangelist, and pastor. In 1969 Margaret Miller, a missionary and literacy worker in Sierra Leone, translated the hymn. The song entered North American Lutheran hymnals when it came to the attention of Gilbert Doan, a Lutheran campus pastor in Philadelphia who was chair of the text committee of the Inter-Lutheran Commission on Worship.
This communion hymn can be sung in a variety of ways. Typical of much African music, the hymn is cast in repeated sections that lend themselves to singing in responsorial fashion, or "call and response." A cantor or soloist—ideally the pastor— sings the initial statement (lines one and three), and the congregation echoes the response (lines two and four). Because of the relative simplicity of both text and tune, the responsorial style could be employed while congregants come forward for communion. The final stanza, which dismisses us to go and "spread abroad God's mighty Word," could be reserved until after the sacrament.
Similarly, this hymn could be sung antiphonally with the congregation divided (left/right or some other means) and echoing the lines as above. Sung in this manner the hymn becomes a conversation in which the members of the congregation encourage each other to eat and drink. To emphasize the "union" aspect of "communion," it may be effective to sing all of stanza 3 ("In his presence now we meet.... ") in full unison rather than antiphonally. Again, the final stanza is most effective following the sacrament.
The harmonization also allows for congregations to sing this hymn as a two-part round at two measures. Ideally the second group should be somewhat smaller than the first, producing an echo effect.
I have also provided accompaniments for Orff instruments and flute or recorder (p. 17). If the Orff ostinatos are used, the hymnal harmonization should not be played. A variety of other gentle rhythm instruments such as wood blocks and finger cymbals could easily be added. Try the following approach to the Orff accompaniment:
Introduction: Orff ostinato 1, recorder/flute playing melody ( a slight ritard or visual cue may be necessary to bring in the congregation confidently)
Stanza 1: accompanied by Orff ostinato 1, optional wood blocks
Stanza 2: accompanied by Orff ostinatos 1 and 2, optional wood blocks
Stanza 3: same as stanza 2, perhaps adding finger cymbals on beat two of each measure (if there is to be a pause between stanzas 3 and 4, the instruments should play the f ermata chord at the conclusion of stanza 3).
(Transitional Introduction: if there has been a pause between stanzas 3 and 4, a brief "reintroduction" will smooth the entry into stanza 4. Play Orff ostinato 1 with a slight ritard at the conclusion.)
Stanza 4: all instruments, including the "rising" figure played by recorder or flute (Note: if recorder is used, the fingering for this figure is easier on an alto or sopranino recorder than on a soprano recorder).
Lord, Dismiss Us with Your Blessing
This familiar prayer for the close of worship is given a delightfully fresh treatment in this setting by the African American composer David Hurd. Born in 1950 in Brooklyn, New York, Hurd has published many organ and choral works as well as hymn tunes. Since 1976, Hurd has served on the faculty of General Theological (Episcopal) Seminary in New York City, and since 1985 he has been director of music at All Saints' Church.
Having recently used this hymn in a chapel service with one of my choirs, I can attest to the beauty of the setting. The descant is not one to be treated lightly—those singing it will appreciate some dedicated rehearsal time! However, since the descant adds another layer to the richness of this setting, it's worth the effort.
If you want to use a solo instrument to assist with the descant, I would recommend an instrument with a gentle, "liquid" timbre rather than brass; flute, recorder, or violin would all be suitable.
The hymn tune JULION is typical of Hurd's melodies—very supple and flowing, using a simple repeated rhythmic motive throughout. Congregations may find the occasional downward leaps initially intimidating. To minimize this hesitation, have a soloist sing through the first stanza a cappella prior to the congregation singing the same stanza. It would also be very appropriate to sing only the first stanza before the benediction and to follow the benediction with the second stanza, with the descant. The independent organ accompaniment provides both introductory and closing material that gives a sense of closure to each stanza. The harmonies are rich and would be enhanced by a full string sound on the organ.
Consider using another of Hurd's compositions for the postlude.