Sitting at my desk on National Pet Day (April 11), I admit
that I sometimes struggle with that teaching-an-old-dog-new-tricks thing. On
one hand, I truthfully am always on the lookout for new music for our choirs to
sing – new texts, new or contemporary composers, anthems that have something to
teach us both musically and textually.
On the other hand, I often go after the old friends, those
hymns and anthems of which I am sure, those that I am convinced are great
marriages of text and tune, melodies that I love and texts that comfort
or inspire me. Although I am always elated when choristers and parishioners
tell me they love a hymn or anthem because of its text, I know that we all have
tunes for which we have simple affection as well… and for a plethora of reasons.
I admit that my mind goes directly to Christmas when I hear
the melody of the Offertory anthem for this Sunday (April 17). When I hear the
traditional French carol Noël nouvelet, my
mind immediately goes to “Sing we now of Christmas.” However, this happy,
buoyant tune has inspired writers of other seasonal texts, of which the hymn
and anthem “Now the green blade riseth” is one.
English priest John MacLeod Campbell Crum (1872-1958) wrote
this text especially for Noël nouvelet, and it is a worthy marriage of text and tune,
with his Easter images of rising, springing, waking and living. The melody
even “shoots” into the air like the green blade rising from the grain.
The composer of this anthem, Dr. Simon Lindley, is master of
the music at Leeds Minster (Cathedral) and civic organist of the Leeds Town
Hall. He is a widely published composer, conductor, organist and author. Our
parish music library contains a number of Lindley musical titles.
One of the best things about this hymn/anthem text is its
progression, from wheat lying in the dark earth for “many days” to “thinking
that never he would wake again” to coming forth at Easter. The final stanza is
an ultimate life lesson:
When our hearts are
wintry, grieving, or in pain,
Thy touch can call us
back to life again,
Fields of our hearts
that dead and bare have been:
Love is come again,
like wheat that springeth green.
by J.M.C. Crum)
Read an article about
J.M.C. Crum by C. Michael Hawn, Perkins School of Theology, Southern Methodist
Website of Simon Lindley is here.