All Saints’ Day presents music both triumphant and peaceful—both exuberant and meditative. This is fitting as we remember with joy our loved ones departed in the faith who now join in the unending song around the throne of the Lamb of God in heaven, even while their physical bodies slumber in the grave awaiting the day of the resurrection of all flesh.
The hymns for this day communicate both victorious celebration for and solemn remembrance of our departed Christian brethren.
The ENTRANCE HYMN, “Ye Watchers and Ye Holy Ones” (670) is by John Riley (1858-1945) from The English Hymnal of 1906. Stanza three recalls the “souls in endless rest”—patriarchs, prophets, apostles, martyrs, indeed “all saints triumphant”—joining the seraphim, cherubim, thrones, dominions, princedoms, powers in the glad strain to “God the Father, God the Son, And God the Spirit, Three in One.”
The ALLELUIA HYMN, “For All The Saints” (677) is by William W. How (1823-1897) published in 1864, originally in eleven stanzas. Stanzas 1-3 contain the strong images about the confession of Jesus, their Rock, Fortress, and Might. Stanzas 4-6 are more peaceful as we recall the blest communion and calming rest of heaven’s paradise. Finally stanzas 7-8 are jubilant again, as the hymn sings of the return of Christ at the last day, ending with glory to the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. The tune is by Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872-1958). The VOLUNTARY is a setting of “For All The Saints” by Richard Heschke (1939-2016).
The HYMN OF THE DAY, “Oh, How Blest are Ye Whose Toils are Ended” (The Lutheran Hymnal 589) is by Simon Dach (1605-1659). A teacher of philosophy and theology in Königsberg, he was a gifted poet. The death of a close friend in 1648 caused him to turn from secular to sacred poetry. He was a prolific hymn writer in his final decade, writing over 150 texts. The tune was written for this text, printed in the Stuttgart Choralbuch of 1744. In this hymn, Christians on earth sing of the saints in heaven with hopeful, expectant longing: “Ye, meanwhile, are in your chambers sleeping, Quiet and set free from all our weeping; No cross or sadness there can hinder your untroubled gladness.” Today’s PRELUDE is a setting of “Oh, How Blest are Ye” by Healey Willan (1880-1968). The introduction to the hymn is a contemplative setting by Paul Bouman (1918-2019).
Another quiet twentieth-century chorale prelude by David Schack (b. 1947) serves as the introduction to the HYMN TO DEPART, “Behold A Host, Arrayed in White” (676) by Hans Adolf Brorson (1694-1764), which is set to a Norwegian folk tune.