Hymn of the Month

O Sons and Daughters

Psalter Hymnal 393
The Hymnbook 206
Rejoice in the Lord 318

This month's Easter hymn is a carol, a type of song usually associated with Christmas. Actually carols have been written for many seasons and occasions. (See "Carols for Easter," RW 6). They are spontaneous, direct, simple songs and can be either secular or sacred. The tune for this hymn, like most carols, has the quality of a joyful dance tune.

The earliest-known text of this hymn, "O Filii et filiae, Rex coelestis, Rex gloriae," has been traced to a little book published sometime between 1518 and 1536, probably in Paris, France. The author, Jean Tisserand, was a Franciscan friar who died in Paris in 1494.

Tisserand's text was translated by John Mason Neale, born in London in January of 1818. Neale was educated at Trinity College and ordained first as a deacon and later as a priest in the Church of England. In his lifetime Neale translated approximately 155 hymns from the Latin and 57 from the Greek.

Neale's translation of this month's hymn was first published in Medieval Hymns and Sequences in 1851, with the first line "Ye sons and daughters of the king." Later publications altered that line to read as it does here: "O sons and daughters let us sing." Other changes have also been made in Neale's original translation over the course of time.

The hymn text narrates some of the events of the first Easter day. After an opening call to praise, we are reminded of the women coming to the tomb, the angel's message to them, Christ appearing to the disciples in the evening, and Thomas's doubts. Some sources say the original hymn text had ten stanzas; others say nine. This version of the hymn, taken from the Psalter Hymnal, includes eight stanzas. A ninth, or final, stanza appears in Rejoice in the Lord.

On this most holy day of
Be laud and jubilee and
To God your hearts and
voices raise!

The tune for the hymn, O FILII ET FILAE, was most likely written expressly for this text: its Latin title means "O sons and daughters." The earliest-known source of the tune is a collection named Airs sur les hymns sacrez, odez el noels, printed in Paris in 1623.

The hymn is easy for congregations to learn. The first two phrases of the stanza are alike, and the third phrase starts out like the antiphon (a short text sung before and after an entire song; similar to a refrain, but not sung after each stanza) but has a shorter and easier ending. You might consider making the singing of this carol especially meaningful by teaching it to young church school children several weeks before Easter. On Easter Sunday have the congregation sing the stanzas and have the children, as a group, sing the antiphon before the first stanza and after the last stanza (and perhaps between other selected stanzas).

Since the text is a narrative one, it almost requires that all stanzas be sung. To avoid fatigue for your singers, have two groups of singers alternate: congregation and choir, men and women, north and south sides of the center aisle, or whatever division works best in your congregation. Be creative. The entire congregation could join in on the "Alleluia" at the end of each stanza. If you decide the entire hymn is too long for your liturgy, consider selecting only the "women" stanzas (st. 1-3, 8) or the "Thomas" stanzas (st. 1, 4—8). The Hymnbook, in fact, includes only five stanzas-—those numbered 1—3, 8, and 9 in Rejoice in the Lord. Whichever plan you decide on, be sure to print clear instructions in your bulletin.

The opening antiphon of this carol has some interesting variants, which go back centuries. The Hymnbook, Rejoice in the Lord, and the Psalter Hymnal each offer a different arrangement of the "Alleluia" (see p. 37). Some hymnals substitute the two-measure "Alleluia" at the end of the stanza for the last two measures (the "Alleluias") of the anti-phon. You might try this arrangement when the choir sings the hymn as an anthem—but don't confuse the congregation with this twist.

The newly published Bibliography of Organ Music Based on Tunes found in the Psalter Hymnal and Rejoice in the Lord lists sources for eleven organ voluntaries on the tunc O FILII ET FILIAE in grades of difficulty that range from easy to medium-difficult. (The Bibliography is available for $10.00 from CRC Publications.)

Holy Spirit, Truth Divine

Psalter Hymnal 423
The Hymnbook 240

Samuel Longfellow (1819— 1892), younger brother of the more famous Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, wrote the text for this month's hymn. A New England minister during the years surrounding the Civil War, Samuel Longfellow preached and wrote fearlessly against slavery. As he struggled against that evil in society, he became more and more convinced of the need all people have for the Spirit of God. He wrote this song, which first appeared in Hymns of the Spirit (1864), to help people invite the Spirit into all parts of their lives.

Notice how each stanza addresses a different attribute of the Spirit and requests its influence on our lives: truth divine—-for the voice of God to speak through us; love divine—for God's love to be reflected through our lives; power divine—for God to give us the strength to do what we need to do; law divine—for God's law to rule our lives; peace divine—for the Holy Spirit's presence as a harmonizing influence on our lives-; joy divine—for our hearts to be gladdened through the Holy Spirit's work and presence.

The tune, SONG 13, by Orlando Gibbons (1583-1625), comes from an earlier time and another country. Gibbons, born in Oxford, England, became the organist at the Chapel Royal in 1604 and remained there the rest of his life. During that time he wrote about forty anthems and other music for the church service. SONG 13 is probably the oldest English tune written in what now is a familiar meter and was the thirteenth (hence its name) song in Hymns and Songs of the Church, published in 1623. The tune was originally set to a paraphrase of chapter 1 of the Song of Songs: "O my love, how comely now." Rejoice in the Lord uses this tune with the text "Christ, of All My Hopes the Ground" (455).

The Bibliography of Organ Music referred to earlier lists four voluntaries on this hymn tune. Particularly nice is one by Raymond Haan in Organ Music for Lent and Easter (Sacred Music Press; easy) and another by Healey Willan in Six Choral Preludes, Set 1 (Concordia; medium).

This hymn need not be restricted to the Pentecost season. Our need to pray for the Holy Spirit's work in our lives knows no bounds of time. The hymn is well suited as a prayer at the beginning of worship or as the prayer for illumination before Scripture and sermon.

You Servants of the Lord Our God

Psalter Hymnal 134
Trinity Hymnal 348

The selection for this month is a brief psalm: Psalm 134 has only three short verses, which were paraphrased into three stanzas in the Trinity Hymnal and into two stanzas in the new Psalter Hymnal. The tune OLD HUNDREDTH, associated with Psalm 100 ("All people that on earth do dwell…") from the earliest days of English psalm singing, is probably the most widely known hymn tune in the world. However, because it originated as the tune for Psalm 134 in the Genevan Psalter, the Psalter Hymnal refers to this tune as GENEVAN 134, corresponding to all the other Genevan tune names.

You might wonder what sense it makes to choose a psalm of the month that offers easy words set to an already familiar tune. Where's the challenge? Perhaps the challenge with this selection lies in discovering some more significant way of using this psalm in the worship service.

The NIV translation of the psalm reads as follows:

(1) Praise the Lord, all you ser-
vants of the Lord
who minister by night in the
house of the Lord.
(2) Lift up your hands in the
and praise the Lord.
(3) May the Lord, the Maker of
heaven and earth,
bless you from Zion.

You will notice a small space separating verses 2 and 3, placed there to draw our attention to a change of speakers. Psalm 134 is the last of what we have learned to call the Psalms of Ascent, or Pilgrim Psalms-—psalms sung by the Israelites on their way to Jerusalem. The first two verses of the psalm, paraphrased for us in the first stanza, were most likely sung by the people (congregation) as they addressed the Levites (the worship leaders) in the temple. Verse 3 of the psalm, paraphrased in stanza 2, contains the Levites' blessing (benediction) on the people.

Because the psalm contains these two different voices, it can be used very effectively as part of an installation service for elders and deacons. At the close of the service have all officebearers gather at the front for the closing hymn/psalm-—Psalm 134. After the organ or piano introduction, the congregation will sing the first stanza, preferably unaccompanied. The officebearers then respond by singing the second stanza as a benediction (perhaps with their hands raised as they sing). With a little advance planning, this psalm can make this year's installation service one of the most moving and memorable your congregation has ever experienced.

Psalm 134 is also very appropriate for wedding ceremonies. Ask the gathered friends and relatives to sing the second stanza to the bride and groom after the pronouncement of marriage.

Rather than including a typical harmonization, which is readily available in any hymnal, the Psalter Hymnal presents this interesting harmonization by John Dowland with the melody in the tenor. This setting would be very effective for choir or for organ with the melody on a solo stop.

An abundance of organ literature has been written on this tune. Look for selections based on the tune OLD HUNDREDTH or the German title HERR GOTT DICH LOBEN ALLE WIR.

Verlyn Schultz is employed by the Christian Music Center, Grand Rapids, Michigan, and was a member of the Psalter Hymnal Revision Committee.


Reformed Worship 11 © March 1989, Calvin Institute of Christian Worship. Used by permission.