2017 November 26: All Glory, Laud and Honor

November 25, 2018 10:30

“All Glory, Laud and Honor” arr. J.S.Bach (1685-1750) [ORGAN]
PFC Jacob Allen USMC, Tuba

“Immortal, Invisible, God only Wise”

Improvisation

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 there.

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 day, the organist was expected to precede each congregational hymn with a `prelude’ based on that hymn. The idea was to set the mood (as opposed to reminding the congregation how the hymn goes). In those days `hymns’ were called `chorales’, so these pieces are still known as `chorale preludes’.

In Bach’s chorale prelude on 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 as many as half of the organ pipes were devoted just to the pedal division, which would have made the tune “All Glory, Laud and Honor” positively thunderous (perhaps not a good idea in earthquake-prone Southern California!). Generally speaking pedal pipes are more expensive than the others because they are so large (they have to be large for the same reason that the tuba in the low register is larger than the trumpet in the high). So one way modern organ builders cut costs is to have a weak pedal division (after all, playing the organ pedals with your feet is a dying art anyway). Our organ is blessed with four low pedal stops — more than usual for this size instrument. But that doesn’t much matter, as the hymn tune in the pedal will also be reinforced by PFC Jacob Allen USMC on the tuba, so the hymn tune in the bass will `take no prisoners’! Boo-yah!

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