artsyhonker: a girl with glasses and purple shoulder-length hair (Default)
I'm sort-of following the Church of England General Synod this week. It is making me heartsick.

I know better than to try to follow the livestream: that way lies certain misery, and I can't really face it. But there was a very good speech by the Southern Prolocutor, bits of which ended up on Twitter, and he ended with Genesis 32.6 - "I will not let you go until you bless me."

That instantly earwormed me with a song we usually sing on Song Cycle, words by Wesley and tune from the shapenote tradition in the US. It's a sort of Christological exploration of Jacob wrestling with God.

Here's Maddy Prior singing an arrangement of it.

The words we usually sing are as they appear in the New English Hymnal:


1. Come, O thou traveller unknown,
Whom still I hold, but cannot see;
My company before is gone,
And I am left alone with thee;
With Thee all night I mean to stay,
And wrestle 'til the break of day.

2. I need not tell thee who I am,
My misery and sin declare;
Thyself has called me by my name,
Look on thy hands and read it there:
But who, I ask thee, who art thou?
Tell me thy name, and tell me now.

3. In vain thou strugglest to get free;
I never will unloose my hold:
Art thou the Man that died for me?
The secret of thy love unfold:
Wrestling, I will not let thee go
Till I thy name, thy nature know.

4. Yield to me now, for I am weak,
But confident, in self-despair;
Speak to my heart, in blessings speak,
Be conquered by my instant prayer:
Speak, or thou never hence shalt move,
And tell me if thy name is Love.

5. 'Tis Love, 'tis Love! Thou diedst for me!
I hear thy whisper in my heart;
The morning breaks, the shadows flee,
Pure, universal Love thou art:
To me, to all, thy mercies move;
Thy nature and thy name is Love.


I wonder if this would be sung more in churches if there were a good 4-part hymnody arrangement. The original of Vernon is in 3 parts with the tune in the middle, which is not a familiar format to most English congregations; there are some other tunes, but I don't think they're a patch on Vernon. The vocal range is a bit large, a minor tenth in Maddy Prior's version (and an 11th in the version we sing), but it doesn't stay high for very long, and there are definitely well-known hymns with a range of an 11th (e.g. Slane, usually sung for 'Be thou my vision').

It would probably only be an afternoon's work for me to make a playable 4-part arrangement with the melody in the treble, such that a typical parish with an organist would be able to do this.

Of course, that won't get it into any hymnals, which is the other reason it isn't widely sung; but that's another problem.

musing about how this sort of arranging might fit into a crowdfunded business model, for me )

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artsyhonker

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