Music Notes | Eighteenth Sunday after Pentecost

Eric Mellenbruch
Associate Director of Music
and Organist

For notes on ‘Holy, holy, holy! Lord God Almighty!’, this week’s installment in St David’s favorite hymns countdown, please see the entry for Sunday 7 June, Trinity Sunday.

Watch the 2020 Trinity Sunday service on our YouTube page (Sequence hymn begins at timestamp 24:16).

Our Sequence hymn, ‘The great Creator of the worlds’ [489], is a versification of a passage from the second-century Epistle to Diognetus. That Epistle as a whole is a fine early apologia for Christianity, despite its perhaps crude criticism of pagan and Hebrew religion; its description of Christians as ‘in but not of the world’, as the soul is in, but not of, the body, and is dispersed throughout it, is simple yet telling.

The versification is the work of F. Bland Tucker (1895–1984), an Episcopal priest who served as Rector of St John’s Parish, Washington, DC, for twenty years, and then of Christ Church, Savannah, from 1945 until his 1967 retirement, having turned down an episcopate to which he had been elected. In parish, city, and diocese, he worked for the racial integration of the Church, leading the diocese to readmit African American parishes as full members, and refusing to bar anyone from his own parish.

Fr Tucker had the distinction of serving on the commissions that produced both the 1940 and 1982 revisions of the Hymnal. He is even more distinguished, however, by his many felicitous translations and versifications of, especially, early Greek and Latin hymns and other texts. In fact he is credited with more items in the Hymnal 1982 (including several single replacement stanzas) than anyone besides John Mason Neale, whose successor in this endeavor he might be said to be (just as he succeeded John Wesley in the rectorship of Christ Church, Savannah). 

The music to which Fr Tucker’s text is mated has an interesting pedigree, being one of nine tunes written by the great English Renaissance composer Thomas Tallis in 1567 for the metrical Psalter of Matthew Parker, Archbishop of Canterbury during Elizabeth’s reign. This ninth tune of Tallis’s was paired in this Psalter with a version of the ‘Veni creator’ (the one non-Psalm- or Canticle-paraphrase included, since it was appointed to be sung at ordinations and had been a medieval favorite: thus the common name of ‘Tallis’s Ordinal’ for this tune).

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