2017 November 26: All Glory, Laud and Honor
“All Glory, Laud and Honor” arr. J.S.Bach (1685-1750) ORGAN
“Immortal, Invisible, God only Wise”
The original Latin words to “All Glory, Laud and Honor" were written by Theodulph of Orleans (760-821). Theodulph was born into the Italian nobility, but decided on a life of religious service. His first position was as abbot of a monastery in Firenze (Florence), Italy. In 781, Charlemagne appointed him Bishop of Orleans, France. However, his flourishing career came to an abrupt end with Charlemagne’s death. Louis the Pious suspected Theodulph of secret loyalty to political leaders in Italy, the country of his birth. These suspicions led to Theodulph’s imprisonment in Angiers in 818. It was there he wrote “All Glory, Laud and Honor”, and later died.
We owe the translation of Theodulph’s hymn into English to John Mason Neale (1818-1866). Neale received his education at Cambridge, and although acknowledged the best classicist in his graduating year (at a time when Greek and Latin were highly valued), his inability with mathematics prevented him from taking an honors degree. Neale was ordained in 1841, but his sympathies were for a strongly ‘high church’ approach to Christianity, which was mistaken by both his congregation and bishop as promoting Roman Catholicism. This resulted in him being ’transferred’ to the position of warden at an alms house – a position which he held until his death. Neale was even attacked and mauled at a funeral, and from time to time unruly crowds threatened to stone him or burn his house.
Nevertheless, Neale translated the Eastern liturgies into English, and wrote a mystical and devotional commentary on the Psalms. He also enriched English hymnody with many ancient and medieval hymns translated from Latin and Greek, including “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” and “Of the Father’s Love Begotten”. And in 1854 Neale co-founded the Society of Saint Margaret, an order of women in the Church of England dedicated to nursing the sick.
In Bach’s setting of this hymn, you’ll find the hymn tune stated with majestic slowness in the organ pedals (the bass, played with my feet). In Bach’s day organs frequently had far more powerful pedal divisions than modern instruments, which would have made the tune “All Glory, Laud and Honor” even more thunderous. (I’ll have ALL the pedal stops engaged to approximate the effect as best I can!)