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Hymn Tunes  from  the  British Isles

Settings  for  Organ

Volume I
(35 pages)

Prelude  on  Brother James’ Air  (2 pages)
Trio  on  Bryn Calfaria  (3 pages)
Rondo  on  Cwm Rhondda  and  Ton-y-Botel  (3 pages)
Postlude  on  Duke Street  (3 pages)
Prelude  on  Greensleeves  (3 pages)
Prelude  on  Nicaea  (3 pages)
Carillon-Toccata
  on   St. Anne  (10 pages)  
Four Verses  on   St. Columba   (4 pages)
Rondo  on  St. Patrick  and  Deirdre  (4 pages)

Notes

Prelude  on  Brother James’ Air   sets a familiar hymn tune from Scotland. Written by James Leith MacBeth Bain,  or ‘Brother James,’  as an accompaniment for the 23rd Psalm, it was first printed in London in 1915. Originally titled  Marosa  to  honor  the seventh daughter  of  a  friend  whom  he  had  christened, Bain's  melody eventually came to be known by its present name.  This  tonally congenial chorale prelude presents the hymn tune in tenor register, accompanied by loosely imitative counterpoint. The pedal part is minimal, used to assist the manuals for occasional sustained pitches. 
   
Trio  on  Bryn Calfaria  draws on a Welsh hymn tune by William Owen that was  first  published  in 1886, then subsequently included in  The English Hymnal (1906)  with  the  text, "Lord,  enthroned  in heavenly splendour."  Following  the  pattern  of Welsh melodies  represented  in  this  collection,  the harmonic  language  and  structure  are  set  in  a  late  Baroque  keyboard  idiom,  in  this instance  limning  a tightly imitative trio that presents its fugue-like subject in original and mirrored forms, with  the  hymn's  cantus firmus  melody  heard  in  the  soprano.  As  above,  the pedal  is used for occasional sustained pitches.  
      
Rondo  
on Two Welsh Hymn Tunes sets  John Hughes’ Cwm Rhondda and  Thomas  John Williams’ Ton-y-Botel  in a  late  Baroque  keyboard  idiom.  The first tune takes its name from the river valley and city of Rhondda and was written between 1905 and 1907.  Ton-y-Botel  ('Tune  in  a  bottle'),  also called  Ebenezer  in some collections, was extracted from an anthem by Williams and first published as a hymn tune in 1890. In both settings, the source melodies appear in the soprano voice,  and in each a rhythmic reorientation has displaced the original beat pattern by shifting  the  meter  from quadruple  to  triple.   This keyboard rondeau  for manuals offers some of  the  aspects  of  a  piece  de  clavecin;  its  rounded  structure (A-B-A)  is emphasized by  a  contrasting  change of  key  and  mood,  moving  from  B-flat  major  to  G minor  for the second tune, where dancing triplet figures animate the appearance of Ton-y-Botel.  The returning  statement  of  Cwm  Rhondda  can  be  abbreviated,  without  repeats.  
          
Postlude  on  
Duke  Street  sets  a  hymn  tune  that  first  appeared  in  a collection published in 1793; not until its inclusion in William Dixon’s Euphonia in 1805 was  it  ascribed  to  John Hatton  and  given the name  by which  it  is  now  known. The traditional melody is retained here with all of its original pitches and sequences intact,  but  the  tune  is  reset  into  flowing  notes of  equal  value. Each  successive  phrase appears in points of imitation sounded in treble voices in rolling eighth notes, extended into a cantus firmus pedal presentation (in augmentation). The harmonic language  and  textural  writing  call  for  bold registrations and an expansive tempo.

Prelude  on  Greensleeves  is  an  elaborate  chorale  prelude  on  an  English ballad tune;  although its origins likely go further back in time,  the  tune name first appeared in September,  1580 on two separately issued printing licenses for the title,  Lady Greene Sleeves, and  twelve  days   later  for  a  sacred  text  with the same  name.  The tune is  mentioned  in  Shakespeare’s Merry  Wives  of Windsor. Its familiar  hymn format  is  drawn  from  the  collaborative  efforts  of  Henry  Ramsden  Bramley and John Stainer, in their collection entitled Christmas Carols New and Old (London, 1871).  This  setting  begins  as  a  lilting siciliana, in  which  the traditional  modal English folk melody  emerges  in  long  note values sounded in the soprano. At mid-point, the  dancing dotted  rhythms cede  to  a plaintively  sighing  eighth-note  figure  (in  triple  meter); the  tune  shifts  to  the  tenor voice,  then  back  to  the soprano, accompanied  by  a  return  of  the  siciliana rhythm  and  opening  dance  figurations.   

Prelude  on 
Nicaea is a noble and stately setting, based on a familiar hymn tune composed by John Bacchus Dykes and first published in Hymns Ancient and Modern  in 1861,  where it appeared with its familiar text, "Holy, holy, holy!"  In keeping with the Trinitarian nature of the verse, the tune name was drawn from the Council  of  Nicaea  (A.D. 325).  The prelude opens with loosely imitative counterpoint in the manuals,  making use  of  a  rich  array of  dotted  rhythms.  Phrase  by  phrase,  the hymn tune appears  in boldly  augmented note  values  in  the organ  pedal  line.    
       
Carillon-Toccata on
St. Anne  is based on a well known hymn tune ascribed to William Croft, dating from the early 18th century and first published in London in 1708,  without  a  composer's  name  but with its present tune name.  It has also appeared as Leeds, attributed to  a  Mr. Denby;  in  Canada  the  same  melody was published with its now familiar text, "O God, our help in ages past," but with the name Chelsea. This large-scale setting of St. Anne offers a toccata in the late French Romantic organ tradition,  but  one  with overtones of  the  English  keyboard  carillon  in  which  pealing  bells  are  imitated.  The opening toccata figurations accompany an emerging thematic unit  of  three  phrases  based  on  the  hymn  tune  and  presented consecutively  in  tenor,  then  soprano  and  finally pedal voices.  A  developmental  section  follows  and eventually  cedes  to  a return  of  the  opening  toccata  and  its  theme,  all sounding over each  of  the  four phrases of  the  hymn  tune  presented  in  augmented  note  values  in  the  pedal.  The  coda  adds  a jubilant conclusion.    
       
Four Verses on St. Columba sets an Irish folk melody that was first ‘collected’ by George Petri (ca. 1855), and was later published in Charles Villiers Stanford’s  Complete  Collection of  Irish  Music  (London, 1902), prepared  for  the  Irish Literary Society. The tune appeared again in Hymns Ancient and Modern in 1904, and Ralph  Vaughan  Williams  subsequently included  it  in The  English Hymnal  in  1906  with  the text,  "King of  Love."  Its  tune  name  evokes  the  name of  Scotland's patron saint.  After  a  brief introduction,  four varied  verses  ensue,  the  first  utilizing  a  rhythmic  displacement  of  meter,  the  second presenting  a canon between tenor  and  alto voices.  After  a  brief  modulation,  the  third  variation  begins  in a  remote  key (A-flat),  then  finds  its  way through  a circuitous  route  back  to  the  original  tonic  key  (D Major)  for  a  fourth  variation  and briefly  imitative  codetta.         

Rondo  on  
St. Patrick  and  Deirdre  combines two traditional Irish melodies, the former adapted for hymn use by Charles Villiers Stanford and first published  in  1903,  the  latter  adapted  and  combined  with St. Patrick  by  Ralph Vaughan  Williams for  The English Hymnal.  The two contrasting tunes pair up to create a hymn structure of epic proportions in which the first tune is presented, then returns  with  its concluding verses  (abbreviated  ad  lib.)  following  Deirdre's  appearance.  The  same overall form  has been preserved  in  this  organ  setting,  with  a  distinctive  rhythm  shift  in  St. Patrick  that  introduces accented syncopations.  Individual fragments  of  each  phrase  are  isolated  and  echoed  on contrasting manuals and timbres throughout.  The mid-section of the rondo presents  Deirdre,  phrase by phrase,  in various contrapuntal  inversions  and  at contrasting  key  levels,  altering  the  period  structure of  the  original tune with  additional  repetitions.  St. Patrick’s  return rounds out  the  three-part  structure  (A-B-A)  and ends  on a strongly  affirmative  tonic  cadence.


Copyright © 2010  Ennis Fruhauf
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