Jump to content
Mander Organ Builders Forum

Hail Thee Festival Day


Recommended Posts

I heard the hymn Hail Thee Festival Day for the first time in St Mark's, Berkeley USA a number of years back and was very thrilled by it. The wonderful David Higgs was the organist at that time and had (iirc) a Flentrop organ to play.

 

But it's a complicated hymn. Do any of our organists/choir people etc have any suggestions as to how one would introduce this to a congregation where there isn't a strong choir? I once tried it in my last parish and ermmm.... they swiftly gave up! :huh:

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I heard the hymn Hail Thee Festival Day for the first time in St Mark's, Berkeley USA a number of years back and was very thrilled by it. The wonderful David Higgs was the organist at that time and had (iirc) a Flentrop organ to play.

 

But it's a complicated hymn. Do any of our organists/choir people etc have any suggestions as to how one would introduce this to a congregation where there isn't a strong choir? I once tried it in my last parish and ermmm.... they swiftly gave up! :huh:

 

A stirring hymn, I agree, but fraught with risks. Strong nerves an two English Hymnals open on the music desk are a must if you are not going to be turning pages back and forth all the time, as is careful counting of verses - it's easy to get lost! We've had a few embarrassing moments in the past, particularly when singing in procession, and have decided to give it a miss in future. After all, there are plenty of other fine Easter hymns to choose from.

 

JS

Link to comment
Share on other sites

The tune to "Hail Thee, Festival Day" as it appears in the English Hymnal, rather like other hymn tunes by Vaughan Williams, is quite difficult for any congregation to sing and get right. I think one hymn book (I can't remember which) gives a version in which the printed rhythm is deliberately altered to match what nearly everyone actually sings. Of course, if you do it properly, with cantors singing the verses, the congregation only has to bother with the chorus and that makes life easier. I have to say that "Hail Thee Festival Day" is a hymn I avoid if at all humanly possible, much as I like processions.

 

Far better is "Hail, Festal Day" which I first encountered when I was a server at All Souls' Brighton in the early 1960s. The only churches I know of which definitely still use it are St Bartholomew's Brighton (Easter only) and All Saints' Margaret Street. There are versions for most of the the festivals of the Christian year and also of Lift High the Cross, There are about 5 different, but similar, tunes - all composed by the Rev. James Baden Powell (one time precentor of St Paul's Knightsbridge) and the one everyone knows is the Easter one in C major. I believe St Bart's Brighton (who always have a full orchestra on Easter morning) begin it with a massive, dramatic roll on the timpani whilst the procession forms and incence is put on & blessed. The good thing about these settings is that they are so easy, singable by anyone, and the tunes are easily memorised - the kind that once you have heard them they stick in your head for the next fortnight and crop up in your mind while you are doing the ironing or mowing the lawn.

 

I think you can still get one-off reprints of the Easter setting (which is the best) from either Musicroom or Banks. I have got the whole lot and could supply single copies for anyone wanting them (nearly 40 pages in all). They went out of copyright many years ago. I have only ever seen the words (only) in the old 2-volume Knotts/Novello "New Office Hymn Book" which is long out of print but they can easily be printed on sheets for the congregation.

 

Malcolm

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Like John Sayer, we too have had awkward moments with HTFD - this despite marked up copies and multiple hymnbooks. The congregation have had their own word sheet with just the appropriate Easter verses to make it clearer for them, (and there are different versions here and there of the text). I regret to say one Easter Day I suddenly could not recall which of the verse tunes I had just played (no wonder perhaps, having had services and rehearsals from 6am) and of course the words to each tune more or less fit the other. Embarrassing. The next year I decided that my young assistant should play it! The same thing happened . . . Processing with the choir however, I did note puzzled looks on faces of many of the congregation who to their credit did launch into the refrain. Now we do something else.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I like it, its a wonderfully stirring tune and really its not that difficult to keep track of which verse you're on. We use Common Praise which doesnt include "Hail the festival day" but does have "Christians lift up your hearts" which makes a wonderful processional hymn for Pentecost.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I like it, its a wonderfully stirring tune and really its not that difficult to keep track of which verse you're on.

I heartily agree with "Sotto Voce". HTFD is one of my favourites (having learnt it in an extreme Anglo-Catholic parish as a teenaged "Pupil-Assistant-Organist"), though (IMHO) all too rarely sung nowadays. I always use the syncopated rhythm as per EH (whatever other hymnals may say). The ends of the verses leading back into the refrain have a wonderful sense of inevitability. We deliberately used it for Evensong on tour a couple of times earlier this month and it went down very well.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

A stirring hymn, I agree, but fraught with risks. Strong nerves an two English Hymnals open on the music desk are a must if you are not going to be turning pages back and forth all the time, as is careful counting of verses - it's easy to get lost! We've had a few embarrassing moments in the past, particularly when singing in procession, and have decided to give it a miss in future. After all, there are plenty of other fine Easter hymns to choose from.

 

JS

 

Use the New English Hymnal; this will obviate the need to turn pages. If getting lost is a particular problem, try labelling the refrain 'A', odd-numbered verses 'B' and even-numbered verses 'C'. Follow a similar plan with the relevant sections of the music. This should reduce greatly the possibility of mis-counting verses - or playing the wrong part of the tune.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Please sign in to comment

You will be able to leave a comment after signing in



Sign In Now
 Share

×
×
  • Create New...