Praise, my Soul

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

Praise, my Soul, the King of Heaven

Praise, my soul, the King of heaven,
to his feet thy tribute bring;
ransomed, healed, restored, forgiven,
who like me his praise should sing?
Alleluia, alleluia,
praise the everlasting King.

Praise him for his grace and favour
to our fathers in distress;
praise him still the same for ever,
slow to chide, and swift to bless:
Alleluia, alleluia,
glorious in his faithfulness.

Father-like, he tends and spares us,
well our feeble frame he knows;
in his hands he gently bears us,
rescues us from all our foes:
Alleluia, alleluia,
widely as his mercy flows.

Angels, help us to adore him;
ye behold him face to face;
sun and moon, bow down before him,
dwellers all in time and space:
Alleluia, alleluia,
praise with us the God of grace.

Henry Francis Lyte
from Psalm 103

Tune: Praise my Soul
Music: John Goss descant Leonard J Blake

CCLI - 1073121





Hymn Commentary 

Praise, my Soul, the King of Heaven is the work of Henry Francis Lyte (1793-1847), also author of Abide with Me.  Born in Ednam, a village near Kelso in the Scottish Borders, he became an Anglican priest.  Plagued with respiratory illnesses all his life, he regularly visited Europe where the warmer climate suited him better.  He died in Nice.  The words of this week’s Hymn for the Week were first published in 1834 in a collection called Spirit of the Psalms.  During the weeks that we have been running Hymn for the Week, hymns which are paraphrases of psalms have been common place and it is Psalm 103 which has our attention this week.  It has been said before that paraphrasing allows writers to expand or highlight particularly obvious or perhaps even hidden themes to be found in the psalms.  However Lyte went for compression; e.g. in the eighth verse of the psalm, ‘The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and plenteous in mercy; He will not always chide’ became ‘Slow to chide and swift to bless us’ in the hymn’s second verse.  Similarly, ‘Like as a father pitieth his children, so the Lord pitieth them that fear him.  For he knoweth our frame’ (verses thirteen and fourteen of the psalm) became ‘Father-like he tends and spares us; well our feeble frame he knows’ in the third verse of the hymn.  

The tune Praise my Soul was composed especially for this hymn by John Goss (1800-1880) and first appeared in 1869 – 35 years after the words.  Born in Fareham, Hampshire, where his father was the parish church organist, Goss went one step further and became a cathedral organist at St. Pauls, London.  He died very near there in Brixton, South London.

There is a great nobility in Praise, my Soul, the King of Heaven which appeals and it’s certainly a lovely hymn to play and sing; it is perhaps that singability that has made it a hymn for many a Pavey family occasions.  And there are other personal connections too due to the descant to the fourth and final verse.  The descant is by Leonard Blake (1907-89) and, when I started conducting Malvern Male Voice Choir a then vice president, the late Donald Westcott (also a one time member of Holy Trinity’s choir and congregation) waxed lyrical about Leonard Blake although he sounded quite a formidable character to me at least.  He was in charge of music at Malvern College from 1945 to 1968, but more importantly to me was that he was a former conductor of the Male Voice Choir!

Charles Pavey - Organist & Choirmaster

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