Treasure No 59: The Charming Sound of 18th-Century Hymnody

To describe the Saviour of the world, the Good Shepherd, as having ‘engaging Charms’ may sound strange to twentieth-century ears. Charm, in this cynical and hard-faced age, has become a suspicious quality, something that we rate less highly than involvement, integrity and passion, which often go hand-in-hand with an absence of charm. To the student of eighteenth-century hymnody, however, the …

Treasure No 58: John Wilson 1905–92

John Whitridge Wilson was born on 21 January 1905 in Bournville, near Birmingham. His father, George Bailey Wilson, was a solicitor, who, while engaged by the chocolate manufacturers Cadbury’s, had met Margaret Whitridge Davies working in the firm’s staff refectory. They married, and John was their first-born. From his father he probably derived his passion for accuracy and meticulous attention …

Treasure No 53: English and German Hymnody, Imports and Exports

As one surveys the history of the links between German and English hymnody, it quickly becomes obvious that, until quite recently, it has largely been a one-way export trade from German-speaking to English-speaking countries. That is hardly surprising, since German hymnody has a much longer tradition than its English counterpart. German hymnody is firmly embedded in the Reformation of the …

Treasure No 52: Barratt, His Successors and the Quality of Faith

In 1879, the Congregational Union Assembly decided that a new Sunday School book was needed. This was published two years later, and its editor was G. S. Barrett. Perhaps it was the speed of production that led to his being offered the editorship of the next denominational hymn-book. Congregational Church Hymnal, published in 1887, which became known as ‘Barrett’. Barrett …

Treasure No 51: The Rock Whence we are Hewn

The Society was born in Central Hall, Westminster, on 5 October 1936, the brainchild of Dr J.R. Fleming. This distinguished Scotsman was one of a galaxy of Scottish DDs, some of whom, such as Millar Patrick and W.T. Cairns, were equally expert in this particular field. (I am reminded that, shortly after the war, while attending a broadcasting conference in …