Posted by: rcottrill | September 30, 2010

Today in 1852 – Charles Stanford Born

Irishman Charles Villers Stanford was the son of a lawyer. He became the organist at Trinity College, and composed for, and conducted concerts for, musical societies in the nineteenth century. In 1883, he became the first professor of composition and orchestra at the Royal College of music, and was later conductor of the London Bach Choir. In the early part of the twentieth century he taught at Cambridge University, where he had been a student many years before. He was knighted in 1902.

Stanford wrote the hymn tune St. Patrick (also called Stanford) for Cecil Frances Alexander’s version of St. Patrick’s Breastplate. The hymn says in part:

Christ be with me, Christ within me,
Christ behind me, Christ before me,
Christ beside me, Christ to win me,
Christ to comfort and restore me.
Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ in quiet, Christ in danger,
Christ in hearts of all that love me,
Christ in mouth of friend and stranger.

(2) Today in 1902 – John Vernon Died
We know relatively little of Anglican clergyman John Richard Vernon, other than that he served churches in England in the nineteenth century. Only one obscure hymn of his is in use. There’s Peace and Rest in Paradise sounds like it is a hymn about heaven, but it is so only indirectly. Vernon expresses the longing of the believer, in the heat of the battle, for his heavenly home. But he challenges us to return to the fight, while the Lord gives us the time, and strength, and opportunity to do so.

There’s peace and rest in paradise,
In weary hours we say;
And oh that we had wings like doves
That we might flee away!

For here so strong the evil seems,
So weak appears the good,
Our standard wavers in the rush
Of evil, like a flood.

Then for the quiet land we long,
And the abode of peace;
And for the word, “Come, weary soul,
From war and vigil cease!”

But in our stronger hours we grasp
The warrior’s sword again,
And burn the good fight yet to fight,
The faithful watch maintain.

The Lord Himself hath need of us;
On! till the fight be won;
And the King’s words shall thrill the heart:
“Servant of God, well done!”

(3) Another Song from Emily Wilson – I Will Pilot Thee
I can recall, years ago, singing with the Ambassador Male Chorus, the beautiful hymn, I Will Pilot Thee. Emily Divine Wilson (1865-1942) wrote both words and music for it. The refrain is somwhat unusual, in that it quotes Christ speaking encouragement to the struggling saint. (For more about Emily Wilson, and another song for which she wrote the tune, see the second item under Today in 1768.)

Somtimes, when my faith would falter
And no sunlight I can see;
I just lift mine eyes to Jesus
And I whisper, “Pilot me.”

“Fear thou not, for I’ll be with thee,
I will still thy pilot be;
Never mind the tossing billows,
Take My hand, and trust in Me.”

Often, when my soul is weary,
And the days seem, oh, so long,
I just look up to my Pilot
And I hear this blessed song:

When I come to Jordan’s river
And its troubled waters see,
On the brink I’ll see my Saviour
And I know He’ll pilot me.

Mr. Byrd’s vocal style is not particularly to my taste, but he does all right with the song. I just can’t get out of my mind what a men’s choir of twenty or so voices did with it, prayerfully quiet with the stanzas, and a firmly assured crescendo in the refrain. (Wish we’d recorded it so I could share it with you!)


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