Psalms etc for Epiphany and its season

Glastonbury Tor from the Levels in January

The Epiphany Season lasts longer than Christmas, just short of a month.  That is long enough for the same opening and canticle between the readings, not changing every day of the week as in ‘green’ time, to become repetitive.  Also, ‘Epiphany’ is a less transparent word than Christmas, or Easter. What does it mean, and what has it got to do with the Wise Men? Why are they called ‘the Manifestation of Christ to the Gentiles’?  Besides, the connection between the following Sundays and either the Wise Men or each other is not instantly obvious. The point turns out to be that the coming of the Wise Men, the Baptism of Jesus and the Wedding at Cana are all occasions when Jesus became more visible, especially to outsiders.

This is what this collection currently provides.

Morning Prayer

Opening –

CWDP recommends Psalm 100, the Jubilate. The collection provides two versions of this. One is The Old Hundredth, ‘All people that on earth do dwell’ which for almost all users will be the metrical psalm that is already most familiar to them. You may know the particularly fine setting by Ralph Vaughan Williams that was used at the Coronation in 1953.  That is still in copyright.  So it is not in this collection.

The other is a version I have provided in CM, so that it can be sung to any of the many fuguing tunes in CM. The one provided in the collection is Cranbrook, the tune associated with ‘Ilkley Moor’. That was originally written for ‘While shepherds watched’. Quite a lot of people do not realise that ‘Ilkley Moor’ itself started life as a spoof on what was then the well known carol tune, comparable to ‘While shepherds washed their socks by night’. A friend has already given me a favourable user report on that.

Canticle between the Readings –

Both CW and CWDP provide a Canticle  built on Isaiah 60.1-3,11a,18,19,14. There it is called ‘Song of the New Jerusalem’. That title is confusing, since it is a more suitable title for Rev 21: 1-5a, CWDP No 73, ‘Lo! what a glorious sight appears’ (see the previous blog-post). So in Book 6, it takes its title from its first line, ‘Arise, shine out’. The tune in Book 6 is Birmingham by Francis Cunningham. I have not been able to find out anything about him not even his dates.  As it appears in a printed source from 1834, we can assume that it is out of copyright.  There are a number of other tunes it fits well.  In the collection, Farley Castle and Genevan 93 would both the excellent and are in the public domain. It also fits Woodlands  ‘Tell out my soul’ or ‘Lift up your hearts’.  That is by Walter Greatorex. Many people will already have this in their hymn books, but as he only died in December 1949, I would not be able to add it to the tunebook until after January 1st 2020.

CWDP suggests two alternative canticles. One Is 42: 5-8a, both there and in Book 6 entitled Song of the Covenant. It is Canticle 31 In CWDP, provided for Thursday mornings in green time and for the Circumcision (New Year’s Day). The tune the collection provides is Geneva 131 by Louis Bourgeois (c1510-60), a striking tune with an ‘early music’ flavour. It comes  via the Yattendon Hymnal and is in the Phrygian Mode.  The other is CWDP Canticle 36, a selection of verses from Isaiah 61 and 62 which is not currently metricated.

Evening Prayer

Opening –

CWDP recommends the very well known and excellent hymn, which must be in every hymn book published in the last 150 years, O worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness’, by J. S. B. Monsell (1811-1875). Although other tunes seem theoretically to be linked to it, I have never heard it sung to any other tune than Was lebet was schwebet, which suits it well.

CWDP also suggests a selection of verses from Psalm 96 under the title A Song of God’s splendour’. These are indicated by asterisked verses in that psalm which is in Book 4. The tune is St Fulbert with some alternatives offered.

Canticle between the Readings –

This is an attractive selection of verses from the various songs of the four living creatures, the twenty four elders, the saints and the angels in Rev 4 and 5. The version in Book 6 is called ‘Worthy are you’.  In the collection, it goes to the delightful tune Stella which will probably be more familiar if you are Catholic.  This is often attributed to H.F. Hemy (1818-88), but he seems to have arranged it from a song he heard children singing in the street in Stella near Newcastle-on-Tyne.  Later arrangements exist by others, but the version in the collection is understood to be his original. Other arrangements derive from his version. They are not fresh versions of the original folk melody.

I have not yet metricated the other two suggested canticles, No 63 a selection of verses from 1 Timothy, and No 71, Great and Wonderful is Revelation 15:3-4. In the latter case, I am working on it, and may even have found a really suitable tune to which to set a version of those magnificent words.

Night Prayer (Compline)

The Psalm for Night Prayer in this season is Psalm 16, which in the collection is set to Abridge.

February 2nd

Whether one calls this the Presentation or Candlemas, this festival calls for the Nunc Dimittis, not just in the night, or the evening, but even in the morning. When we get to that date, it will mark the end of the Epiphany season.

Book 6 contains two versions of that deeply loved canticle. One derives from the Tate and Brady version and is CM. It is set in Book 6 to Martyrdom, (Psalm 42, As pants the hart). The other is my versification and is in written to go to the tune Eudoxia by Sabine Baring-Gould (1834-1924).  He wrote the tune to go with his own hymn ‘Now the day is over’. Those of us who were primary school age in the 1950s or earlier will have sung it many, many times at the end of the school day.

It is also very suitable for funerals. I wrote it in the autumn of 2010, not realising that the first time it would be sung would be at our mother’s funeral in February 2011.


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