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Goddard Chapel Carillon Tune April/May 2019

“Thine be the Glory, Risen conquering Son”

In the Protestant and Catholic traditions, in Easter 2019 falls on April 21, and in the Eastern Orthodox tradition, Easter comes a week later on April 28. Yet one of the most popular English hymns, “Thine be the Glory, Risen conquering Son,” is set to a melody by Handel called Maccabaeus, named after the oratorio Judas Maccabaeus, from which it is taken.

Handel’s oratorio was written in 1746 and premiered at Covent Garden on April 1 of the next year, a reminder that while they have sacred subjects, Handel’s oratorios were presented in secular settings for paying audiences, not for church congregations. Its subject concerns Judas Maccabee (Yehudah ha-Makabi in Hebrew), and the military victory of the Jews of Israel over the Seleucid Empire.

The third part of the oratorio opens with the contralto singing an aria about preparing to celebrate the Feast of Lights, or the holiday that became Hanukkah, after which a messenger enters and says that Judas is returning, victorious. In the original version, another alto aria followed, but, that fall, Handel wrote another oratorio, Joshua, that included a building chorus of youth, women (virgins in the score), and then all together called “See the conqu’ring hero comes.” This became tremendously popular and when Judas Maccabaeus was revived in 1751, Handel put this new chorus in place of the existing aria.

So how did a piece about the victor of the Hanukkah story come to be used at Easter? In 1884, the Swiss hymn writer Edmond Budry wrote three verses called “À toi la gloire, O Ressuscité!” (To you, glory, O Resurrected [one]!”). It was published in a French language hymnal with Handel’s music, and in 1923, Richard Hoyle was commissioned to translate it into English by the World Student Christian Federation, who also published it.

Since then, it has become very popular in England not only as an Easter hymn, but also at services involving the royal family. At the Last Night of the Proms at Royal Albert Hall, it traditionally is one of the selections played from Henry Wood’s Fantasia on British Sea Songs, and all people in attendance whistle the melody. (This must be heard to be appreciated.) After this, the guest soloist typically sings Rule, Britannia.

In Japan, the music is used much like we use Elgar’s Pomp and Circumstance, at academic graduations and awards ceremonies.

The text of the chorus from Joshua or Judas Maccabaeus is:

See, the conqu’ring hero comes!
Sound the trumpets! Beat the drums!
Sports prepare! The laurel bring!
Songs of triumph to him sing!

See the godlike youth advance!
Breathe the flutes and lead the dance!
Myrtle wreaths and roses twine
to deck the hero’s brow divine!

The first verse is then repeated by everybody.

The text of the hymn is:

Thine be the glory, risen, conqu’ring Son;
Endless is the vict’ry Thou o’er death hast won.
Angels in bright raiment rolled the stone away,
Kept the folded grave-clothes where Thy body lay.

Thine be the glory, risen, conqu’ring Son;
Endless is the vict’ry Thou o’er death hast won.

Lo, Jesus meets us, risen from the tomb.
Lovingly He greets us, scatters fear and gloom;
Let His church with gladness hymns of triumph sing,
For the Lord now liveth; death hath lost its sting.

Thine be the glory, risen, conqu’ring Son;
Endless is the vict’ry Thou o’er death hast won.

No more we doubt Thee, glorious Prince of life!!
Life is nought without Thee; aid us in our strife;
Make us more than conqu’rors, through Thy deathless love;
Bring us safe through Jordan to Thy home above.

Thine be the glory, risen, conqu’ring Son;
Endless is the vict’ry Thou o’er death hast won!

For listening:
Hymn “Thine be the glory” sung by the Choir of King’s College, Cambridge conducted by Stephen Cleobury:

“See the conqu’ring hero comes” from Handel’s Judas Maccabaeus sung by the Wandsworth School Choir, soloists Felicity Palmer and Janet Baker, with the English Chamber Orchestra conducted by Sir Charles Mackerras:

“See the conqu’ring hero comes” from George Wood’s Fantasia on British Sea Songs (with full audience whistling) heralding soprano Kiri Te Kanawa singing Rule Britannia. Last night of the Proms, 1992: