For Me, This Is Dr. John
Mark Sirett: Veni Sancte Spiritus

When You See Ralph Vaughn Williams's Name On a Hymn...

...treat it as a sort of caution. The man made few concessions to congregations. You can always count on his tunes to veer off from the predictable. We sang, or tried to sing, "Hail Thee, Festival Day" at Mass this morning (I know, it's really an Easter hymn, but it's reasonably appropriate for Pentecost, too). I can handle the chorus well enough, but I get completely lost in the verses. As seemed to be the case for almost everyone else in our little congregation.

As a legatee of "the Anglican patrimony," which is about the only context in which we are supposed to use the word "Anglican" in discussing the Ordinariate(s), I'm entitled to refer to use Whitsun, Whitsunday, and Whitsuntide to refer to Pentecost Sunday and the week following it. This does not however come naturally to me. We did not use those terms in the Methodist church where I grew up, or even in the Episcopal church where I landed for a few years on my way to Rome. So the first thing that comes to mind when I hear "Whitsun" is Phillip Larkin's poem, one of his best: "The Whitsun Weddings." It's very much a post-Christian poem, a fact only emphasized by the presence of the word.


In the Ordinariate, we observe the Octave of Pentecost, which was apparently abolished after Vatican II. I'm going to be praying the "Come, Holy Spirit" prayer every day this week. God knows we need for wind and fire to sweep through the Church now. 


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Well, that one is particularly tough, but when the chorus comes around each time the congregation can sing with all the more gusto for having finally found stable footing again.

I haven't heard that hymn in many years, since I ceased attending Evensong at an Anglican parish.

Some of his other hymn settings are perfectly sturdy for amateur singers though: "All Creatures of Our God and King", "For All the Saints", and (my favourite) "Come Down, O Love Divine".

And, by the way, I believe it should be Ralph Vaughan Williams...

Ha. The thought of checking that passed through my mind but I ignored the warning.

I don't know "Come Down" but if I recall "For All the Saints" has a few tricky spots, though nowhere near as bad as "Hail Thee...".

I can't say I regained my footing at the chorus, because I didn't even venture into the verses.

The music of the verses on Hail is esoteric. I think the other hymns mentioned are reasonably accessible. People in congregations that I've been in sing it with gusto.

Reasonably, yes. But as I recall there are some sort of unexpected twists. Can't remember them clearly enough to say exactly what. I do wonder if "Hail" is really just meant for choirs. It includes passages that are meant for the men and women separately. I guess some congregations can handle it.

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