I’m really not very religious, but I sometimes receive messages from my subconscious to look up some parts of the Christian creed. All English schoolchildren were sloppily indoctrinated into some or other Christian brand until the invention of political correctness and the awareness that stressing the exclusivity of Jesus as the one true God did nothing for social cohesion. Blessed with a strong voice, I sang in the church choir as a child, wearing a cassock, surplice and ruff, looking like an angel but warping the words wherever possible. Nonetheless, the music entered and stayed, and sometimes, I have to answer the call from the depths – or the heights, depending on your vantage point.
This morning, All People That On Earth Do Dwell (misremembered as All Creatures That On Earth Do Dwell – an interesting update) so I went looking for the song, also referred to as the Old 100th. Its origins are 16th century Swiss protestant. The arrangement I recalled it turns out is by Vaughan Williams, whom I much love; and listening all the way through the end, as I ate my breakfast, my eyes dampening the toast, adding salt to the egg, I was really moved. How and why this happened, aside from the astonishing power of the finale, I cannot say. Was it God, or the music, or both? Was it nostalgia, or the sheer optimism of the piece? I just can’t tell you.
1 All people that on earth do dwell,
Sing to the Lord with cheerful voice.
Him serve with mirth, His praise forth tell;
Come ye before Him and rejoice.
2 Know that the Lord is God indeed;
Without our aid He did us make;
We are His flock, He doth us feed,
And for His sheep He doth us take.
3 O enter then His gates with praise;
Approach with joy His courts unto;
Praise, laud, and bless His Name always,
For it is seemly so to do.
4 For why! the Lord our God is good;
His mercy is forever sure;
His truth at all times firmly stood,
And shall from age to age endure.