2016-03-13 Notes from the Bench

“Hymn to God” by Eleanor Daley

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



Wilt thou forgive that sin where I begun,
Which was my sin, though it were done before?
Wilt thou forgive that sin, through which I run,
And do run still, though still I do deplore?
When thou hast done, thou hast not done,
For I have more.

Wilt thou forgive that sin which I have won
Others to sin, and made my sin their door?
Wilt thou forgive that sin which I did shun
A year or two, but wallow’d in, a score?
When thou hast done, thou hast not done,
For I have more.

I have a sin of fear, that when I have spun
My last thread, I shall perish on the shore;
But swear by thyself, that at my death thy Son
Shall shine as he shines now, and heretofore;
And, having done that, thou hast done;
I fear no more.


“Hymn to God” is a setting of a religious poem written by John Donne (1572-1631) and set to music by Eleanor Daley (b. 1955). John Donne was an English poet and Anglican priest. He took holy orders in 1615, was elected dean of St. Paul’s Cathedral in 1621, and was among the most celebrated clerics and preachers of his time. During Donne’s lifetime, a small group of admirers held his writings in high regard. However, during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, his poetry went out of fashion and was virtually unknown. Efforts to revive interest in his work were initiated by a small group of avant-garde readers during the late 1800s. Today, Donne is celebrated as one of England’s great writers of prose. Donne’s text, “A Hymn to God the Father”, captures the presence of God in our human dealings.

The composer Eleanor Daley was born and raised in Parry Sound, Ontario, Canada. She holds a Bachelor of Music degree in organ performance from Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario, and diplomas in piano and organ from the Royal Conservatory of Music, Toronto and Trinity College, England. She is currently the Director of Music at Fairlawn Avenue United Church in Toronto, Ontario, works as a freelance accompanist, and conducts choral workshops throughout Canada and the United States. Daley is a prolific composer who is admired for her sensitive interweaving of text and music, has hundreds of published choral compositions, and whose works are frequently performed, recorded, and publically broadcast. She has received numerous commissions and awards including the National Choral Award for Outstanding Choral Composition in 1994 for Requiem, sung by the choirs of All Saints’ in 2012.


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