December 18: Come, thou long expected Jesus
Today’s offering is a hymn tune perfectly befitting of this season of advent. Among the most famous of the very many hymns penned by the Rev. Charles Wesley – whose birthday, incidentally, is December 18 – is an earnest call for the presence of Jesus. The text reminds us that while we await the physical coming of this long-expected Messiah, who is the “hope of all the earth” and “joy of every longing heart”, his “gracious kingdom” is already come, and forever dwells in the hearts of his faithful followers.
This venerable hymn is set in our hymnal to a wonderful Welsh melody called “Hyfrydol” (meaning ‘cheerful’), composed in 1844. John Esaiais and myself are heard singing it in this recording.
December 19: Adam lay y bounden
For December 19, as we draw ever closer to Christmas day, we have a very old text that calls to mind the reason for the coming of our redeemer: the original disobedience of Adam. This text – fairly incomprehensible at first blush, owing to the fact that it is 600 years old and originally written in Middle English – tells the story of Adam’s deserved suffering, and his happy redemption through the coming of Christ. There are dozens of musical settings of these words (although none of them are contemporaneous to the text); here, a quartet of singers at First Presbyterian Church of Washington, PA sing a brief setting of this centuries-old poem by contemporary composer Warren Michel Swenson (b. 1937).
Mitchell Stecker, Director of Music