2 May 2023


 The pp "had a great gift of harnessing sentiment to the objectivity of the Catholic religion and often there was a soloist in the gallery singing something like Gounod's 'The Holy City' at Benediction  while the May Carol was always sung to the jolly tune of 'the Lincolnshire Poacher'."

Of which long-closed Oxford Anglican church was that written? Which Marian hymn was the 'May Carol'? I am far from being a musician ... I am hardly even a metrician.

So when a couple of decades ago I went to S Giles Reading to preach a Marymonth sermon for the admirable Fr Melrose, I arrived to be astonished by hearing the choir practising the Eton Boating Song (I'll sing a song to Mary, The Mother of my God). (Eton is a large school near Slough.)

But, when I got back to S Thomas the Martyr, I did my best to play the game of matching up 'ultra-Catholic' hymns to well known 'Anglican' tunes. My English Catholic Hymn Book (1930s) still has the pencilled notes which remind me of that period of my priestly ministry.  It came upon the midnight clear, even on the warmest May mornings, enabled my congregation to sing Fr Faber's O Mother! will it always be ... . 

Once in Royal, wrested manfully by me from the choristers at King's, facilitated our rendering, at Corpus Christi in June, of When the Patriarch was returning. (Since Abraham pops up each morning in the Canon of the Mass; and twice daily in the Gospel Canticles of the Divine Office; why does he feature so rarely in our popular Catholic devotion?)

And O my tongue the praise and honours Of the Mother-Maid rehearse, rather surprisingly, went nicely to the tune of Through the night of doubt and sorrow.

Even in October, you might have heard us using the tune of The Day of Resurrection to sing Queen of the Holy Rosary! O bless us we pray.

Last year, Philip Egan, Catholic Bishop of Portsmouth, encouraged the use in May of The happy birds Te Deum sing  'Tis Mary's month of May ... superb old Anglican hymn.

That's what I call real Ecumenism.   


Joshua said...

"When the Patriarch was returning" - what happy memories arise of singing this at Sacred Heart, New Town, in the nineteen nineties, when the parish priest, Fr Geoffrey Jarrett, now Bishop Emeritus of Lismore, N.S.W., beautified the church and the liturgy there with good art, good music, good preaching, and the devout celebration of the Mass. As you may gather from this brief allusion, Father, having been trained at Kelham by the Society of the Sacred Mission, was a convert from Anglicanism, received into the Church just before the end of the Second Vatican Council, and (re)ordained in the early seventies; he once mentioned to me that he had been ordained five times. Ad multos annos, Pater reverende!

√Čamonn said...

The same Lincolnshire Poacher so beloved of Cold War spies?

Colin Spinks said...

I am given to understand that St Mary's Bourne Street sing the O salutaris hostia at Benediction to the tune of Jerusalem!

Shaun Davies said...

That surely was Ecclesia Sancti Pauli, Walton Street in the days of Fr Roger Wodehouse and it would have been The Happy Birds -- I prefer the tune used at St Paul's, West Street, Brighton THE HOLY WELL (found in Hymns Ancient and Modern) although most people will prefer The Lincolnshire Poacher. Tantum Ergo to the tune of Once in Royal David's City was used at a prep school where I taught some years ago.