Fields of Our Hearts

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.                                                            
(text by J.M.C. Crum)

Read an article about J.M.C. Crum by C. Michael Hawn, Perkins School of Theology, Southern Methodist University, here.

Website of Simon Lindley is here.

Posted by Dr. David Ouzts at 13:18