2016-05-01 Notes from the Bench

“Christ, whose glory fills the skies” by Harold Darke

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

 

Text:

Christ, whose glory fills the skies,
Christ, the true and only Light,
Sun of Righteousness, arise,
triumph o’er the shade of night;
Day-spring from on high, be near;
Day-star, in my heart appear.

Dark and cheerless is the morn
unaccompanied by thee;
joyless is the day’s return
till thy mercy’s beams I see,
till they inward light impart,
glad my eyes and warm my heart.

Visit, then, this soul of mine,
pierce the gloom of sin and grief;
fill me, Radiancy divine,
scatter all my unbelief;
more and more thyself display,
shining to the perfect day!

 

The sacred music of the English composer and organist Harold Darke (1888-1976) is among the core repertoire of Anglican choirs today. Darke was born in Highbury, London; he received his formal music education at the Royal College of Music and studied composition with Charles Villiers Stanford at Oxford. Darke later served as professor of organ at the Royal College of Music from 1919 to 1969. During his lifetime, Darke was considered among the finest organists in England. He held organist positions at Emmanuel Church, West Hampstead, St. James, Paddington, and briefly deputized as the Director of Music at King’s College, Cambridge during World War II. For fifty years, Darke was the organist at St. Michael’s Church, Cornhill from 1916 to 1966. St. Michael’s is a medieval, Anglo-Catholic, High Church parish in London that can trace its history to the early twelfth century. Darke initiated a lunchtime organ recital series at St. Michael’s in 1916 that established him as a city institution. This recital series has continued under the leadership of his successors to the present day. Additionally, Darke founded the St. Michael’s Singers and presented choral festivals. During these festivals, Darke championed the music of then little-known contemporary composers.

 

 

The majority of Darke’s compositions are choral or organ works, suitable for the Anglican liturgy, and are still performed today, particularly his settings for the Communion service and Evensong. His setting of “In the Bleak Midwinter” is frequently sung during the “Nine Lessons and Carols” service at King’s College, Cambridge and is considered one of the finest Christmas carols ever written.

Charles Wesley (1707-1788) is the author of the text, “Christ, whose glory fills the skies.” Wesley was a leader of the Methodist movement in England during the eighteenth century. He is credited for writing more that 6,000 hymns, many which are appear in numerous hymnals including nineteen of his hymns in The Hymnal 1982.

 

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