A Saint's Get-Out-Of-Jail-Free Card
Text: St. Theodulph of Orleans (ca. 760-821)
Music: Melchior Teschner (1584-1635)
Tune name: ST. THEODULPH
Legend has it that while St. Theodulph was in prison around the year 820, on a certain Palm Sunday (the Sunday before Easter), the King of France, who had put Theodulph in prison, was processing through the streets on his way to the cathedral.
As the King passed below the prison tower, St. Theodulph began to sing a hymn he had written while imprisoned: “All Glory, Laud and Honor.”
The king was so moved by his song that he released him and declared that the hymn was to be sung on Palm Sunday every year from then on. (Hymnayr.org).
It’s hard to say if this is just a good story or if it is true. But it sounds good to me. A hymn as a get-out-of-jail card. Pretty cool!
This is an absolute classic hymn. It definitely makes the cut for my list of top 10 favorite hymns.
There are some great compositional lessons in this one.
Right off the bat we have a strong opening. It’s very similar to the Sol-Do opening. You know, when you start with the 5th scale degree on beat 4 (which is a G in this key) and the first down beat is the 1st scale degree (C in this key). Remember Hymn #66? That’s how it starts. Sol-Do. G to C in C major.
Hymn #69 has a similar leap to get started, but it’s backwards from what we normally hear. Instead of Sol-Do we get Do-Sol. Or, the 1st scale degree (the C) and then the 5th scale degree (the G). This has the strength of the Sol-Do but is different enough to already be fresh.
After achieving the G on beat 1, the tune steps up to the high C and then leaps to the top of the register hitting a high E. Not only do we get the full volume of the high E in the first phrase, the way the chord is voiced insures that it will be a robust loud chord. Both the bass and tenor are on a middle C. So the men are all singing in their upper register as are the women.
Any time you take the basses up to middle C, you can guarantee a big loud chord, unless it’s intentionally a quiet moment. In that case, the basses have to use their falsetto to create the quiet atmosphere.
And get a load of that alto line on the word “honor.” Yeah buddy! It starts as a suspension. Remember those? The F doesn’t belong to the chord. It came from the same F on the previous chord and now wants to step down to E to fit the chord. But before it does, it makes a brief pit stop to visit E’s lower neighbor, the D. Then it resolve. Mmm, lovely! And fun to sing.
These opening bars are se excellent with the elements mentioned in addition to the lovely moving thirds in the men’s parts in bar 3. The composer decides he likes it so much that he repeats it all in the 2nd line. I’m so glad. I want to hear it a 2nd time too.
By the time we reach the 3rd line we have high expectations of what’s to come. Right off the bat we get our 3rd hearing of the big high E chord from the 1st line. Of course it was repeated in the 2nd line, but not it starts the 3rd line.
If you look at the whole 3rd line at a glance, the soprano is basically in a descending pattern from start to finish. The bass follows suit until the end of the phrase, “David’s royal Son.” It’s as if we see Him descending from above to be with us on earth.
The bass part is quite active in the 3rd line with its running descending eighth notes and some delicious chromatic harmony. There’s the slightest bit of harmonic text painting on the word “Israel.” The D-sharp in the bass created a fully diminished 7th chord which resolves to the E minor chord on the “-rael” of “Israel.” It seems like microcosm of the story of the people of Israel. All their trials, their difficulty, their wandering in the wilderness, their captivity, being conquered over and over, etc. We get all that painted briefly in two chords on the word “Israel.” It’s as if the composer is saying, “yes, the King is coming, but His job is not an easy one, and His people need him after all the terrible struggles they’ve been through.”
Maybe I’m reading too much into those 2 chords. But it’s the kind of thing I would do when composing. Pack as much storytelling into the harmony as possible.
The regal nature of the hymn returns with “Thou David’s royal Son.”
The final line is, like the first, a majestic “royal” sounding phrase of music. The parallel 10ths in the soprano and bass that start the line lead to a rich 5 chord motion on the “com-” of “comest.” And I love the final cadence. At first glance it looks like a standard 4 chord to 5 chord to 1 chord cadence. But what appears to be a 4 chord if you only look at the tenor and bass on the “Bless-” of “Blessed” is really a 2 chord in 1st inversion. It’s a D minor 7 chord with an F in the bass. So it sounds just like a 4 chord with an added note, the D. Another regal harmony choice to finish off a powerhouse of a hymn.
What fabulous writing! We do sing this one pretty regularly, which I’m really happy about. I’m not sure all wards do, but it’s more familiar to most church members than many of the hymns in the section of the hymnal. Long may it live on!
That’s all for today. More praise music tomorrow.
Have a great Sunday!
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Commentary from “The Bench Warmer”
by Jason Gunnell, Organist
This is another fantastic hymn from long tradition in our book. So long a tradition, in fact, that the text is almost twelve hundred years old.
It is most commonly used on as the processional hymn on Palm Sunday to celebrate the triumphal entry of the Savior to Jerusalem days before his crucifixion and resurrection, ushering in the celebration of “Holy Week,” when Christian churches recognize and remember the events of the last week of the life of the Savior.
As we do nothing in our tradition to note or remember these events aside from talks on Easter (pardon my cynicism, but I say, if we are lucky… I’ve been to meetings or heard too many complaints that sometimes even the Easter talks don’t always talk about the events of this week), what a wonderful personal devotional it would make to contemplate on, remember, and observe these days and the essential role they play in Heavenly Father’s Plan.
This hymn is another that is fantastic! Interestingly, many denominational hymnals have arranged this hymn as a call and response, with the first two phrases a refrain using the first two lines of our first verse as the text for the refrain, and each couplet in a verse in the last two phrases. Thus the hymn ends on the music and text of the first verse “made sweet hosannas ring.” I find this manner of execution more fitting, as the music and text end on the higher C, rather than the low one.
This triumphal text and tune (the text is always paired with this tune) are regal in their nature and thus can be treated in a stately and triumphant manner. Thus I find the recommended tempo of quarter note equal to 96-112 to be a great suggestion. In fact, this may be the first hymn in our exploration that I would play at the slower end of the suggestion to maintain a regal and stately affect.
This hymn calls for a nice, supportive, rich registration. I would thicken the registration by using 16’ manual stops appropriately and chorus reeds to enrich the tonal palette. Thus I would use principal chorus through low-pitched mixture, fortifying the 8’ line with an Hautbois 8’, adding 16’ and 8’ reeds for the final verse.
Registration Starting Point:
Great: Principal 8’, 4’, 2’, Mixture, Flute 8’
Swell: Principal 8’, 4’, 2’, Flute 8’, String 8’, Nazard 2 ⅔’, Mixture, Hautbois 8’
Pedal: Principal 16’, 8’, 4’, Bourdon 16’, Flute 8’, 16’ Reed
Possible Final Verse Additions:
Great: Mixture, Trumpet 8’
Swell: Mixture, Bassoon 16’, Trumpet 8’
Pedal: 32’ Flue and Reed, Posaune 16’