Through all the Changing Scenes

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 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

Through all the Changing Scenes of Life

Through all the changing scenes of life,
in trouble and in joy,
the praises of my God shall still
my heart and tongue employ.

O magnify the Lord with me,
with me exalt his name;
when in distress to him I called,
he to my rescue came.

The hosts of God encamp around
the dwellings of the just;
deliverance he affords to all
who on his succour trust.

O make but trial of his love,
experience will decide
how blest are they, and only they,
who in his truth confide!

Fear him, ye saints, and you will then
have nothing else to fear;
make you his service your delight,
your wants shall be his care.

To Father, Son, and Holy Ghost,
the God whom we adore,
be glory, as it was, is now,
and shall be evermore.

 Words: Nahum Tate & Nicholas Brady
A New Version of the Psalms of David Psalm 34

Tune: Wiltshire
Music: George Smart

CCLI - 1073121





Hymn Commentary 

Through all the Changing Scenes of Life is a paraphrase of psalm 34.  Originally published in A New Version of the Psalms of David in as long ago as 1696, the hymn originally had eighteen verses.  Not unsurprisingly there hasn’t been a hymnbook that has ever printed all of them, although eight verse versions have been common.  Holy Trinity’s hymnbook, Common Praise, contains just six verses of this week’s Hymn for the Week.  

Psalm 34 itself was written by David when he was ‘on the run’ and these events are recorded in 1 Samuel 21:10-22:1. David sought refuge in a cave, being joined by many other desperate men.  The psalm seems to have been written in that cave and was sung in the presence of those men.  

The words of Through all the Changing Scenes of Life have generally been credited to Nahum Tate (1652-1715).  Born in Dublin, his surname was originally spelt Teate but he changed its spelling when he came to London where he lived for the rest of his life.  Something of a colourful character, he took it upon himself to adapt established works of drama so that, for example, Shakespeare’s King Lear had multiple happy endings for its characters.  He collaborated with Nicholas Brady (1659-1726) who was another Irishman that settled in London.  As well as their work on the Psalms, they were also famed for the libretto for Purcell’s opera Dido and Aeneas.

The tune to Through all the Changing Scenes of Life was composed by George Smart (1776-1867).  Entitled Wiltshire, I know of no other tune that has ever been sung to this hymn.  Holy Trinity’s hymnbook, Common Praise, includes what it suggests is a later form of this tune (it is sung to a different hymn in the hymnbook) but the changes were limited to a little simplification in the first and last lines of the music.

Smart lived all his life in and around London - coincidentally like Thomas Attwood, composer of Holy Trinity’s Anthem for this Week – and composition was obviously in the family blood as his brother’s son, Henry Smart, also became a composer.  Wiltshire was a favourite tune of the author Thomas Hardy and it reflects the joy and wisdom to to be found in psalm 34 and, therefore, this week’s hymn.

Charles Pavey - Organist & Choirmaster

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