FOR BRASS QUINTET, TIMP, AND ORGAN
T he text "How shall I sing that majesty" is taken from a 1683 volume of poems by John Mason (1646-1694), one of the earliest hymn writers of the Church of England (as opposed to metrical Psalms). Originally a priest of the Anglican church, he became a 'dissenter,' administering no sacraments and choosing to focus instead on preaching. His focus was almost exclusively on the millennial advent of Christ, convinced it was imminent. The text appeared in this form with the English Hymnal (1906) and draws on a comparison between the feeble praise offered on earth compared to that offered by those in the presence of God. The tune was written by school teacher Ken Naylor (1931-1991) and named for a grazing meadow on the River Cam, abutting The Leys School in Cambridge, where he taught, and also bordering Cambridge University and the Fitzwilliam Museum.
Descant composed for friend and colleague, Organist and Choirmaster, Samuel Carabetta and the Choir of St John’s Episcopal Church, Georgetown Parish, Washington, DC.
Updated Sept 2019 to lower tessitura of descant at the cadence, and add alternate ending
How shall I sing that majesty (with two endings)
How great a being, Lord, is Thine, which doth all beings keep!
Thy knowledge is the only line to sound so vast a deep.
Thou art a sea without a shore, a sun without a sphere;
Thy time is now and evermore, thy place is everywhere.
– John Mason, Songs of Praise, 1683
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