Charles Wesley’s inspiring words for Lo! He comes with clouds descending
were based on verses by John Cennick. Thomas Olivers derived the tune from a country dance, itself possibly by Thomas Arne, which he heard whistled in the street. This appeared in John Wesley’s Select Hymns with Tunes Annext
under the name ‘Olivers’ in 1765, and four years later Martin Madan in his Collection of Psalm and Hymn Tunes
produced a revised version called ‘Helmsley’. Vaughan Williams reharmonized it for the first edition of The English Hymnal
, and the descant is by Christopher Robinson, Director of Music at St John’s from 1991 to 2002.
from notes by Andrew Burn © 2006