Hymn of the Day: “Comfort, comfort Ye My Peoples” ELW 256
Text: Johann G. Olearius(1631-1711) tr. Catherine Winkworth (1827-1878)
Tune: FREU DICH SEHR
Comfort, Comfort Ye My Peoples, John Ferguson (1941)
The text for the Hymn of the Day is a versification of Isaiah 40:1-5, the passage that opens the final large group of prophecies in Isaiah 40-66. Many of these prophecies express consolation and hope that Judah's exile in Babylon is almost over. That is certainly the tone of 40: 1-5-words of comfort forecasting a new reign but also words that call for proper preparation–that is, repentance.
The original German hymn text was written by Johannes Olearius in 1671 for St. John the Baptist's Day, June 24. He published it in his huge collection of hymns, Geistliche Singe-Kunst. The collection contained more than twelve hundred hymns in its first edition and it is considered one of the largest and most important German hymn-books of the 17th century. The hymns may best be described as useful, being for times and seasons previously overlooked and filling up many gaps in the various sections of the German hymn-books. They are mostly short, many of only two verses, simple and easy to comprehend, often happy in expression and catching, and embodying in a concise form the leading ideas of the season or subject. Many were speedily adopted into German hymn-books, and a considerable number are still in use.
The tune associated with this hymn has two names: GENEVAN 42 and FREU DICH SEHR. The title that is used depends on the church tradition through which a particular hymnal acquired the tune. Those from a Reformed background call it GENEVAN 42, because it was used for Psalm 42 in the French Genevan Psalter. It is likely that Louis Bourgeois either composed or adapted this tune for the Genevan Psalter. Lutherans call the tune FREU DICH SEHR because those are the opening words of a funeral hymn that this tune was paired with in Rhamba's Harmoniae sacrae (1613).
Catherine Winkworth translated the text into English in 1863. Winkworth is well known for her English translations of German hymns; her translations were polished and yet remained close to the original. Educated initially by her mother, she lived with relatives in Dresden, Germany, in 1845, where she acquired her knowledge of German and interest in German hymnody. A pioneer in promoting women's rights, Winkworth put much of her energy into the encouragement of higher education for women.
Musical Meditation: “Comfort, Comfort Ye, My Peoples” Egil Hovland (1924-2013)
Egil Hovland was a Norwegian composer who wrote in diverse styles, including Norwegian-Romantic, Gregorian, neo-classical, twelve-tone, aleatoric, and serial. He was one of the most noted church composers of Norway and certainly a most productive contemporary Norwegian composer.