St. Joan

Audition: The Hymnal 1982 with organ - Hymnal version. (a cappella) - descant with harmonization
 Free score. 

Not given to self-promotion, Percy Edwin Burnham Coller (1892-1955) submitted ST JOAN to The Hymnal 1940 anonymously, named for his wife; it his only published work. Coller is a product of the maritime industrial culture he grew up in, his education and musical ability acquired outside the cathedral, academic, and choir school culture. He was the son of an established Liverpool-area organist and apprenticed to the business, a child chorister at a church used as a pro-cathedral of the nascent diocese, then student at a grammar school (p.37; two of the Beatles also attended this school). Without the benefit of a degree, by age twenty he emerged as the organist for, and at twenty-two conductor of, an annual performance of The Messiah staged by an area orchestral society. A four year enlistment for WW1 was followed by marriage and children, 1½ years of incomplete study at the University of Liverpool, an extended missionary trip, and in 1925 a Canadian business magnate facilitated a move to Montréal, where Coller became organist and choirmaster of St. Peter's Anglican Church. Throughout his working life, besides professional musician, he also held jobs such as schoolteacher, clerk, accountant, farmer, and ship's crew. His sister and mother joined him in Montréal in 1934 and then, as yet another world war darkened the horizon he produced this stirring composition. This account corrects persistently-repeated errors, the reason for the length of this bio and the extended discussion below.

The hymn Christ is the world's true light was written by George Wallace Briggs (1875-1959) whose priestly ministry concluded as canon at Worcester cathedral, and prior to that, canon at Leicester. He was cited by no less an authority than Erik Routley as a hymnologist "who succeeded excellently in writing simple and persuasive material for our time."  Among his revered hymns is the communion hymn, Come, risen Lord, and deign to be our guest. Frequently cited as G.W. Briggs, he is not to be confused with the other G.W. Briggs, Unitarian abolitionist and hymn editor, George Ware Briggs, who in any event would never have written such a paean to the Second Person of the Trinity. The second hymn below, O God eternal source of love beyond all knowing, is a composite drawn from the well-known hymn O Gott, du frommer Gott by Johann Heerman, with the doxology by Martin Rinkart, from Nun danket. This fine combination is uncommon, appearing in only three U.S. hymnals according to the Hymnary website.

 

The content here is © David Maurand. CC-BY-SA 4.0 Attribution to hymndescants.org permitted.

1 - Christ is the world's true light

George Wallace Briggs (1931) © Oxford University Press. (Click protected)

1 Christ is the world’s true light,
  Its Captain of salvation,
  The Day-star clear and bright
  Of every race and nation;
  New life, new hope awakes,
  For all who own his sway;
  Freedom her bondage breaks,
  And night is turned to day.
 

2 In Christ all races meet,
  Their ancient feuds forgetting,
  The whole round world complete,
  From sunrise to its setting:
  When Christ is throned as Lord,
  All shall forsake their fear,
  To ploughshare beat the sword,
  To pruning-hook the spear.
 

3 One Lord, in one great Name
  Unite us all who own thee;
  Cast out our pride and shame
  That hinder to enthrone thee;
  The world has waited long,
  Has travailed long in pain;
  To heal its ancient wrong,
  Come, Prince of Peace, and reign.

2 - O God, eternal source


Johann Heermann (1585-1647), Martin Rinkart (1586 - 1649); tr. Edward Horn, Catherine Winkworth, alt.

1 O God, eternal source

 Of love beyond our knowing,

 Who gives us every gift,

 And boundless grace bestowing:

 Grant soundness to our minds

 And wholeness to our frame,

 Thy pardon to our souls,

 That we may praise thy Name.

 

2 O help us to fulfill

 On earth our holy calling;

 O make us hear thy voice,

 And keep our feet from falling.

 So may we serve thee here

 With all our strength and might,

 And may our every deed

 Be righteous in thy sight.
 

3 All praise and thanks to God

 The Father now be given,

 The Son and him who reigns

 With them in highest heaven;

 The one, eternal God,

 Whom earth and heaven adore,

 For thus it was, is now,

 And shall be evermore.

Factchecks: Inaccuracies regarding Coller's early life have multiplied wildly, burrowing deep into the rabbit warrens of the internet. They have as their common source a usually reliable reference, displayed below. The errors possibly result from the misinterpretation of original records, many handwritten, which list several contemporaneous individuals named Percy (not E.B.) Coller or Collen. TL;DR - This tune comes from an musician who was not formally educated, and having overcome the disruption of war, made the most of a providential midlife opportunity.

Notes

1. Birth / 2. Life span

Birth was recorded in Toxteth Park in 1892. (Incorporated into Liverpool 1895.)
His death was recorded in Montréal, 1955.

Verification:

  • Birth - online copies of birth registration, baptismal records, enlistment declarations given in his own hand.
  • Death - online newspaper archive of obituary, provincial registration of death records, public online grave location service.

References

  • The Musical Times, Vol. 56, No. 863 (Jan. 1, 1915), pp. 42-49 (8 pages) via JSTOR (paywall)
  • Liverpool Institute Schools Magazine, Vol. XX No. 2, July 1906, p. 37
  • Liverpool Institute High School for Boys, Wikipedia
  • Glover, Raymond F., The Hymnal 1982 Companion (New York : Church Hymnal Corp., c1990-), Vol. 3b, No. 542.
  • Birth 1892, screenshot from Ancestry; confirmed on his military enlistment record.
  • Baptism 1892, screenshot form Ancestry
  • Death 1955, screenshot from Ancestry (with misdated birth)
  • Passenger Lists, 1865–1935. Microfilm Publications T-479 to T-520, T-4689 to T-4874, T-14700 to T-14938, C-4511 to C-4542. Library and Archives Canada, n.d. RG 76-C. Department of Employment and Immigration fonds. Library and Archives Canada Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. via Ancestry.ca (paywall)
  • Liverpool Cathedral website; pages for Choir and Lady Chapel.
  • Confirmations and corrections were obtained via direct contact with archivists from Liverpool Cathedral, the University of Liverpool, and Christ Church Cathedral in Oxford
  • Russell, Thomas Alexander, Dictionary of Canadian Biography (retrieved 20200105). (image establishing the correlation, see col. 20.)

 

  • This was a small pro-Cathedral with a volunteer Sunday choir. St. Peter's Church was the modest, temporary home of the young diocese of Liverpool. It did not have a choir school, nor a program of daily Evensong, which is what is a 'cathedral choir' implies in this context. The standard of technically true is insufficiently accurate.

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