Tune filching

I don't know if Ralph Vaughan Williams was a good composer, but could the guy arrange someone else's tune?  Boy howdy.  Pick up any Anglican-based hymnal and check out the hymns attributed to him.  He usually started with a folk tune, such as Kingsfold, one of my favorites.

Decades ago we vacationed on a tiny atoll with a few cabins and a little lodge where they served dinner, and listened to repetitive playings of a CD called "The Divine Feminine," with a lot of pretty, sad string music, including Barber's Adagio.  There was also "Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis," which I forgot about until I heard it again in the heartbreaking storm scene in "Master and Commander," not recognizing the source.  Today for some reason I got to wondering whether the movie music was anachronistic, because it sounded 20th-century to me.  It turns out to be a tune Vaughan Williams filched from a 16th-century composition by Thomas Tallis, which he used in an early 20th-century Anglican Hymnal before working it up into the "Fantastia."  Too bad it didn't get picked up in any of the American Episcopal hymnals that I've got copies of, not even my old 1942 edition, because it's a corker of a composition.  Here's a choral rendition, followed by the Fantasia arrangement with a scrolling score:

The Anglican Hymnal #92 version uses lyrics that begin "When, rising from my bed of death":

When, rising from the bed of death,
O’erwhelmed with guilt and fear,
I see my Maker face to face,
O how shall I appear?

If yet, while pardon may be found,
And mercy may be sought,
My heart with inward horror shrinks,
And trembles at the thought;

When Thou, O Lord, shalt stand disclosed
In majesty severe,
And sit in judgment on my soul,
O how shall I appear?

But Thou hast told the troubled mind
Who does her sins lament,
The timely tribute of her tears
Shall endless woe prevent.

Then see the sorrow of my heart,
Ere yet it be too late;
And hear my Savior’s dying groans,
To give those sorrows weight.

For never shall my soul despair
Her pardon to procure,
Who knows Thine only Son has died
To make her pardon sure.


Kelly said...

The 1940 Episcopal Hymnal has the Third Mode Melody for hymn #424 (second tune)

I heard the voice of Jesus say,
"Come unto me and rest;
Lay down, thou weary one, lay down
Thy head upon my breast."
I came to Jesus as I was,
Weary, and worn, and sad;
I found in him a resting place,
And he has made me glad.

I heard the voice of Jesus say,
"Behold, I freely give
The living water, thirsty one,
Stoop down and drink and live."
I came to Jesus, and I drank
Of that life-giving stream;
My thirst was quenched, my soul revived,
And now I live in him.

I heard the voice of Jesus say,
"I am this dark world's light;
Look unto me; your morn shall rise,
And all your day be bright."
I looked to Jesus, and I found
In him my star, my sun;
And in that light of life I'll walk
Till traveling days are done.

Filching tunes was a fairly common practice before everybody decided that everything has to be novel. In his St. Matthew's Passion, Bach uses a motif that he got from Paul Gerhardt's hymn, O Sacred Head, set to a tune arranged by Johann Cruger, which was originally composed by Hans Leo Hassler. Authors did it, too.

Vaughan Williams was a great composer. He reminds me a little of the Pre-Raphaelites.

Texan99 said...

Cool, thanks!

Texan99 said...

When I went through the 1940 hymnal looking for all the entries under V.-W., I tried #424 along with the rest, but I didn't notice that it had two different tunes under the same number. It's the second tune that's the winner. I had printed one out from the Net by that time, too, but the arrangement wasn't as easy to play, somehow; this is better. Thanks so much! I'm going to see if I can get our choir director interested. How beautiful this would be vocally.

Texan99 said...

Ha again! It is in the current (1980) hymnal, under #692, though they've mistaken an incidental on the second line that makes the chord progression needlessly more boring. I don't know what the 1980 crew were thinking, but I haven't found a change yet that was an improvement. They took out good tunes, they replaced poignant lyrics with happy-slappy banal ones, and they removed the accompaniment from an astonishing number of hymns, adding the suggestion that they sung in unison instead. WTF. Really. It was as if they had been possessed by a convulsion of mediocrity.

Kelly said...

I had completely forgotten it was in the new one. I read your comment to my kids and we're all laughing hysterically at your assessment of the 1982. Convulsion of mediocrity. Brilliant!