2015-10-10 Notes from the Bench

“Alleluia! Sing to Jesus” by Rowland Hugh Prichard and William Chatteron Dix

A commentary on this week’s music by Dr. James T. Gerber, Music Associate

 

“Alleluia! Sing to Jesus” is a popular hymn of praise filled with biblical imagery. The richness of this text makes it appropriate for many liturgical occasions: particularly the Ascension, Eucharist, Christ the King, and for general use.

William Chatteron Dix (1837-1898) is the author of this text that was first published in his collection of hymns, Altar Songs, Verses on the Holy Eucharist in 1867 with the original title, “Redemption by the Precious Blood”. His text was later published in Hymns Ancient and Modern. Dix’s text is frequently sung with the melody Hyfrydol, a Welsh tune composed by the musician Rowland Hugh Prichard (1811-1887). The word “hyfrydol” means “joyful”. He composed Hyfrydol around 1830, which was first published in his collection, Cyfaill y Cantorion (The Singer’s Friend) in 1844 and later in Halelwiah Drachefn (Hallelujah Again) in 1855. Hyfrydol is a popular and versatile melody with other hymn texts paired with it, among them “Love divine, all loves excelling” in The Hymnal 1982 (#657) and in some hymnals, the Advent text “Come Thou Long Expected Jesus”.

 

 

 

Dix was born in Bristol, England. His father was a surgeon, an admirer of the poet Thomas Chatterton, and authored the books Life of Chatterton and Local Legends. Dix was educated for a mercantile career and was the manager of a maritime insurance company in Glasgow. Dix had a natural gift for the art of hymn writing and made many important contributions to modern hymnody. In addition to “Alleluia! Sing to Jesus”, other Dix texts that appear in The Hymnal 1982 are the beloved Christmas carol, “What Child is This?” and the Epiphany hymn, “As with Gladness men of Old”.

Prichard was a native of Graienyn, near Bala in Wales. Prichard’s melody has some usual characteristics. The range spans almost entirely within the compass of a fifth, except for one rise to the sixth scale degree in the final phrase. The repetition of the first two phrases suggest an AABA form, however, the final two phrases are a variation of the B-section phrases utilizing a different sequence of the descending notes.

 

 

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