Holy God and Holy Saints

I had a method to my madness on this music poll. Honest. But with this week’s crash, I know I wasn’t able to construct the brackets totally from memory. A seasonal song or two was dropped, and I looked at some new polling sites, not recalling all the places I visited setting up this tournament. But since I never posted the brackets, you won’t know the difference. I hope.

Let’s resume the dance with a red regional match up between an NPM top-ten, “Holy God, We Praise Thy Name” and a “seasonal” offering for all the saints:

Many Catholics are unaware that “Holy God” is a paraphrase of the classic hymn Te Deum.  It likely wouldn’t pass muster in the age of Liturgiam Authenticam, but there’s no question it’s one of the top organ hymns in the contemporary Catholic consciousness. Somewhere in my personal music archives, I have a mimeographed copy, barely readable, of a St Louis Jesuit arrangement of the tune. No kidding. The text we know was originally German, and dates to the time of the American Revolution. According to hymnary.org, the Empress of Austria thought German Catholics needed a metrical setting of the Te Deum. Yet another musical priest, Ignaz Franz, published it as one of his forty-seven contributions to the 1774 hymnal, Ka­thol­isch­es Ge­sang­buch. German immigrants probably did the leg work getting it over to America from there. Clarence Walworth of upstate New York, is credited as “loosely” translating the German text. His life’s story, brief as it is given on the hymnary site, seems fascinating:

Walworth was born into a Presbyterian home. After studying at Union College in Schenectady, New York, he was admitted to the bar in 1841. His interest in theology led to studies for the Episcopalian ministry at General Theological Seminary in New York City, but under the influence of the Oxford Movement he became a Roman Catholic in 1845 and joined the Redemptorist Order. … One of the founders of the Paulist Order, he fought industrial abuses, took up the cause of Native Americans on the St. Regis reservation, and wrote poetry and hymns.

“For All The Saints” may be a lower seed, but it was written by a higher-up, an Anglican bishop, William Walsham How. It was first published during another American war, the Civil. Did you know the full original text has eleven verses? Me neither.

The Vaughn-Williams tune, SINE NOMINE, came about fifty years later, and I’ve never seen another melody attached to this text. It’s not one of V-W’s folk songs, I’m pretty sure. It has that modernish fanfare tone of many Anglican tunes. It’s also hard to find full SATB harmonizations.

Oh, and a note about one up-in-the-air poll from several days’ back. Since I wasn’t able to close the curtain on a strict 72-hour window, I find that Silent Night and Salve Regina are so close so as to consider them as going to “overtime.” I’ll give you voters till the end of today, midnight central time, to nudge the 18-17 result one way or the other.

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Todd and his family live in Ames, Iowa. He serves a Catholic parish of both Iowa State students and town residents.
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6 Responses to Holy God and Holy Saints

  1. Randolph Nichols says:

    Anyone know why some Protestant hymnals (such as The Hymnal 1982) do not repeat the”Holy God, We Praise Thy Name” phrase that begins “Infinite thy vast domain . . .” Was the repeat in the original that dates from around 1774?

    Also, the tune name varies. “It’s called Te Deum in my parish hymnal, but Grosser Gott in just about every other. Which is original?

    • Karl says:

      Re Grosser Gott, my handy Hymnal 1940 Companion explains as follows:

      “This portion of the popular versified German Te Deum first appeared in the Katholisches Gesangbuch of the Austrian empress, Maria Theresa, in Vienna, 1774. Four years later an altered version beginning “Herr und Gott, wir loben dich,” was published in Ignaz Franz’ Gesangbuch, so that the text has subsequently been frequently attributed to Franz, although it been published anonymously in the above form [Grosser Gott, wir loben dich et cet.] at least twice previously. This English version [in the 1940 Hymnal] of the first section only of the Te Deum was made by the Committee on Translations, JCRH, based in part on a previous version by Clarence Augustus Walworth. The tune, Te Deum, is folk in style. It first appeared in the 1774 collection noted above, as follows: [showing a different melody, though obviously kin to the present version]. The full history of the tune is traced in Baeumker, Katholische deutsche Kirchenlied, III, 285-7. The present version first appeared in Bone’s Cantate, 1852. For another version, cf. Hursley, no. 166.”

      I suspect the designation of TE DEUM as tune name is designed to finesse the issue of the two German text incipit variations.

    • Karl says:

      Btw, the Germans don’t appear to do the repeat (nor the passing tones).

  2. Katherine says:

    Also, I suspect most Catholics have not seen the long version (7 or 8 verses rather than the usual 3) that covers the Te Deum text more completely.
    It would be useful for a long entrance or recessional procession.

    I recall reading somewhere the suggestion that if one had to select a hymn that most English-speaking Catholics would know, this would be it. (The context was discussion of how the Carmelite nuns martyred in the French Revolution had gone to the guillotine singing. The question was posed, what could we sing, from memory, as an expression of common faith?)

    • Karl says:

      Yes, HGWPTN would be that one for English-speaking Catholics, no doubt. Let’s just be sure it’s the version of the melody with passing tones….

    • Jimmy Mac says:

      Those of us of an older generation remember this hymn well because Benediction was one of the few times we were allowed to sing as a congregation and this was the only hymn that was done in English.

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