Hymn of the Week: January 16
by Ed Hanson, Music Director
Calvary Episcopal Church, Columbia
Christ, Whose Glory Fills the Skies
This popular hymn, found in 445 different hymnals (hymnary.org), was written by the prolific hymn writer Charles Wesley. The Episcopal Hymnal 1982 has two settings of the lyrics; Hymn Tune #6 (“Christ Whose Glory”, by Malcolm Williamson) and Hymn Tune #7 (“Ratisbon”, credited from a collection of German tunes dated 1524, adapted and harmonized by William Henry Havergal). Another popular setting of the words is to a tune called “Lux Prima”, by the French composer Charles Gounod.
The author Charles Wesley (1707-1788) has been credited with writing over 6500 hymns, and more than twenty settings of his lyrics are found in Hymnal 1982. Charles was the youngest son and 18th child of Samuel and Susanna Wesley, and his father Samuel was an Anglican cleric. Widely regarded as one of the greatest hymn writers, Charles was also an Anglican cleric and worked in the Colonies for many years with his brother John to spread the Methodist doctrine before returning to England.
“Ratisbon” has a stately presence to it, and we often use it as a processional hymn, welcoming the morning and our opportunity to worship. For the Epiphany season, the poetry’s reference to “Christ the true, the only Light,” harkens to our season celebrating the Light of Christ in the world. Christ is also referred to as the “Sun of Righteousness” and the “Daystar.”
Here in Columbia, we have also used “Christ Whose Glory,” which has an irregular meter of 5/4. Rather than the stateliness of “Ratisbon,” this tune, with its flowing style, takes on a more intimate and personal interpretation of the poetry. Try it out sometime!
I’ve attached here a beautiful rendition of “Ratisbon” by the men’s choir of St. John’s Episcopal Church in Boulder, Colorado. Enjoy, and sing along!