I Heard the Voice of Jesus Say

During this time whilst we can’t sing together in worship we are aiming to post a different hymn each week. For some Sundays it will be the obvious hymn in Common Praise for a particular Sunday and a brief commentary – partly with reference to The Penguin Book of Hymns edited by Ian Bradley, The Nation’s Favourite Hymns by Andrew Barr or research on the internet – will be published with our hymn choice for the week. The words of the hymn will be provided alongside a recording of the hymn, courtesy of Lucy Colbourne at home whilst Lancaster University is in lockdown. This will have been recorded by Billy Colbourne (Assistant Organist) and includes use of his Hauptwerk organ also at home, with the sounds of Salisbury Cathedral’s organ.

Charles Pavey – Organist & Choirmaster

I Heard the Voice of Jesus Say

I heard the voice of Jesus say, 
“Come unto me and rest;.
lay down, thou weary one, lay down 
thy head upon my breast.”
I came to Jesus as I was, 
weary and worn and sad;
I found in him a resting place,
and he has made me glad.

I heard the voice of Jesus say, 
“Behold, I freely give 
the living water, thirsty one; 
stoop down and drink and live.”
I came to Jesus, and I drank 
of that life-giving stream.
My thirst was quenched, my soul revived,
and now I live in him.

I heard the voice of Jesus say,
“I am this dark world’s light;
look unto me, thy morn shall rise,
and all thy day be bright.”
I looked to Jesus, and I found 
in him my star, my sun;
and in that light of life I’ll walk 
till traveling days are done.

H Bonar

Music: English folksong
harmonised by R Vaughan Williams

CCLI - 1073121







Hymn Commentary 

If you have read this week’s Anthem for the Week you will have noted the comment that there is a certain freedom to choose our own particular favourites even if they don’t exactly correspond with the time of the Christian Year in which we find ourselves.  I Heard the Voice of Jesus Say should have been the Hymn for the Week two weeks ago but we wished to have the best of Epiphany hymns that week.  However, the Assistant Organist was not going to let one of his favourite hymns go by unnoticed so this hymn, associated with the Baptism of Jesus (celebrated on 10 January), has secured its place a fortnight later.  The theme of light in the third verse of this hymn connects with O Thou the Central Orb, this week’s Anthem for the Week.

I Heard the Voice of Jesus Say builds on three teachings of Jesus, one in each verse of the hymn: 

Matthew 11:28 “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.” 
John 4:10-14 Jesus in conversation with a Samaritan woman by a well.
John 8:12 “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life.”

In each verse Jesus offers something to the reader (rest, living water, light in a dark world) and in response the reader’s life is changed.  The writer of this hymn was Horatius Bonar (1808-1889).  Once referred to as “the prince of Scottish hymn writers”, Horace (as he was known to his friends) was born and died in Edinburgh.  He trained as a Church of Scotland minister in 1837 and was ordained into the parish of Kelso in the Scottish Borders where he wrote this hymn. Becoming a Moderator of the General Assembly of the Free Church in 1883, he was a prolific writer of letters, books and hymns.

The hymn tune is Kingsfold.  Published in English Country Songs in 1893, the tune is thought to date back to the middle ages.  It is a folk tune set to a variety of texts in England and Ireland and, after having heard the tune in Kingsfold, Sussex (thus its name), Ralph Vaughan Williams introduced it as a hymn tune in The English Hymnal (1906).  For the technically minded, there is a sense of the tune shifting from minor towards major in the second half of each verse and, as this is the point at which the reader describes the transformation following each of Christ’s offers, the music serves the words very well.  The technically minded may also note that the tune does normally revert to the minor in the last line of each verse.  However, that same freedom of choice expressed at the start of this commentary allows the organist to find an alternative harmonisation for the last verse which commendably keeps the major feel to the end to suitably highlight the words ‘till travelling days are done.’

Charles Pavey - Organist & Choirmaster

Anthem for the Week

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