Dr Noel Preston continues his series of hymns for the current church season. (See an earlier entry here). Here Noel chooses a hymn for Eastertide, and offers his own choice of tune for the hymn.
One of Charles Wesley’s finest works begins in many hymn-books with the line
Love’s redeeming work is done
though in some collections this verse is preceded by another one, so that the above line does not appear in the index. (Often sung words can be found by clicking here).
The various compilers set the words to a number of different tunes, usually including “Savannah”, a weak tune which may well suit more reflective words, but is quite inappropriate here. It tends to trickle down, with several ‘passing’ notes that make it even weaker. Moreover, like others of the set tunes, it has us descending in one verse, note by note, from the grave to the skies !
Wesley’s words demand a strong rising tune; and one of the Revd Dr Sir Frederick Gore Ouseley’s tunes “Bewdley” fits them admirably. It lifts our voices steadily upwards as we sing
Made like him like him we rise
and reaches its climax at the first note of the following line, as we sing
Ours the cross the grave the skies
and the last few notes of Ouseley’s tune for this line direct us up from the despondency of the tomb towards the realisation that He is not here, He is risen. We remember that the Christian symbol, the Cross, shows us the path we must tread through our trials and tribulations, till we accept the abundant grace with which to triumph over the evils of this world, and thus to achieve the rewards of inward happiness, contentment, and even joy.
A final thought — the climax in the tune “Bewdley” is just right in other verses of Wesley’s hymn also:
Christ has opened Paradise
Where thy victory O grave
Hail the Resurrection thou !
Footnote: Ouseley’s “Bewdley” is not appreciated by many compilers of hymns; but it can be found in both Standard and Revised versions of Hymns Ancient and Modern (though not associated with these words).