Hymn of the Week: ‘God So Loved the World’

Hymn of the Week: ‘God So Loved the World’ March 10, 2018

I can’t imagine a better interpretation of this than this glorious version by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. It ties in, of course, with this Sunday’s scripture, which includes arguably the most famous verse in John’s Gospel.

The hymn is actually one part of a longer oratorio devoted to telling the story of the crucifixion: 

The Crucifixion: A Meditation on the Sacred Passion of the Holy Redeemer is an oratorio composed by John Stainer in 1887. It is scored for a SATB choir and organ, and features solos for bass and tenor.  Stainer intended that piece would be within the scope of most parish church choirs; it includes five hymns for congregational participation. The text was written by W J Sparrow Simpson, the librettist of Stainer’s earlier cantata, Mary MagdaleneThe work is dedicated “to my pupil and friend W. Hodge and the choir of Marylebone Church“, who first performed it on February 24, 1887, the day after Ash Wednesday.

Although the composer Ernest Walker dismissed the work, writing in 1924 that “Musicians today have no use for The Crucifixion“, and even Stainer characterized his work as “rubbish,” the work continues to be performed today. The oratorio has been recorded several times, including a well-known recording from RCA Victor in 1929, featuring Richard Crooks and Lawrence Tibbet.

About the composer:

Sir John Stainer (6 June 1840 – 31 March 1901) was an English composer and organist whose music, though not generally much performed today (except for The Crucifixion, still heard at Passiontide in many churches of the Anglican Communion), was very popular during his lifetime. His work as choir trainer and organist set standards for Anglican church music that are still influential. He was also active as an academic, becoming Heather Professor of Music at Oxford.

His work as a composer was much esteemed during his lifetime but is not well known today. The Crucifixion is one of the few major works of his that is still regularly performed. It is often given in Anglican churches during Holy Week and forms part of the repertoire of numerous choirs. He also made a lasting contribution to the music of Christmas in his Christmas Carols New and Old (1871), produced in collaboration with the Revd. H. R. Bramley, which marked an important stage in the revival of the Christmas carol. The book includes Stainer’s arrangements of what were to become the standard versions of “What Child Is This“, “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen“, “Good King Wenceslas“, “The First Nowell“, and “I Saw Three Ships“, among others.

Give a listen to “God So Loved the World,” which our choir will be singing this Sunday for the Communion hymn:


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