Praise to the Lord, the Almighty

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 – 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 whilst on holiday from Lancaster University.  This will have been recorded by Billy Colbourne (Assistant Organist) and includes use of a Hauptwerk organ also at home, with the sounds of Salisbury Cathedral’s organ.

Charles Pavey – Organist & Choirmaster

Praise to the Lord, the Almighty

Praise to the Lord, the Almighty, the King of creation!
O my soul, praise Him, for He is thy health and salvation!
All ye who hear, now to His temple draw near;
Joining in glad adoration.

Praise to the Lord, who o’er all things so wondrously reigneth,
Shieldeth thee gently from harm, or when fainting sustaineth!
Hast thou not seen how thy heart’s wishes have been 
Granted in what He ordaineth?

Praise to the Lord, who doth prosper thy work and defend thee;
Surely His goodness and mercy shall daily attend thee;
Ponder anew what the Almighty can do,
If to the end He befriend thee.

Praise to the Lord, oh, let all that is in me adore Him!
All that hath life and breath, come now with praises before Him;
Let the Amen sound from His people again,
Gladly for aye we adore Him.

Words: Joachim Neander, translated by Catherine Winkworth 
Tune: Lobe den Herren
Melody: Anonymous
Harmony: The editors of The Chorale Book for England

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Hymn Commentary 

This is expected to be the final posting of a Hymn for the Week as we are hoping that the return of congregational singing is only round the corner.  And what a way to finish!  Praise to the Lord, the Almighty, the King of Creation, to give it its full title, is a German hymn and is an undoubted song of thanksgiving freely based on the opening verses of Psalm 103.  Its writer was Joachim Neander.  Born in Bremen in 1650, he became headmaster of a Latin School in Dusseldorf at the age of 24.  Sadly he died only six years later but he managed to leave around sixty hymns to his name.  He was a Christian pastor, having experienced a dramatic conversion following riotous living in his youth.

In its original German, Praise to the Lord, the Almighty, the King of Creation, had five verses and four of them were translated into English by Catherine Winkworth.  Born close to the City of London in 1827, she spent much of her life in Manchester and then Bristol.  The foremost translator of German hymns in the nineteenth century, she died suddenly of heart disease near Geneva in 1878.  As well as in her writings, she also did much for the Christian cause through her charitable work, notably and latterly in women’s education.

Nowadays the tune sung to Praise to the Lord, the Almighty, the King of Creation is called Lobe den Herren (translated as Praise the Lord).  The composer is unknown and the melody first appeared in the most widely used Lutheran hymnal of the 17th century, Praxis Pietatis Melica.  It was harmonised by the editors of Catherine Winkworth’s book, The Chorale Book for England, in 1863.  There is a version of this melody known as Hast du den, Jesu, of which J S Bach, amongst others would have been familiar.

For all its history though, perhaps the most distinctive feature of this hymn is its encouragement to praise.  Not a negative word in sight, it must rate as one of the truest expressions of thanksgiving and a fitting final Hymn for the Week.

Charles Pavey – Organist & Choirmaster

Anthem for the Week