438. When Morning Gilds the Sky
st. 1 = Ps. 34:1
st. 2 = Rev. 5:6-14
st. 3 = Ps. 19:1
ref. = Heb. 13:15
This litany of praise to Christ was translated from an anonymous
German text, "Beim frühen Morgenlicht," thought to date from around 1800 (perhaps even the mid-1700s). The German text was first published in Sebastian Portner's Katholisches Gesangbuch (1828) in fourteen stanzas of couplets with a refrain line.
Edward Caswall's English translation, prepared from one of several variants of the text, was published in six stanzas in Henry Formby's Catholic Hymns (1854). Caswall (b. Yately, Hampshire, England, 1814; d. Edgebaston, Birmingham, England, 1878) published another eight stanzas in his Masque of Mary (1858). Like most other hymnals, the Psalter Hymnal provides a text taken from various parts of the Caswall translation.
A morning hymn (st. 1) as well as an evening hymn (st. 4), the text presents praise to Christ from angels and human creatures (st. 2) and from the elements of earth to the farthest reach of the cosmos (st. 3). In fact, this text is for all times and places: "Be this the eternal song"!
Caswell, the son of an Anglican clergyman, studied for the priesthood at Brasenose College, Oxford, England. He was ordained in 1839 and served the church in Stratford-sub-Castle but resigned his position in 1847. By this time he had become deeply involved in the Oxford Movement, an Anglican movement with strong Roman Catholic leanings. In 1847 Caswell and his wife traveled to Rome, where they were received into the Roman Catholic Church. After his wife's death Caswell became a Roman Catholic priest and joined the Oratory of St. Philip Neri in Birmingham, a group supervised by John Henry Newman, an earlier Roman Catholic convert from the Church of England. Caswell then devoted himself to two main tasks–serving the poor of Birmingham and writing and translating hymns, mainly from the Latin office-books and from German sources. Many of his translations were published in his Lyra Catholica (1849) and, with revisions, in Hymns and Poems (1873).
Many occasions as a hymn of praise to Christ; a hymn for all seasons and all times of worship–morning, midday, or evening; could also frame the day of worship with stanzas 1-3 used at the beginning of morning worship and stanzas 4-5 used as a doxology for evening worship.
--Psalter Hymnal Handbook
Joseph Barnby (b. York, England, 1838; d. London, England, 1896) composed LAUDES DOMINI for this text. Tune and text were published together in the 1868 Appendix to Hymns Ancient and Modern and they have been inseparable ever since. An accomplished and popular choral director in England, Barnby showed his musical genius early: he was an organist and choirmaster at the age of twelve. He became organist at St. Andrews, Wells Street, London, where he developed an outstanding choral program (at times nicknamed "the Sunday Opera"). Barnby introduced annual performances of J. S. Bach's St. John Passion in St. Anne's, Soho, and directed the first performance in an English church of the St. Matthew Passion. He was also active in regional music festivals, conducted the Royal Choral Society, and composed and edited music (mainly for Novello and Company). In 1892 he was knighted by Queen Victoria. His compositions include many anthems and service music for the Anglican liturgy, as well as 246 hymn tunes (published posthumously in 1897). He edited four hymnals, including The Hymnary (1872) and The Congregational Sunday School Hymnal (1891), and coedited The Cathedral Psalter (1873).
LAUDES DOMINI is one of Barnby's better tunes; many others have been forgotten or charitably retired by hymnal committees. The tune's Latin title, which means "the praises of the Lord," is derived from the litany refrain.
LAUDES DOMINI's most notable element is its built-in retard in the final phrase. Sing the stanzas in antiphonal fashion but have the entire congregation sing the refrain. Use strong organ accompaniment with a bit more stately tempo on the fifth stanza. Do not add any further ritardando to the final phrase; the composer has already provided it.
--Psalter Hymnal Handbook