Hyperion Records

This is probably the oldest Christian hymn that survives complete. It was not a congregational hymn as we understand it, but was for the home, for the lighting of the lamps at sunset. It is a hymn of praise to the Holy Trinity, but within that above all to Christ, as the Light of the World. In the original it is not written in verses of repeating metre, and John Keble has kept this freedom in his translation. This however makes it impossible to set to an ordinary hymn tune. John Stainer was one of the leading musicians of his day. As Organist of St Paul’s Cathedral (1872–1888) he brought the singing of the choir to new heights; he moved to be Professor of Music at Oxford (1889–1899). Stainer wrote much church music, both for cathedral and parish use; he wrote and edited hymn tunes and carols, and this is but one of his many tunes still in use. He solved the problem of these words by writing a chant setting, a style that was popular at the time, although this is more elaborate than most. Despite this, it became very popular with congregations from its first appearance in the 1875 edition of Hymns Ancient and Modern. The name is a Greek word, meaning ‘revered one’.

from notes by Alan Luff 2001

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