Music Notes | Second Sunday after Pentecost

Eric Mellenbruch
Associate Director of Music
and Organist

Returning to Ordinary Time, we take up Matthew’s Gospel again as the Twelve are sent to proclaim that ‘the kingdom of heaven has come near’ and to ‘cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons’. 

Walte, walte nah und fern’ was written in the 1820s as a missions hymn; its author specified that it should be sung to the tune of ‘Savior of the Nations, come’ (Hymn 54), underscoring its Advent themes. It was translated as ‘Spread, O spread, thou mighty Word’ for the Hymnal 1940, drawing upon a version by Catherine Winkworth, fine and prolific translator of German hymns – though the author’s musical advice was not followed! 

‘Lord, make us servants of your peace’, our anthem, is a paraphrase of the beloved ‘Prayer of St Francis’ by the noted Jesuit hymnist James Quinn, four of whose texts appear in the Hymnal. Its chosen tune is notable for the unusual (for a hymn-tune) meter of five beats per bar: this could have been awkward but instead flows beautifully; the ‘extra’ beat gives the syllabic setting some breadth, and the alternating groups of two and three beats, combined with mostly stepwise motion, lend a chant-like quality.

‘Come, thou fount of every blessing’ was written for Pentecost, 1758, by an English parish priest; it reflects the message of grace in Sunday’s Epistle. The present tune first appeared, paired with this text, in an 1813 American collection. It is an admirable example of the widespread repetition of melodic phrases in hymn-tunes: the entirety of the first two-line melodic unit is repeated for the next two lines and used for the final two; the phrase setting line 5 is immediately repeated with only a slight change for line 6: simple, memorable, and, with the contrasting ranges of the two melodic units, very effective.

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