Ye Holy Angels Bright

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

Ye Holy Angels Bright

Ye holy angels bright,
Who wait at God's right hand,
Or through the realms of light
Fly at your Lord's command,
Assist our song,
For else the theme
Too high doth seem
For mortal tongue.

Ye blessed souls at rest,
Who ran this earthly race
And now, from sin released,
Behold your Savior's face,
His praises sound,
As in his sight
With sweet delight
Ye do abound.

Ye saints, who toil below,
Adore your heavenly King,
And onward as ye go
Some joyful anthem sing;
Take what he gives
And praise him still,
Through good or ill,
Who ever lives!

My soul, bear thou thy part,
Triumph in God above:
And with a well-tuned heart
Sing thou the songs of love!
Let all thy days
Till life shall end,
Whate'er he send,
Be filled with praise!

Richard Baxter & J H Gurney

Tune: Abbot's Leigh
Music: John Darwell harmonised W H Monk

CCLI - 1073121










Hymn Commentary 

This week’s Hymn for the Week is a case of started by one person, but finished by another.   The original words of Ye Holy Angels Bright were written by Richard Baxter (1615-91).  Born in the Shropshire village of Rowton, he was educated in nearby Wroxeter.  He was ordained into the Church of England and served in Bridgnorth and Kidderminster.  He became a Nnconformist minister in 1673.  During the year before, however, he published a psalm of praise to the tune of Psalm cxlviii.  Containing sixteen verses (!), it was the first two that became the basis for what happened next.  It has to be said that these two verses, whilst maintaining the mood of praise in the 148th Psalm, contain very loose reference to the words of the Psalm itself.  

In 1838 John Hampden Gurney (1802-62) tampered with these two verses and then added two more.  The connection with the psalm became even looser but a theme can be followed through all four of his verses: it is that the singing of songs and anthems is the basis of praise in Heaven above and on Earth below.  Gurney published his version of the hymn in his Collection of Hymns for Public Worship and it is his words that we continue to sing today.  Apart from being educated in Chobham, Surrey and at Cambridge, he seems to have lived his entire life in London; he even has a school named after him (Hampden Gurney C of E primary school) located in Nutford Place, London.

The tune regularly sung to Ye Holy Angels Bright is Darwall’s 148th.  It was composed by John Darwall (1731-89), a curate and subsequently vicar in Walsall.  He was an enthusiastic musician and he composed tunes to metrical versions of all 150 psalms.  He was born in the Staffordshire village of Haughton and educated at Manchester Grammar School and Brasenose College, Oxford.  He died and is buried in Walsall.  It was there in 1773 that Darwall’s 148th was first sung on the installation of a new organ.

Charles Pavey - Organist & Choirmaster

It is encouraging that lockdown restrictions are easing a little more and it is hoped to see the return of Holy Trinity’s Choir rehearsing again on Fridays with a view to singing at the Main Morning Service from the start of October.  As time is a finite resource, it has meant there is less time to continue Hymn for the Week so a new hymn will feature every two weeks instead of one.  The other reason for this is that Lucy Colbourne, who has recorded all the featured hymns with her brother Billy, is returning to University at the end of September.  Before she leaves Malvern they will have recorded the hymns to be featured through to the start of Advent. 

Anthem for the Week

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