Happy birthday, William

October 7, 2021

William Billings was born in Boston on October 7, 1746. Although he had little formal schooling and was largely self-taught as a musician, he became the most popular choral composer of his day. The primitive state of copyright law at the time prevented Billings from making enough money as a composer to quit his day job as a tanner, but music was always his first love. He was very active as an itinerant singing master, and he composed more than three hundred choral works, most of them settings of sacred texts. This performance of “O Praise the Lord of Heaven” was recorded at the University Church of St. Mary the Virgin in Oxford, England.

O praise the Lord of heaven;
Praise Him in the height, praise Him in the depth.
O praise the Lord of heaven;
Praise Him all ye angels, praise Jehovah.

Praise Him, sun and moon and blazing comets;
Praise the Lord.
Let them praise the name of the Lord;
For He spoke the word and all were made;
He commanded and they were created.
Admire, adore.

Ye dragons whose contagious breath
People the dark abodes of death,
Change your dire hissings into heavenly songs,
And praise your Maker with your forked tongues.
O praise the Lord of Heaven.

Fire, hail, and snow, wind and storms,
Beasts and cattle, creeping insects, flying fowl,
Kings and princes, men and angels, praise the Lord.
Jew and Gentile, male and female, bond and free,
Earth and heaven, land and water, praise the Lord.
Young men and maids, old men and babes, praise the Lord.

Join creation, preservation, and redemption, join in one;
No exemption nor dissension,
One invention and intention reigns through the whole:

To praise the Lord.
Hallelujah, praise the Lord.

Musical offering for the first Sunday of Epiphany

January 7, 2018

We rode all night through fields of darkness,
Our guiding light, the eastern stars;
We came to Bethlehem, we all were weary:
We’d travelled far that night, we’d travelled far.

We heard that here we’d find Messiah
Foretold by seers from days of old;
We looked for palaces, and found a stable;
Could it be here, so bare and cold?

We entered in and there we saw Him;
It seemed we’d known Him from long before.
A child like any child, yet somehow different:
The face of every child in Him we saw.

We brought Him gifts and now we offer them,
We knelt down low in silent prayer.
With eyes that seem to know both joy and sadness,
The child looked down as we knelt there.

So long ago, yet I remember,
That child who lay at Mary’s knee.
How strange that every child seemed so much like Him
His is the face I seem to see.

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