2016-09-18 Notes from the Bench

“Draw Us in the Spirit’s Tether”  by Harold Friedell

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



Draw us in the Spirit’s tether;
For when humbly, in thy name,

Two or three are met together,
Thou art in the midst of them:

Alleluya! Alleluya!
Touch we now thy garment’s hem.

As the brethren used to gather
In the name of Christ to sup,

Then with thanks to God the Father
Break the bread and bless the cup,

Alleluya! Alleluya!
So knit thou our friendship up.

All our meals and all our living
Make us sacraments of thee,

That be caring, helping, giving,
We may true disciples be.
Alleluya! Alleluya!
We will serve thee faithfully.




The anthem “Draw Us in the Spirit’s Tether” is among those sacred choral works that is beloved by church choirs and congregations across denominational lines. The music was composed by Harold Friedell, one of the foremost church musicians, organists, and teachers in New York City during the early to mid-twentieth century. He held prominent organist positions at Calvary Church and St. Bartholomew’s Church and a member the faculty at the School of Sacred Music of Union Theological Seminary, where he taught composition and improvisation. Friedell originally wrote the music for Dearmer’s text as a communion hymn for Pentecost Sunday in 1945 and gave the melody the title “Union Seminary.” He later composed the choral anthem arrangement of this hymn, published in 1957, the year before his death, which is commonly sung by church choirs across the county.


The text for this piece was written by Percy Dearmer (1867-1936) in 1931. His poetry is filled with imagery of the Holy Spirit linking Christians of all times and places. Dearmer was an Anglican priest who received his education at the Westminster School and Christ Church, Oxford. He served as the Vicar of St. Mary the Virgin, Primrose Hill, London from 1901 to 1915. Dearmer was an advocate for the restoration of ritualism in the Church of England striving for art and beauty in worship; his most influential work on the subject was “The Parson’s Handbook” published in 1899. He was also one of the editors and compilers of the English Hymn, 1906; he provided texts and translations for this hymnal. Following his tenure at St. Mary’s, Dearmer focused on his writing and worked to affect social change.

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