Hymns: At the Name of Jesus

“…that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
    in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
 and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,
    to the glory of God the Father.” – Philippians 2:10-11

Let’s just say I’m in a particularly good mood right now. The paperwork I’ve been stressing about and worrying about for the past month or so is finally on its way to France. I’ve got one exam left, in a week’s time. The weather is fantastic. (Maybe even a little too warm…). At times like this it’s really easy to see God and praise Him for His goodness.

This hymn is lovely. Lively and upbeat, and summarising creation, Jesus’ life, death, resurrection and ascension. And then giving hope and encouragement, particularly when things are harder. It’s not always easy to praise God, although it’s something that I try to remind myself to do.

This hymn summarises exactly why I do that. Why I remind myself to praise God. Why I praise God in the first place. I love a hymn with a long list of scripture references. And so many are from the Gospels, or from Paul’s encouraging letters. The opening line comes from Philippians. Side note, we studied Philippians in CU last term. And I really loved studying it. Put simply, Paul and the Philippians are #cugoals

Anyway. We have such a hope in Jesus, and it’s so great to be able to praise Him with such a joyful, uplifting hymn that captures this hope so well.

Hymns: Thine Be The Glory

I will deliver this people from the power of the grave;
    I will redeem them from death.
Where, O death, are your plagues?
    Where, O grave, is your destruction?” – Hosea 13:14

What a great Easter hymn! It’s so joyous and bright, a wonderful reminder of Jesus’ death and resurrection. A reminder to be joyful – “Let the Church with gladness hymns of triumph sing/For her Lord now liveth, death has lost its sting!”. A reminder that God should be given all the glory.

Easter is a wonderful time of year, a fantastic celebration, and it’s such a privilege to worship God, partly through such hymns as this.

The music here really makes a good hymn great, especially as it’s usually sung on Easter Day, with a full church, the organ at full blast and a modulation in the final verse.

It’s kind of sad that as soon as Easter was over, it was straight back to work, essays and deadlines. But then again there is no better reason to praise God, and it is such a privilege to be able to celebrate it not only at Easter, but throughout the year.

When I Get Too Pedantic…

Asda (a cheap UK supermarket) have been advertising their Easter products. And whilst doing so, they used an interesting tagline. “Everything you can imagine this Easter”.

This is where the pedantry really sets in. What I can imagine this Easter is a church full of people praising God, celebrating Jesus’ death and resurrection, singing great hymns like “Thine Be The Glory” at the tops of their voices (with a modulation for the final verse, of course!). And then I broaden this imagination to hundreds and thousands and tens of thousands of churches, all celebrating such a special event!

I probably couldn’t buy that at Asda. I’ll admit, some chocolate wouldn’t go amiss. Which is probably more what Asda had in mind…

10 days to go until Easter!

Hymns: Tell Out, My Soul

Luke 1:46-55

Tell Out, My Soul is such a joyful song, based on the words of the Magnificat, or Mary’s Song. It’s a song of praise and thankfulness, and rejoices in God’s faithfulness, might, power, and holiness.

Perhaps my favourite verse is the final one – purely for the last two lines:

“Tell out, my soul, the greatness of the Lord,
To children’s children and forever more!”

This reminds me of Psalm 145:2-3:

“Great is the Lord and most worthy of praise;
    his greatness no one can fathom.
One generation commends your works to another;
    they tell of your mighty acts.”

God is so great – and this encourages us to pass on this good news. One of the great things is that God is also constant – from generation to generation. And so we pass this on.

The music for this hymn is also wonderful. The hymn tune Woodlands was composed in 1916, and is one of my favourites just because of how uplifting it is. In fact I dare say that I can’t sing it without a smile!

This weekend was particularly special for me because one of my friends got baptised. It was at a Church I wouldn’t usually go to, but I figured I should probably go to support her! It was such a joyful occasion, with about 5 people altogether being baptised, and a celebration afterwards. It’s been wonderful to see my friend grow in faith – and I’ve learned plenty from her. Particularly in how she prays. She prays straight from the heart – she pours her heart out to God, not only praying for her and others’ needs, but also thanking God for his great goodness.

Throughout the weekend, and since, this song has been in my head, and I have dared to sing it out loud at the top of my voice a few times! It has reminded me of God’s goodness. And when people tell out the greatness of the Lord, to their friends, to their children, to their children’s children, great things can happen.

Hymns: Hark the Herald

Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,

Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace to those on whom his favour rests.”” – Luke 2:13-14

Christmas is such a good time of year for music. For hymns. For descants. It’s hard to choose my favourite. There’s the beautiful “Once in Royal” descant. There’s the wonderful “O Come All Ye Faithful” descant. But I think my favourite is “Hark the Herald Angels Sing”.

Hail, the heaven-born Prince of Peace!
Hail, the Sun of Righteousness!
Light and life to all he brings,
risen with healing in his wings.
Mild he lays his glory by,
born that man no more may die,
born to raise the sons of earth,
born to give them second birth.
Hark, the herald angels sing
Glory to the new-born King!

The first half of the descant is fairly ordinary, to be honest. As descants often are, it is joyous. One of the reasons I love descants so much is that they are loud and joyful, a sort of musical expression of praise to God. Not that the normal tunes aren’t. (Just to clarify).

In the second half of the verse, there is a little bit of poetry, as the descant slips below the tune as we sing “Mild he lays his glory by”, before soaring up for the next line, reaching the joint highest note as we get to the word “raise”.

This is my favourite descant for a number of reasons, but it includes perhaps my favourite musical moment in all of the Christmas hymns we do. In the refrain, the is the most glorious suspension between the tune and the descant, prepared and resolved by the tune. Suspensions done well are glorious. Sung by a whole Church singing at the tops of their voices, praising God and celebrating the birth of Jesus, this has to be one of my favourite suspensions ever.

I often lose my voice after carol services. I’ve been to two in two days this year (my home Church’s service, and my old school’s). I certainly have more voice than when I did 3 at school, and the Church one, combined with cold season. Praising God in song, with a full Church, is one of the most uplifting things you can do. A proper warm-up helps though! 😉

Church music is special. Church Christmas music is especially glorious.

Merry Christmas!

Hymns: O Come, O Come, Emmanuel

You, LORD, keep my lamp burning; my God turns my darkness into light.” – Psalm 18:28

It’s the second Sunday of Advent. I love Tierces de Picardie. Combine the two and you have the great Advent hymn O Come, O Come, Emmanuel.

It’s a hymn that goes through lots. Prayer. Longing. Hope. And this sums up Advent for me. A time of preparation and hope.

One of my favourite verses is the following:

O come, O bright and morning star,
And bring us comfort from afar!
Dispel the shadows of the night
And turn our darkness into light.

A theme that comes up in many hymns (and one that I particularly love) is this theme of light and darkness. This verse reminds us of God’s comfort and how, even in the darkest of places, He can bring light. In our own lives, or in the world in general. That gives me so much hope. Hope for myself – that God is there in my darkest moments, bringing light, comfort and hope. And hope for others – that when all seems lost, God is still at work, showing people the way.

Emmanuel means “God with us”. It’s important to remember that God is always with us. God is always at work in us and for us. So let’s rejoice! (Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel…)

All of this to a beautiful tune in a minor key. Dark and foreboding. But best played with a Tierce de Picardie – a stunning musical reminder of the hope we’ve just sung of.

Hymns: Like a Mighty River Flowing

And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” – Philippians 4:7

Like a mighty river flowing
Like a flower in beauty growing
Far beyond all human knowing
Is the perfect peace of God.”

Music often reminds me of certain situations. So it is with this music. I love the tune, and the harmonies. I love the words. But it takes me back to a point last year where I wasn’t in the best of places. When I just felt a deep longing and melancholy. When I was counting down the weeks until my parents came to visit. When I was going on walks at night just to feel some of God’s peace and presence. So it should really be no surprise that, when this piece came to mind earlier today, I started to feel just a little homesick.

When my parents came up to visit, I stayed with them for a night in the Yorkshire Dales.

Like the hills serene and even
Like the coursing clouds of heaven
Like a heart that’s been forgiven
Is the perfect peace of God.”

This piece is so evocative of the beauty I found there, and often crave. If I start to feel homesick, sad, lonely, or isolated, I look to where I experience God the most. In creation, and in tradition. I love worshipping in the same building as people from hundreds of years ago. Singing the same hymns as people from hundreds of years ago. And knowing that I worship the same, unchanging God as them.

But I also experience God in creation. And that’s something I don’t see too much of during term time. So weirdly I’m currently a little bit “homesick” for that.

The hymn is so evocative of everything that I crave so much. Yet it has the answer as well. I know I’m at uni and don’t have the chance to experience everything it suggests. But everything it suggests is in comparison to the amazing presence and peace of God. The peace that passes all understanding. I guess this means a little re-evaluation. What do I really want?

It’s all pointing to my need of God. His peace, His love, His compassion. Something so vast, so valuable, and so unimaginable.

Like the azure ocean swelling
Like the jewel all-excelling
Far beyond our human telling
Is the perfect peace of God”