Talking Hymns: For All the Saints

For All the Saints Hymnal

For All the Saints was written as a processional hymn by the Anglican Bishop of Wakefield, William Walsham How in 1964. Remember, in this context, the word “hymn” refers to the text, not the tune.

The hymn was sung to the melody Sarum, by Victorian composer Joseph Barnby, until the publication of the “English Hymnal” in 1906. This hymnal used a new tune by Ralph Vaughan Williams which he named Sine Nomine, which has been described as “one of the finest hymn tunes of [the 20th] century.”

While most English hymn tunes of its era were written for singing in SATB four-part harmony, Sine Nomine is primarily unison.

It is traditionally sung the first Sunday of November, for the Feast of all Souls.

For inspiration, here’s a YouTube clip of the hymn being sung by the choir of King’s College, Cambridge. (Note: they use two more verses than we will be singing.)

For all the saints, who from their labors rest,
Who Thee by faith before the world confessed,
Thy Name, O Jesus, be forever blessed.
Alleluia, Alleluia!

Thou wast their Rock, their Fortress and their might;
Thou, Lord, their captain in the well fought fight;
Thou, in the darkness drear, their one true Light.
Alleluia, Alleluia!

O blest communion, fellowship divine!
We feebly struggle, they in glory shine;
Yet all are one in Thee, for all are Thine.
Alleluia, Alleluia!

From earth’s wide bounds, from ocean’s farthest coast,
Through gates of pearl streams in the countless host,
Singing to Father, Son and Holy Ghost:
Alleluia, Alleluia!


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