It was a brilliant move to appoint the relatively unknown composer Ralph Vaughan Williams as music editor of English Hymnal
(1906). He brought a moral commitment to the search for the best in hymn tunes, and introduced much that was new and is now taken for granted. The most widely used of all his own tunes (if one excepts ‘Monk’s Gate’ which he re-created from a folk tune) is this one. With these words by William Walsham How, we are the pilgrim church singing our way to heaven to join the saints. But this is no mere drum-banging march: it is subtly contrived, as the rhythm of the alleluias shows. The opening four notes and the alleluias were in fact Vaughan Williams’s melodic fingerprints throughout his life.
‘Sine nomine’ simply means ‘without a name’. This is true of the tune, and can also be drawing attention to the fact that Vaughan Williams did not put his own name to any of his hymn tunes in 1906.
from notes by Alan Luff © 1999