Sunday, September 28, 2008

Hymn of the Week--"Deck Thyself, my Soul"

This morning we sang in church one of the loveliest communion hymns the 1940 Hymnal contains: "Deck Thyself, My Soul, With Gladness." I've been searching around the web for something that gives the harmony correctly.

The cyberhymnals have all the words--indeed, an extra verse I didn't even know--but the music just sounds so awful. The best way to show anyone who doesn't know the hymn the way it should sound is to link this Youtube video of an Episcopal congregation and choir singing it during a procession. The only PC change I detect in the words is in the second verse. The line "Joy, the sweetest man e'er knoweth" has been altered to get rid of 'man'.

The hymn tune and, I assume, the harmonization, are by Cruger (with an umlaut over the u). Bach apparently wrote several things "based on" it, but while this one is very beautiful, I have to confess that I can detect only a distant relation to the original tune.

If you sing the hymn with attention, it's really impossible to come away gloomy. It has the effect that its words intend--inviting us to "leave the gloomy haunts of sadness" and rejoice in the opportunity to come and receive the Holy Communion, which Christ has provided for us by his great goodness and humility. Here is the first verse:

Deck thyself, my soul, with gladness,
Leave the gloomy haunts of sadness;
Come into the daylight’s splendor,
There with joy thy praises render
Unto Christ Whose grace unbounded
Hath this wondrous banquet founded.
Higher o’er all the heav’ns He reigneth,
Yet to dwell with thee He deigneth.


Ben Lowery said...

It is a wonderful hymn. There is an excellent recording by the choir of Trinity College, Cambridge. You can listen to it free on we7 It's track 8.


Lydia McGrew said...

That's a beautiful recording, Ben, thanks for linking. I'm getting only a short clip. Perhaps I need to look around more to see where to download the whole thing.

Ben Lowery said...

Ah, yes, I've just looked around the we7 website and have realised that it's only possible to listen to entire tracks free in the UK... sorry about that!

It's an excellent recording anyway and well worth downloading properly if that's the only way to fully hear it.