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Track(s) taken from CDA68013

Love divine, all loves excelling – Blaenwern

First line:
Love divine, all loves excelling
author of text

Westminster Abbey Choir, James O'Donnell (conductor), Robert Quinney (organ)
Studio Master FLAC & ALAC downloads available
Studio Master:
Studio Master:
Recording details: January 2013
Westminster Abbey, London, United Kingdom
Produced by Adrian Peacock
Engineered by David Hinitt
Release date: January 2014
Total duration: 3 minutes 21 seconds

Cover artwork: Westminster Bridge (detail) by Samuel Scott (c1702-1772)
Private Collection / © Agnew's, London / Bridgeman Art Library, London


'The recording is first class. Engineer David Hinitt and producer Adrian Peacock have successfully captured the rich acoustics and yet achieved a clear reproduction of the voices and the mighty organ. Anyone who has ever been in Westminster Abbey should be overwhelmed by the lifelike sound picture. The generous programme is also finely contrasted … the quality of the singing is on a high level and Robert Quinney negotiates the organ accompaniments excellently' (MusicWeb International)» More
Charles Wesley was one of the greatest hymnodists in the English language. With his profoundly theological imagination and solid devotional sense, he deserves to be remembered alongside such distinguished hymn writers as Venantius Fortunatus and St Ephraim the Syrian. He entered Westminster School in 1716, was a High Church tory, and reports suggest a young man ‘ebullient with an over-lively nature’. As an undergraduate at Christ Church, Oxford, he told his brother John: ‘My head will by no means keep pace with my heart!’ He was emotionally complex, subject to huge changes in mood and outlook, and we see something of this ecstatic spirit in Love divine. In May 1738, three years after his ordination, Wesley experienced an overwhelming sense of justification through grace by faith, and discovered what he described as a deep and intense peace. Of his 9,000 poems, nearly two-thirds are hymns. In old age Charles would compose hymns on horseback, and rush into his house shouting: ‘Pen and ink, pen and ink!’ This urgency chimes with someone who believed that Christian perfection was unattainable before death; ‘Changed from glory into glory’ only once we take our place in heaven, we may then cast our crowns before the God whose peace he had discovered.

Sung to a variety of tunes, perhaps its best-loved partner is Blaenwern, composed by the Welsh school master William Penfro Rowlands. The tune first appeared in Henry H Jones’ collection Cân a Moliant of 1915. Frequently heard at weddings throughout the English-speaking world, it was heard by the largest television audience in history, nearly two billion people, at the wedding of Their Royal Highnesses The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge in Westminster Abbey on 29 April 2011, for which James O’Donnell’s arrangement was specially made.

from notes by The Revd Dr James Hawkey © 2014

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