18 September 2008


Some members of the S Thomas's PCC having asked for the restoration of the Asperges (which disappeared after the time of Canon Lucas; his association with our church began when he was a curate here in 1933 ... he died not long ago aged more than a hundred), and the rest seeming willing enough, I am wondering about the practicalities. If a Cantor is present, he can sing it; but without a Cantor the congregation might struggle. Purists will tut-tut about this, but I wonder if anybody knows a metrical version of it?

If not, perhaps it might not be hard to construct one. If one used the tune of Cwm Rhondda and allowed oneself a little dynamic equivalence in translating, one could start
Thou shalt purge me from my sins
With thy cleansing hyssop, Lord;
Thou shalt wash me white as snow ...

Any help welcomed!


Jacob Hicks said...

Father, there are certainly metrical versions but the only one that springs to mind at the moment is "Water of life, cleanse and refresh us" from the Celebration Hymnal. Your reaction might be that it's "not very S. Thomas'" but they use at it S. Andrew's, Clifton Rd., which is a very similar sort of place.

Anonymous said...

I say go for the traditional plainchant. It's a catchy enough tune and there are plenty of English adaptations. Same goes for the 'Vidi aquam' during Eastertide.

If you're comfortable leading your congregation in the singing, it works well to first sing the antiphon(Asperges me) and verse(Miserere mei Deus), then asperge the congregation in silence; return to the foot of the altar and finish it up singing the 'Gloria Patri,' antiphon, versicles and collect.

Gengulphus said...

…I wonder if anybody knows a metrical version of it?

Perhaps Isaac Watts's lugubrious metrical version will hasten you, Father, towards the plainsong/Latin option… Though it has at least one entertaining line.

Behold I fall before thy face:
My only refuge is thy grace:
No outward forms can make me clean;
The leprosy lies deep within.

No bleeding bird, nor bleeding beast,
Nor hyssop branch, nor sprinkling priest,
Nor running brook, nor flood, nor sea,
Can wash the dismal stain away.

Jesus, my God, thy blood alone
Hath power sufficient to atone;
They blood can make me white as snow;
No Jewish type could cleanse me so.

[Ps LI]

David Chislett said...

Dear Father,

I had the same problem over twenty-five years ago in an Aussie "bush parish" and slightly adapted the rendering of the Scottish Psalter.

Of course, it's better to teach a few people to sing the plainsong, but this sufficed for a while:

O Lord, with hyssop sprinkle me,
And I shall be made clean;
Yea, wash thou me, and then I shall
Be whiter than the snow.

After thy loving-kindness, Lord,
Have mercy upon me:
For thy compassions great, blot out
All mine iniquity.

All glory to the Father be,
All glory to the Son,
All glory, Holy Ghost, to thee,
While endless ages run.

I will email you a pdf with the words and tune.

+David Chislett

David Chislett said...

As for VIDI AQUAM, this a quite a good metrical setting, though it might just be a bit complex:'


+David Chislett

Rubricarius said...

I would endorse 'rev'd up's suggestion and use the plainsong setting. I understand the Tone 4 setting given in the Graduale was that used in Holy Sarum.

johnf said...

I fully support rev'd up's suggestion.

Go for the plain chant. anyone can sing plain chant...

...and it is beautiful.

It beats hands down the stuff I hear every Sunday.

Dexter Bracey said...

Sorry johnf, but not everone can sing plainchant. I agree it's beautiful, but only if it's sung by people who know what they're doing. Otherwise, it can be toe-curlingly awful!

johnf said...

William - I will concede that the Gradual of the Mass is generally complex and difficult to sing.

But the stuff we learned at primary school aged 10 or 11 is pretty straightforward; Credo 3, various arrangements of the Kyrie, Sanctus, Agnus Dei, Asperges and Vidi aquam, Salve Regina; the Mass for the Dead, including Dies Irae.
They are all 'tuneful' enabling people to anticipate the flow of the melody and join in. However, the Gloria we learned was always more difficult.

On Fr Rob Johansen's blog, the author has recorded 5th/6th grade schoolchildren in Michigan singing Regina Coeli beautifully and simply - though not of the quality of Solesmes, I wish we could hear it in my local Church.

Gengulphus said...

pretty straightforward… Credo 3, various arrangements of the Kyrie, Sanctus, Agnus Dei, Asperges and Vidi aquam, Salve Regina…

Hurrah! Absolutely! To say it can't be done is mere hand-wringy defeatism.

On Sunday we (a collection of spindly old ladies, eager young people far too young to have known the good old days, and many, many children, plus a tiny schola, and assorted others) sang the whole caboodle, ordinary and proper, as we always do, and a Salve after the Last Gospel.

No problem.

Dexter Bracey said...

My dear Gengulphus,I can only congratulate you on having such a talented congregation. I have heard too many congregations drone and warble their way through this stuff in a way that makes me long for a simple said service. And that,like it or not, is the way it is in most Englsh parishes. This started off as a discussion about how Fr H's congregation at St. Thomas might sing the Asperges: with all due respect to Father's flock, as a small congregation with little musical confidence, I would strongly suggest they go for a metrical setting.