Saturday, February 7, 2009

All Hail the Power of Jesus' Name

Praise for the Lord #20

Discussion of this text is available under PFTL #19. If you are unfamiliar with the DIADEM tune being discussed here, there is a MIDI file available here.

The tune DIADEM by James Ellor (1819-1899) first appeared in 1838. Relatively little is known about Ellor except that he was an English haberdasher who emigrated to America, and that he was an amateur chorus director in Methodist churches.(Cyberhymnal)

This is a difficult tune for a cappella congregational singing, but is very pretty and worth the effort if the voices are available to cover all the parts. It was doubtless written for a choir accompanied by a small instrumental ensemble (a rendition of which can be heard here). Amateur choral singing has long been a vital part of English life, and thus there is a long tradition of such semi-classical choral works by a host of little-known composers.(Reynolds, 75) Though it was written in the 19th century, DIADEM owes much to the Baroque and Classical choral masterworks of Handel and Haydn, whose popular successes in London left an impression on English audiences that lasted generations.

The second half of DIADEM seems especially influenced by this choral tradition, even possibly partly inspired by the chorus "And the glory of the Lord", part 1 no. 4 from Handel's Messiah. See p. 12 of the PDF score provided by the Center for Computer Assisted Research in the Humanities); there is also a wonderful performance here by the Choir of King's College, Cambridge:

The use of long melody line in one part, accompanied by staccato interjections from the other parts, then switching roles, may be seen also in the second section of Handel's "Hallelujah!" chorus, part 2 no. 21 of the Messiah. Watch the video below of the Ambrosian Singers conducted by Charles Mackerras, at about 0:53 seconds in. Not my favorite performance--too big, too loud--but it scrolls the music as you listen!


Cyberhymnal. James Ellor.

Reynolds, William, and Milburn Price. A survey of Christian hymnody, 4th ed., ed. David Music & Milburn Price. Carol Stream, IL: Hope Publishing Co., 1999.

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