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June 7, 2020: Chorale Prelude on Nicaea by Healey Willan and Hymn 362 – Holy, holy, holy! Lord God Almighty!

Chorale Prelude on Nicaea by Healey Willan
and
Hymn 362: “Holy, holy, holy! Lord God Almighty!”

Music and Music Notes by Danny Corneliussen

(If you do not see the music mp3 icons below, please click on the June 7, 2020 title line above.)

In honor of Trinity Sunday, this week I picked an organ piece (by Anglo-Canadian composer Healey Willan) using the tune “Nicaea.” Most of you will recognize this tune right away. Its melody is by John Bacchus Dykes, and it is named after the Council of Nicaea (AD 325), at which was formulated the doctrine of the Trinity. The words that go with the tune Nicaea were written by poet and minister Reginald Heber in the early nineteenth century and include a beautiful paraphrase of Revelation 4:8.

Reginald Heber grew up in an English village, and after studying at Oxford, moved back home to take over his father’s parish–Hodnet, Shropshire, where he worked for sixteen years. During his time there, Heber worked on a collection of texts (fifty-seven in total) for hymns corresponding to the different parts of the church year. These hymns, however, he never saw published during his lifetime.

In 1822, Heber was appointed Bishop of Calcutta and was sent to oversee the Church of England’s ministries in India. He travelled widely in India and had many duties there, but he died just four years after arriving because of exhaustion, poor health, and suffering a stroke. After Heber’s death, his widow succeeded in publishing his fifty-seven hymn texts in a collection entitled “Hymns Written and Adapted to the Weekly Service of the Church Year.” Included in that volume is the hymn meant for this week, Trinity Sunday: “Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God Almighty.” Popular for many generations, this piece is probably now the most famous of all of Heber’s hymns.

Here now, I present my recording of Healy Willan’s “Chorale Prelude on Nicaea” along with my accompaniment for Hymn 362. Also included are the words for Hymn 362 as they appear in our hymnal. In our hymnal, this hymn has only a relatively minor alteration from the original text: the third verse line “though the sinful human eye” was originally “though the eye of sinful man.” Anyway, thanks very much for listening and reading/singing along this week. Best to everyone! -Danny


1 Holy, holy, holy! Lord God Almighty!
Early in the morning our song shall rise to thee.
Holy, holy, holy! Merciful and mighty!
God in three Persons, blessed Trinity!

2 Holy, holy, holy! All the saints adore thee,
casting down their golden crowns around the glassy sea;
cherubim and seraphim falling down before thee,
who wert, and art, and evermore shalt be.

3 Holy, holy, holy! Though the darkness hide thee,
though the sinful human eye thy glory may not see,
only thou art holy; there is none beside thee
perfect in pow’r, in love, and purity.

4 Holy, holy, holy! Lord God Almighty!
All thy works shall praise thy name in earth and sky and sea.
Holy, holy, holy! Merciful and mighty!
God in three Persons, blessed Trinity!