Let All Mortal Flesh

It has to be unique in my experience of playing weddings: “Let All Mortal Flesh” for Communion. I’ve sung the tune lots, but never played it much–not on guitar. The small group (two singers, violinist, plus me) providing music ministry at a colleague’s wedding this Saturday had a great (but long) rehearsal tonight. For me the highlight was when it was suggested I bring out my guitar for the Communion song.

I dropped the lowest string down to D (this is called drop-D tuning) and played around with altered chords, the open harmonics, hammer-ons and -offs, and some percussion. Getting all four down at the same time is going to take some work. But I’m psyched to get this humming by the wedding day.

I have to say the guitar arrangement in Gather Comprehensive … stinks. Where did they find these clunkers? They should have hired me to give them some nice artistic guitar arrangements. These tunes are in the public domain, so I can pretty much play whatever I can come up with and go with it. If I get a nice recording of it, I’ll post it later.

The text of the hymn:

Let all mortal flesh keep silence,
And with fear and trembling stand;
Ponder nothing earthly minded,
For with blessing in His hand,
Christ our God to earth descendeth,
Our full homage to demand.

King of kings, yet born of Mary,
As of old on earth He stood,
Lord of lords, in human vesture,
In the body and the blood;
He will give to all the faithful
His own self for heavenly food.

Rank on rank the host of heaven
Spreads its vanguard on the way,
As the Light of light descendeth
From the realms of endless day,
That the powers of hell may vanish
As the darkness clears away.

At His feet the six wingèd seraph,
Cherubim with sleepless eye,
Veil their faces to the presence,
As with ceaseless voice they cry:
Alleluia, Alleluia
Alleluia, Lord Most High!

Pretty good for a wedding, eh?

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About catholicsensibility

Todd and his family live in Ames, Iowa. He serves a Catholic parish of both Iowa State students and town residents.
This entry was posted in Liturgical Music, Songlist. Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Let All Mortal Flesh

  1. One of my favorite hymns! It’s great for Christmas too. But we’re weird that way.

    I did an arrangement of it in Cmin, lots of min7s and relative Major harmonies, with SAT choral arrangement. Purists will hate this, but I evened out the measures also. Had to–learned it that way when I was eight and singing with the adult choir at church. We sang PICARDY with Good Friday text. I’ve never been able to find those texts since…something about the cross of Christ. Anyone know of it?

  2. Randolph Nichols says:

    I’m not surprised that guitarists would be drawn to this tune. It could have conceivably have been accompanied by lute when it was first performed in the 17th century.

    Indeed, the plaintive character of the music with its slow harmonic rhythm presents challenges when arranging for organ. The most popular keyboard harmonization of course is from The English Hymnal; Ted Marier has an interesting variation in ‘Hymns, Psalms and Spiritual Canticles’; and though I generally don’t care for many of Randall DeBruyn’s hymn OCP accompaniments, his imitative treatment of Picardy is useful.

    Perhaps the best thing to be said for Picardy is that it is one of the few hymns that seem to bridge ideological divides.

  3. In addition to being a really neat hymn, and one which drew my love back in the deep, abysmal days when I was an Anglican, the above-mentioned hymn also has deep roots in Orthodoxy.

    Which is to say, this was the communion hymn used by the ancient Liturgy of St. James. It is also used in the liturgy of Great and Holy Saturday (the day before Pascha).

    And while I dearly love Picardy as a tune, may I also suggest this one, a Carpatho-Rusyn chant which may be found here:

    http://www.grkat.nfo.sk/hudba/zbors22.mp3.

    Oh, and you can find a lot of other really neat Carpatho-Rusyn stuff here:

    http://www.grkat.nfo.sk/hudba/index.html

    Enjoy.

  4. I’m terribly sorry. I gave you the general site in Slovakian. For the site in English, may I recommend:

    http://www.grkat.nfo.sk/eng/music.html

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