Hymn Tunes  from  the  British Isles

Settings  for  Organ

Volume I
(35 pages)

Prelude  on  Brother James’ Air  (2 pages)
Trio  on  Bryn Calfaria  (3 pages)
Rondo  on  Cwm Rhondda & Ton-y-Botel  (3 pages)
Postlude  on  Duke Street  (3 pages)
Prelude  on  Greensleeves  (3 pages)
Prelude  on  Nicaea  (3 pages)
  on   St. Anne  (10 pages)  
Four Verses  on   St. Columba   (4 pages)
 2021   Rondo  on  St. Patrick & Deirdre  (4 pages)        


Prelude on Brother James’ Air sets a familiar hymn tune from Scotland. Written by James Leith MacBeth Bain, or ‘Brother James,’ as an accompaniment for the 23rd Psalm, it was first printed in London in 1915. Originally titled Marosa  to  honor  the seventh daughter  of  a  friend  whom  he  had  christened, Bain's  melody eventually came to be known by its present name. This tonally congenial chorale prelude presents the hymn tune in tenor register, accompanied by loosely imitative counterpoint. The pedal part is minimal, used to assist the manuals for occasional sustained pitches. 
Trio on Bryn Calfaria draws on a Welsh hymn tune by William Owen that was first published in 1886, then subsequently included in  The English Hymnal (1906) with the text, "Lord, enthroned  in heavenly splendour." Following  the  pattern  of Welsh melodies  represented  in  this  collection,  the harmonic  language  and  structure are set in a late Baroque keyboard idiom, in this instance limning a tightly imitative trio that presents its fugue-like subject in original and mirrored forms, with the hymn's cantus firmus melody heard  in the soprano. As above, the pedal  is used for occasional sustained pitches.  
on Two Welsh Hymn Tunes sets John Hughes’ Cwm Rhondda and Thomas John Williams’ Ton-y-Botel in a  late  Baroque  keyboard  idiom. The first tune takes its name from the river valley and city of Rhondda and was written between 1905 and 1907. Ton-y-Botel  ('Tune  in  a  bottle'),  also called  Ebenezer  in some collections, was extracted from an anthem by Williams and first published as a hymn tune in 1890. In both settings, the source melodies appear in the soprano voice,  and in each a rhythmic reorientation has displaced the original beat pattern by shifting the meter from quadruple to triple. This keyboard rondeau for manuals offers some of the aspects of a  piece de clavecin; its rounded structure (A-B-A) is emphasized by a contrasting change of key and mood, moving from B-flat major to G minor for the second tune, where dancing triplet figures animate the appearance of Ton-y-Botel. The returning statement of Cwm Rhondda can be abbreviated, without repeats.  
Postlude  on  
Duke  Street  sets  a  hymn  tune  that  first  appeared  in  a collection published in 1793; not until its inclusion in William Dixon’s Euphonia in 1805 was  it  ascribed  to  John Hatton  and  given the name  by which  it is now known. The traditional melody is retained here with all of its original pitches and sequences intact, but the tune is reset into flowing notes of equal value. Each successive phrase appears in points of imitation sounded in treble voices in rolling eighth notes, extended into a cantus firmus pedal presentation (in augmentation). The harmonic language and textural writing call for bold registrations and an expansive tempo.

Prelude on Greensleeves is an elaborate chorale prelude on an English ballad tune; although its origins likely go further back in time, the  tune name first appeared in September, 1580 on two separately issued printing licenses for the title, Lady Greene Sleeves, and twelve days later for a sacred text with the same name. The tune is mentioned  in Shakespeare’s Merry Wives of Windsor. Its familiar hymn format is drawn from the collaborative efforts of Henry Ramsden Bramley and John Stainer, in their collection entitled Christmas Carols New and Old (London, 1871). This setting begins as a lilting siciliana, in which the traditional modal English folk melody emerges in long note values sounded in the soprano. At mid-point, the dancing dotted rhythms cede to a plaintively sighing eighth-note figure (in triple  meter); the tune shifts to the tenor voice, then back to the soprano, accompanied by a return of the siciliana rhythm and opening dance figurations.   

Prelude on
Nicaea is a noble and stately setting, based on a familiar hymn tune composed by John Bacchus Dykes and first published in Hymns Ancient and Modern in 1861, where it appeared with its familiar text, "Holy, holy, holy". In keeping with the Trinitarian nature of the verse, the tune name was drawn from the Council of Nicaea(A.D. 325). The prelude opens with loosely imitative counterpoint in the manuals, making use of a rich array of dotted  rhythms. Phrase by phrase, the hymn tune appears in boldly augmented note values in the organ pedal line.    
Carillon-Toccata on
St. Anne  is based on a well known hymn tune ascribed to William Croft, dating from the early18th century and first published in London in 1708,  without  a  composer's  name  but with its present tune name. It has also appeared as Leeds, attributed to a Mr. Denby; in Canada the same melody was published with its now familiar text, "O God, our help in ages past," but with the name Chelsea. This large-scale setting of St. Anne offers a toccata in the late French Romantic organ tradition, but one with overtones of  the English keyboard carillon in which pealing bells are imitated. The opening toccata figurations accompany an emerging thematic unit of three phrases based on the hymn tune and presented consecutively in tenor, then soprano and finally pedal voices. A developmental section follows and eventually cedes to a return of the opening toccata and its theme, all sounding over each of the four phrases of the hymn tune presented in augmented note values in the pedal. The coda adds a jubilant conclusion.    
Four Verses on St. Columba sets an Irish folk melody that was first ‘collected’ by George Petri (ca. 1855), and was later published in Charles Villiers Stanford’s  Complete  Collection of  Irish  Music  (London, 1902), prepared  for the Irish Literary Society. The tune appeared again in Hymns Ancient and Modern in 1904, and Ralph Vaughan Williams subsequently included it in The English Hymnal in 1906 with the text, "King of Love." Its tune name evokes the name of Scotland's patron saint. After a brief introduction, four varied verses ensue, the first making use of a rhythmic displacement of meter, the second presenting a canon between tenor and alto voices. After a brief modulation, the third variation begins in a remote key (A-flat), then finds its way through a circuitous route back to the original tonic key (D Major) for a fourth variation and briefly imitative codetta.         

Rondo on
St. Patrick and Deirdre combines two traditional Irish melodies: the first tune was adapted for hymn use by Charles Villiers Stanford and published  in 1903; the second tune was refigured by Ralph Vaughan Williams for The  English Hymnal, where it appears in combination with St. Patrick. The two contrasting melodies pair up to create a structure of grand proportions in which stanzas of the first hymn are presented, followed by Deirdre’s verse entry, and a return to the closing stanzas of St. Patrick.
    The same overall form has been preserved – but compacted – in this organ setting, with a distinctive rhythmic shift in the first tune that includes accented syncopations. Individual fragments of each phrase are sounded and echoed on contrasting manuals and timbres throughout. The
mid-section of the rondo presents Deirdre, phrase by phrase, and with restatements at different key levels, embellishing the original structure of the tune. St. Patrick’s restatement (which can be abbreviated ad lib.) rounds out the tripartite form (A-B-A) and concludes with an affirmative tonic cadence.