Music Notes for May 12, 2024

Hymn of the Day: Crown Him with Many Crowns ELW 855
Text: Matthew Bridges, 1800-1894, sts. 1-3, 5; Godfrey Thring, 1823-1903, st. 4
Tune: DIADEMATA, George J. Elvey, 1816-1893

Crowns are more than decorative headwear reserved for royalty. They signify honor, power, and dominion. For the King of Kings, a single crown could never suffice to represent His infinite glory and authority. And so we “Crown Him with Many Crowns” as we lift our voices to praise the One exalted high above all others. This beloved hymn magnifies Jesus, the Lord over all creation deserving of every crown. The lyricists beautifully capture just some of the many facets of our Savior’s majesty that demand our worship. As we sing, we join the eternal chorus around God’s throne, proclaiming the wonder of who Christ is and what He has done. The rich imagery stirs our hearts to offer Him every crown, for no earthly treasure compares to the treasure we have in our risen, glorified Lord.

The hymn Crown Him with Many Crowns was written in 1851 by Matthew Bridges, an Anglican minister who later converted to the Roman Catholic Church. Bridges was born in Essex, England in 1800 and pursued literary interests in history and poetry. He was influenced by John Henry Newman and the Oxford Movement, which aimed to reconnect the Anglican tradition with ancient Christian history and liturgy. This led Bridges to convert to Catholicism in 1848.

Bridges wrote the original six stanzas of the hymn after being inspired by the “exaltation and many crowns of Jesus” described in Revelation 19:12. The lyrics reflect on the different roles and honors of Christ, referring to Him as the “Lamb upon His throne” and “Son of God” who wears “many diadems.” Bridges used rich biblical imagery like “eyes are like a flame of fire” directly from Revelation to capture the majesty of Jesus.

In 1868, Anglican priest Godfrey Thring wrote additional verses while serving at St. George’s Chapel in Windsor castle. Born in 1823, Thring spent his life in dedication to the Church of England. As a Protestant minister, he brought a different theological perspective than Bridges’ Catholic lyrics. Thring’s new stanzas broadened the hymn’s vision by focusing on Jesus as the “Lord of life,” “Lord of love,” and “Lord of years” – bringing out more perspectives on Christ’s eternal nature and lordship.

Though the original hymn contained a total of 12 verses, 6 by Bridges and 6 by Thring, most modern hymnals today only include 4 selected verses. These 4 widely used verses – “Crown him with many crowns,” “Crown him the Lord of life,” “Crown him the Lord of love,” and “Crown Him the Lord of heav’n” – provide a condensed but still rich vision of Christ’s lordship and exaltation. The popularity of the hymn led to mixing and reduction of the original 12 verses down to these 4 accessible stanzas that continue to inspire worship and praise in churches today. Though not comprehensive, the shortened version retains the celebratory spirit and vital imagery of the full original work.

Composed for Bridges's text by George J. Elvey, DIADEMATA was first published in the 1868 Appendix to Hymns Ancient and Modern. Since that publication, the tune has retained its association with this text. The name DIADEMATA is derived from the Greek word for "crowns."

Offertory: O Lord Most High Eternal King Robert Benson (1942)

Robert Benson arranged this Canadian hymn, its tune by Percy C. Buck and text by St. Ambrose. Ambrose (340-397), one of the great Latin church fathers, is remembered best for his preaching, his struggle against the Arian heresy, and his introduction of metrical and antiphonal singing into the Western church. He was trained in legal studies and distinguished himself in a civic career, becoming a consul in Northern Italy. When the bishop of Milan, an Arian, died in 374, the people demanded that Ambrose, who was not ordained or even baptized, become the bishop. He was promptly baptized and ordained, and he remained bishop of Milan until his death. Percy C. Buck(1871-1947), director of music at the well-known British boys' academy Harrow School, wrote GONFALON ROYAL for “The royal banners forward go” (gonfalon is an ancient Anglo-Norman word meaning banner). Buck published the tune in 1913 in his Fourteen Hymn Tunes.

Organist, choral conductor and composer in the Cincinnati area, Robert Benson’s compositions for choir, organ and other instruments have been reviewed in a variety of journals and have been performed by the Cincinnati Camerata, the Miami University Men’s Glee Club and Collegiate Chorale as well as in churches. He is an active member of the Association of Anglican Musicians and Dean of the Cincinnati Chapter of the American Guild of Organists.

O Lord most high, eternal King,
By Thee redeemed Thy praise we sing;
The bonds of death are burst by Thee,
And grace has won the victory.

Ascending to the Father’s throne
Thou claim’st the kingdom as Thine own;
And angels wonder when they see
How changed is our humanity.

Be Thou our Joy, O mighty Lord,
As Thou wilt be our great Reward;
Let all our glory be in Thee
Both now and through eternity.`

O risen Christ, ascended Lord,
All praise to you let earth accord,
Who are, while endless ages run,
With Father and with Spirit One.

Opening Voluntary: Miles Lane (All Hail the Power of Jesus’ Name) Paul Leddington Wright (1951)

MILES LANE is one of three tunes that are closely associated with this well-known and beloved text; CORONATION and DIADEM are the other two.

MILES LANE was published anonymously in the November 1779 issue of the Gospel Magazine. The tune appeared in three parts with the melody in the middle part. Each "Crown him" was meant to be sung by a different part, first by the bass, then by the treble, and finally by the tenor. Thus MILES LANE was a fuguing tune. Stephen Addington identified Edward Perronet (1721-1792) as the author of the text in his Collection of Psalm Tunes (1780). The tune's title comes from the traditional English corruption of St. Michael's Lane, the London street where the Miles' Lane Meeting House was located, of which Addington was minister.

William Shrubsole (1760 -1806) composed MILES LANE when he was only nineteen. A chorister in Canterbury Cathedral from 1770 to 1777, Shrubsole was appointed organist at Bangor Cathedral in 1782. However, he was dismissed in 1783 for associating too closely with religious dissenters. In 1784 he became a music teacher in London and organist at Lady Huntingdon's Spa Fields Chapel, Clerkenwell, a position he retained until his death.

Shrubsole is the subject of a famous essay (1943) by Ralph Vaughan Williams: who called MILES LANE a "superb" tune and composed a concertato arrangement of it in 1938. Edward Elgar called it "the finest tune in English hymnody."

Paul Leddington Wright has been conducting orchestras and choirs since he was 15, at which age he held his first position as Organist and Choirmaster of the Maidenhead Methodist Church. His first organ recital tour abroad took place at the age of 17 where he played in New York, Boston, Hartford USA, as well as Montreal, Canada, and Jamaica. He was organ scholar at St Catharine’s College, Cambridge where he studied music with David Willcocks, Peter Hurford and Peter Le Huray. In order to pursue a busy free-lance career, working for the BBC and abroad, since 1995 he has held the part-time position of Associate Director of Music at Coventry Cathedral. He has been conductor of the cathedral’s choral society, Saint Michael’s Singers, since 1984. He is a busy arranger and composer, and his music is published in the UK and USA.

Closing Voluntary: Christ Arose (Diademata) Christopher Tambling (1964-2016)

Christopher Tambling was one of English sacred music’s most popular and productive com­posers. Speaking through a language that is rich in variety but none­ the less familiar, his seemingly inexhaustible creativ­ity has made a lasting impression on performers and audiences alike.

Born in Clevedon, Somerset, Christopher Peter Tambling was educated at Christ’s Hospital, Horsham. From there, his musical talents took him first to Canterbury Cathed­ral and then St Peter’s Col­lege, Oxford, both with organ scholar­ships.