Sublimity from St. Bart's

There are occasionally anthems, indeed marriages of text and tune, that give us a glimpse of heaven. This Sunday’s anthem at the 10:30 a.m. Offertory is one of them.

And how delighted I am that our CHC Choristers (grades 2-6) will join the Parish Choir for the first time this season to sing and experience this sublime music!

Great Russian choral music frequently includes numerous Alleluias, pronounced Al-le-lu-i-a in five syllables as opposed to normal four Al-le-lu-ia, and the choral textures set to this Russian pronunciation are usually captivating and sublime, to reuse my word.

The Alleluias of Friedell’s “Draw us in the Spirit’s tether” are such Alleluias. Whenever I teach this anthem to singers, I try to inspire them to experience its heavenly, other-worldly joy, splendor and peace – a gift from the Holy Spirit and not my doing.

Composer Harold W. Friedell (1905-1958) first served as organist and then organist and choirmaster of Calvary Church, New York. He taught on the faculties of both The Juilliard School and Union Theological Seminary. In 1946, he became organist and choirmaster of St. Bartholomew’s Church, New York - the “big church” on Park Avenue where he served until his sudden, tragic death of a heart attack in 1958.

“Draw us in the Spirit’s tether” was originally in hymn form written by Friedell during his Calvary Church years. The hymn version has become quite popular and is printed in numerous denominational hymnals today, not including The Hymnal 1982, alas.

Friedell later set his hymn in anthem form with organ accompaniment. It is the version that is so widely known and sells some 20,000 copies annually, as reported by my longtime friend and colleague Dr. Neal Campbell. He wrote his doctoral dissertation on the life and music of Harold W. Friedell (see hyperlink below).

Hymn or anthem, this melody, with its gentle rise and fall, is gorgeous, and the choral harmonies are luscious. Choirs love to sing this anthem, and its text merits printing here in full:

Draw us in the Spirit’s tether;

For when humbly, in thy name,

Two or three are met together,

Thou art in the midst of them: Alleluya!


Touch we now thy garment’s hem.

As the brethren used to gather

In the name of Christ to sup,

Then with thanks to God the Father

Break the bread and bless the cup: Alleluya!

So knit thou our friendship up. 


All our meals and all our living

Make as sacraments of thee,

That by caring, helping, giving,

We may true disciples be: Alleluya! 

We will serve thee faithfully.

(From Songs of Praise, Enlarged, Oxford University Press, 1931)


You may read Dr. Neal Campbell’s blog featuring further reading on the life and music of Harold W. Friedell here.

Posted by Dr. David Ouzts at 11:28