Will.Whim

A weblog by Will Fitzgerald

An Anthem, for Thanksgiving

I just got a reprint of William Billings’s Continental Harmony, which I guess is the last tunebook he published. The first tune is “An Anthem for Thanksgiving.” (You can hear it here: WGUC 90.9 FM | Feast for the Ears; it’s the first tune in the 2005 program). The first part of the text is taken from Psalm 148, and then continues with these great words:

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.

And just when you’re enjoying the fantastic image of hissing dragons singing the praise of God, the text becomes (I think) very contemporary, very modern:

Fire, hail and snow, wind and storms,
Beasts and cattle, 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.

Then this great assonance:

Join creation, preservation, and redemption, join in one;
No exemption, nor dissention, one invention, and intention,
Reigns through the whole,
To praise the Lord.

It finally ends on a hallelujah chorus. This tune is also on I am the Rose of Sharon, by the Western Wind, which has four Billings pieces on it.

I think Dire Hissings would make a good weblog name.

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