2016-02-14 Notes from the Bench

“The Invitation” by Richard Webster 

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



Come ye hither all, whose taste is your waste;
Save your cost, and mend your fare.
God is here prepar’d and drest, and the feast,
God, in whom all dainties are.

Come ye hither all, whom wine doth define,
Naming you not to your good:
Weep what ye have done amisse, and drink this,
Which before ye drink is bloud.

Come ye hither all, whom pain doth arraigne,
Bringing all your sins to sight:
Taste and fear not: God is here in this cheer,
And on sinne doth cast the fright.

Come ye hither all, whom joy doth destroy,
While ye graze without your bounds:
Here is the joy that drowneth quite your delight,
As a flood the lower grounds.

Come ye hither all, whose love is your dove,
And exalts you to the skie:
Here is love, which having breath e’en in death,
After death can never die.

Lord I have invited all, and I shall
Still invite, still call to thee:
For it seems but just and right in my sight,
Where is all, there all should be.


“The Invitation” is a poem by the English poet, George Herbert (1593-1633) set to music by the American composer, Richard Webster (b. 1952). This work was commissioned by the 2012 Mississippi Conference on Church Music and Liturgy.


George Herbert is recognized as a skillful devotional lyricist whose writings are classified as “metaphysical poetry”, a style of 17th century poetry that comments on topics of love or religion and utilizes strong imagery and extensive metaphors to give the reader a more sophisticated understanding of the object of comparison. Many of Herbert’s poems have been set to music suitable for congregational singing, vocal solos, or as choral anthems. Herbert was an Anglican priest and a noteworthy orator. Prior to entering ordained ministry, Herbert served King James I in the Parliament of England. Following James I’s death, Herbert took holy orders and served the Church of England as the rector of St. Andrew’s Church, Lower Bemerton, Salisbury until his death. “The Invitation” is from his collection of sacred poems, “The Temple.” In this poem, Herbert speaks of the presence of God in Christ in the Eucharist and the communicant being invited to come and receive.

The composer, church musician, choral conductor and organist, Richard Webster is the Director of Music at Trinity Church, Boston whose compositions are heard throughout the English-speaking world. Webster is sought after as a choral clinician, has led choirs on tours of England, conducted workshops in the United States and South Africa, is the Music Director of Chicago’s Bach Festival, and has performed and recorded as an organist with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.

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