Hymns, The Tallis' Canon and L'Engle

Tonight I'm studying for tomorrow's hymnology test.  Dr. Wilhoit gives killer exams, but its easier to study when you find the subject fascinating. As I read through my notes and come across familiar hymn tunes and titles, they play through my head in wispy song snippets. I've loved hymns since childhood. My first memory of Sunday night hymn sings is looking up "Nothing But the Blood" in the hymn index and raising my hand to request it when my turn came. Most of my churches growing up  used hymnals and I learned the basic concept of parts singing from my alto-voiced mother, a skill I would later put to use in forming my own harmonies in worship chapel and sight-reading for the various choirs I've been in. Hymns just stick in my head, and by the time I was sixteen and serving as an acolyte in the Anglican church my family had started attending, I had quite a few in my repertoire. My hands were full as an acolyte, carrying either a torch or crucifix as I processed in with the rest of the acolytes, lay servers, choir and clergy, but I didn't need to carry a hymnal to sing along as I carried the songs in my head and heart.

Now that I look at my notes again, I don't know what got me fixated on the Tallis' Canon tonight, as it isn't mentioned in this chapter, but it has been on my mind all evening. Libera has a lovely version on YouTube that I've been listening to as I work (Click Here to listen!). The text, by Thomas Ken, is that of an evening hymn--one that you might sing at that most lovely hour of Compline--known as "All Praise To Thee, My God, This Night." It follows a typical evening prayer pattern of thanking God for safety through the day, begging forgiveness for the days sins, and asking for protection throughout the night, capped with a rendition of the doxology. The tune, TALLIS' CANON is simple and beautiful, and as the title implies, can be echoed in a round-like form. (The Libera boys' choir is subtle and sweet in their execution of the piece.)

 I don't remember exactly when I first heard this hymn, but it was brought back in to my mind within the past school year as I was reading Madeleine L'Engle's Meet the Austins (for the second or third time) and its sequels The Moon by Night and The Young Unicorns. The Austin family is one of my favorite families in literature, and I harbor a secret hope that my someday-family will be something like them. The family is a noisy one, and one where music plays a big role. L'Engle mentions their singing of the Tallis' Canon at least once in the first book and, I believe, once in the second. She then introduces a character by the name of Canon Tallis (a Canon is a church official) in the third book. I began suspect that it was a favorite of  the author's and so I looked it up. I thought I remembered hearing it before then, but not where I heard it, so I'll say that the birth of my knowledge of this song began with L'Engle and the Austins.

Of all the author's in the world, Madeleine L'Engle is one with whom I feel the most kinship of spirit. I wish I could have met her before she died. I think I would have liked her even more in person... she was a librarian and an Anglican and a fervid imaginer and a writer of wonderful words. Ah, but now I am no longer studying for that test, and I'm getting longwinded. I'll leave you, dear reader, whoever you may be, with the text of this hymn. May your evening be blessed.
All praise to You, my God, this night,
For all the blessings of the light.
Keep me, O keep me, King of kings,
Beneath the shelter of Your wings.
Forgive me, Lord, for this I pray,
The wrong that I have done this day.
May peace with God and neighbor be,
Before I sleep restored to me.
Lord, may I be at rest in You
And sweetly sleep the whole night thro'.
Refresh my strength, for Your own sake,
So I may serve You when I wake.
Praise God, from whom all blessings flow;
Praise Him all creatures here below;
Praise Him above, ye heav'nly host;
Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.

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