Hyperion Records

Slane
Joyce Placzek used Jan Struther as her pen name, taking it from her mother’s maiden name J Anstruther. She was very well known as a writer, particularly for her novel Mrs Miniver. She was in continual contact with Percy Dearmer when he was preparing the hymn book Songs of Praise, and he wanted a hymn to help make this fine Irish tune better known. She was not herself a church goer, but produced this text, which can be sung by anyone with some faith in a divine being. It originally bore the title ‘All-Day Hymn’, and it does indeed carry us from waking, through working hours to evening and to sleep.

In the 1980s there was a considerable furore in the churches as some began to change the way in which we address God in our prayers and in our hymns from the old ‘thou’ and ‘thine’ style to the modern ‘you’ and ‘your’. One hymn book dared to revise all its old hymns into this way of speaking. In all the argument it was rarely noticed that there were a few hymns (very few, it must be granted) that had been addressing God in this way quietly and acceptably for some time. This hymn was one of them. It had appeared in 1931 and was almost immediately received into popular affection, for its tune, for its realism in praying for what we want and need to pray about, and for the warmth with which it expresses this.

The tune is typically Irish in its wide range and its ending on three repeated notes. Slane is a hill to the north of Tara in County Neath, where St Patrick is said to have lit a fire for the Easter celebration and thereby challenged the authority of the pagan king Laegaire mac Neill.

from notes by Alan Luff 2004

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