Hymn of the Week: January 30, 2022
by Mary Chapman, Director of Music
The Episcopal Church of the Holy Communion, University City
God is Love and Where True Love Is
1982 Hymnal #577
Words: Latin; tr: James Quinn (b. 1919), alt.
Music: Ubi caritas (Murray), A. Gregory Murray (1905-1992)
This Sunday’s hymn is one which is quite familiar to most of us. And the English translation of the opening line “Ubi caritas et amor/ubi caritas Deus ibi est” is one that provides succor to many. But who wrote this hymn?
The composer was a Benedictine monk named Anthony Gregory Murray. Dom Gregory was educated at Westminster Cathedral Choir School and St Benedict's, Ealing. In 1923 he became a Fellow of the Royal College of Organists and read for the historical tripos at Cambridge University, graduating in 1929. He was ordained into the order of St. Benedict in 1932 for Downside Abbey (alas, not Downton Abbey), and spent most of the rest of his life there except for periods at Ealing during World War II and as parish priest of Hindley, Lancashire, from 1948 to 1952. He was also parish priest of St Benedict's, Stratton-on-the-Fosse, from 1952 to 1987, a position he combined with his domestic duties.
A brilliant organist, he gave regular broadcasts from the Compton organ at Downside Abbey, which led to the folk tale among musicians that the abbey was permanently hooked up to the BBC. He was particularly noted for his skill at improvisation, and those with acute hearing would frequently detect a musical quotation from another work, not necessarily sacred in nature.
Dom Gregory was also an authority on Gregorian chant, publishing two books on the subject. The first book Gregorian Rhythm: A Pilgrim’s Progress (1934) was disowned by him in his subsequent book Gregorian Chant According to the Manuscripts (1963), having changed his mind about the rhythmic basis of plainsong.
As a musician, his overriding interest was to provide music that would enhance the liturgy of the Roman Catholic service. When the Church of England began to show interest in his music, he was delighted. Our 1982 Hymnal contains three of his works: The Lamb’s High Banquet Called to Share (202); The Eternal Gifts of Christ the King (233); and God is Love and Where True Love Is (577).
You can listen to a rendition of God is Love and Where True Love is (#577) here: