Sing My Soul, His Wondrous Love
Musical Musings for Eastertide
by Sharon Downey
Tomorrow will be the fortieth day of Eastertide. We are fast approaching the end of the Easter season or the Great Fifty Days, culminating on the Day of Pentecost. Ascension Day is the end of the post-resurrection appearances of Jesus and the day we commemorate his ascension into heaven. The Sunday following, the Seventh Sunday of Easter, is also called Ascension Sunday. 

Former choristers of the Cathedral may remember singing Evensong on the Eve of the Ascension and singing Psalm 47 to a traditional Anglican chant by John Davy. The psalm begins, “Clap your hands, all you peoples,” and later in the psalm we would sing, “God has gone up with a shout.” 

Here is Psalm 47 sung by the choir of St. Paul’s United Methodist in Houston, Texas.
Many anthems have been written based on Psalm 47 using Myles Coverdale’s translation of the psalm. It begins, “O clap your hands” and later uses the phrase, “God has gone up with a merry noise” rather than simply, “a shout.” Following are two familiar settings of Coverdale’s translation of the psalm.

“O Clap Your Hands” by Orlando Gibbons
Sung by Choir of Royal Holloway 
“O Clap Your Hands” by Ralph Vaughan Williams
Sung by the Choir of King’s College Cambridge and the English Royal Orchestra

One of my favorite anthems for the Ascension is by Gerald Finzi, a British composer from the first half of the twentieth century. His anthem, “God is gone up” uses an unusual text by Edward Taylor (c.1642-1729). It’s a difficult anthem and one that we have sung a few times at the Cathedral.

“God Is Gone Up” by Gerald Finzi
Sung by the Wells Cathedral Choir

God is gone up with a triumphant shout:
The Lord with sounding Trumpets' melodies:
Sing Praise, sing Praise, sing Praise, sing Praises out,
Unto our King sing praise seraphicwise!
Lift up your Heads, ye lasting Doors, they sing,
And let the King of Glory enter in.
Methinks I see Heaven's sparkling courtiers fly,
In flakes of Glory down him to attend,
And hear Heart-cramping notes of Melody Surround his Chariot as it did ascend;
Mixing their Music, making ev'ry string More to enravish as they this tune sing.

If you are missing grand processions, rumbles from the organ and glorious hymn singing, here is a great rendition of a familiar hymn to stir your soul.  

“Hail the Day that Sees Him Rise”
from St Bartholomew’s Episcopal Church in New York City