Twelve years after his Irish contemporary Thomas R Gonzalvez Jozé had composed his own setting (to the tune ‘Tara’) of ‘I bind unto myself today’ (1890) for the Irish Church Hymnal
, Stanford copyrighted his own version of the hymn of the Ancient Irish Church. Attributed to St Patrick the words (in a translation by Mrs Alexander) were arranged by Stanford to an old Irish melody which first appeared in The English Hymnal
published in 1906. Known as ‘St Patrick’s Breastplate’, the muscular text is based on St Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, chapter 6 verse 11: ‘Put on the whole armour of God’. St Patrick’s Breastplate
, which in 1912 was also arranged by the composer for organ, brass, side drum and cymbals, is a set of strophic variations in which the arrangement is continually varied chorally and accompanimentally. Verse 8 (‘Christ be with me’) diverges from the customary triple metre for an interlude in the tonic major. The final verse, in effect the doxology, returns to the minor for perhaps the most majestic variation, fertile in harmonic nuance and modal colour.
from notes by Jeremy Dibble © 1998