Sing My Soul, His Wondrous Love
Musical Musings for Eastertide
by Sharon Downey

We are coming to the end of the Easter season. This Sunday will be the Day of Pentecost, coming fifty days after Easter and when we celebrate the gift of the Holy Spirit and the sending out of the church into the world. In the Pentecost version of the hymn, “Hail Thee, Festival Day,” the text of the refrain is:

Hail thee, festival day! Blest day that art hallowed for ever,
day when the Holy Ghost shone in the world with God’s grace.

We would have sung this hymn at the beginning of our worship service. Many attending the service would have been wearing red. The flowers on the altar and surrounding the Paschal Candle would have been red. The clergy would have been wearing red vestments. We may have had baptisms or would have renewed our own baptismal vows. We would have said The Lord’s Prayer in many different languages simultaneously, creating the effect of speaking in tongues. You may read more about Pentecost at An Episcopal Dictionary of the Church here .
Another Pentecost hymn, and my favorite, is “Come Down, O Love Divine.” The text was translated by R. F. Littledale in 1867 from a text written in the fourteenth century by Bianco da Siena. The tune Down Ampney was composed by Ralph Vaughan Williams for this text in 1906, and he chose to use his hometown as the tune name. There are 4 verses sung on the recording from King’s College but only 3 in our hymnal, The Hymnal 1982.

Come down, O Love divine, seek thou this soul of mine, and visit it with thine own ardor glowing; O Comforter, draw near, within my heart appear, and kindle it, thy holy flame bestowing.

O let it freely burn, till earthly passions turn to dust and ashes in its heat consuming; and let thy glorious light shine ever on my sight, and clothe me round, the while my path illuming. 

(Omitted verse) Let holy charity Mine outward vesture be And lowliness become mine inner clothing; True lowliness of heart, Which takes the humbler part, And o’er its own shortcomings weeps with loathing.

And so the yearning strong, with which the soul will long, shall far outpass the power of human telling; for none can guess its grace, till Love create a place wherein the Holy Spirit makes a dwelling.

“Come Down, O Love Divine”
Down Ampney
Kings College, Cambridge
A Pentecost anthem we have sung many times at the Cathedral is “Listen, Sweet Dove” by Grayston Ives. The text is by George Herbert and is from “Whitsunday” in The Temple.

Listen sweet Dove unto my song, And spread thy golden wings in me;
Hatching my tender heart so long, Till it get wing, and flie away with thee.
Such glorious gifts thou didst bestow, That th’ earth did like a heav’n appeare; The starres were coming down to know If they might mend their wages, and serve here. The sunne, which once did shine alone, Hung down his head, and wisht for night, When he beheld twelve sunnes for one Going about the world, and giving light. Lord, though we change, thou art the same; The same sweet God of love and light: Restore this day, for thy great name,
Unto his ancient and miraculous right.

"Listen Sweet Dove"
Grayston Ives
Sung by Guilford Cathedral Choir

The Cathedral Sings and Plays

We have a special guest performer for this week’s edition. Lauren, a member of St. Mark’s in Erie and my neighbor, played an arrangement of “Spring” from Antonio Vivaldi’s The Seasons. Thank you, Lauren, for recording for us!

A Season of Alleluias

We’re not saying farewell to Alleluia as we do in Lent, but the time has come for fewer Alleluias to be spoken. For one last time as we approach Pentecost, listen to the voices of our youngest members proclaim their best Alleluias!