Music Notes for Palm Sunday

by Giles Brightwell


The Offertory Anthem is Philip Moore‘s (b. 1943) poignant setting of William Walsham How‘s (1823-1897) hymn, It is a thing most wonderful. Philip Moore was organist of York Minster from 1983 until his retirement in 2008. He had been a student at the RCM and earned the coveted Durham BMus (Bachelor of Music) degree. He currently serves as President of the Royal College of Organists (2015-2017).

how-william-walshamHow was a product of the Oxford Movement. He was a tireless advocate for the poor and, having refused preferment on many occasions, finally accepted the suffragan bishopric of Bedford, which enabled him to work among the poorest communities in the East End of London. He went on to become the first bishop of Wakefield in 1888. Perhaps his most famous hymn is: For all the saints, who from their labours rest.

Franck-Cesar-1822-1890The Communion motet is the Belgian composer, César Franck’s (1822-1890) setting of the Eucharistic hymn, Tantum ergo. Franck, organiste-titulaire (principal organist) at Sainte Clothilde (1858-1872), was a formidable improviser and travelled widely, demonstrating the organs of Aristide Cavaillé-Coll (1811-1899). He became a professor at the Paris Conservatoire in 1872 where his pupils included Charles Tournemire (1870-1939), Louise Vierne (1870-1937), Henri Duparc (1848-1933), and Vincent D’Indy (1851-1931). The Tantum ergo is an effective setting for baritone solo, mixed voices and organ.


HYMN 62 All Glory, Laud and Honour

On Palm Sunday we shall be singing the ancient hymn, All Glory, laud and honour to the tune ST THEODULPH, after bishop Theodulph of Orléans (750 or 760-821) in France who wrote both the tune and the Latin words.

A recording of the version we shall be singing, sung by the choir of King’s College, Cambridge, may be found here.

HYMN 356 At the Name of Jesus

We will sing this hymn to the tune CUDDESDON, written by the Church of England clergyman and organist, William Harold Ferguson (1874-1950) who had trained for the priesthood at Cuddesdon Theological College, just outside Oxford. Ferguson had been a boy chorister at Magdalen College, Oxford before going on to Keble College, also in Oxford, for his undergraduate degree. He subsequently became a schoolmaster, and headmaster, successively at St Edward’s School in Oxford and Radley College before finally being appointed as Canon Precentor (meaning, literally, ‘first cantor or singer’ and, therefore, the priest in charge of music) at Salisbury Cathedral in Wiltshire.

Note: No recording is available of At the Name of Jesus to this tune; the recording is of the tune to different words. The words may be found at Hymn 356 in The Hymnal 1940.

HYMN My Song is a Love Unknown

The final Hymn on Palm Sunday (and again on Good Friday) will be My Song is love unknown to John Nicholson Ireland‘s (1879-1962) tune LOVE UNKNOWN. The tune was written by Ireland over lunch on a paper napkin and is all the more astonishing for its effectiveness as a result: would that we could all write such beautiful music without the aid of a keyboard and under such circumstances!

Ireland was a student at London’s Royal College of Music (RCM) studying organ with Sir Walter Parratt (1841-1924) and composition with Sir Charles Villiers Stanford (1852-1924). He was organist and choirmaster at St. Luke’s Church in Chelsea and from 1923 taught at the RCM where his pupils included John Moeran and Benjamin Britten. The words are by Samuel Crossman (1624-1683) was a priest in the Church of England and a hymn-writer. Born in Suffolk, he later earned the degree of Bachelor of Divinity at the University of Cambridge and was a canon of Bristol Cathedral.

While this hymn is not included in The Hymnal 1940 it might just as easily have been included in Mr. Moseley’s venerable list of hymns that did not make it into our hymnal.

A recording of the hymn, sung by the choir of King’s College, Cambridge may be found here.