551

All Creatures of Our God and King

Scripture References

Thematically related:

Further Reflections on Scripture References

The text is a meditation on Psalm 145 (although it also reflects Psalm 148 as well as the Canticle of the Three Young Men in the Furnace-an apocryphal addition to Dan. 3). Originally in Italian ("Laudato sia Dio mio Signore"), the text is known as the "Song of All Creatures" and as the "Canticle of the Sun."
 
Bert Polman, Psalter Hymnal Handbook

Confessions and Statements of Faith References

Further Reflections on Confessions and Statements of Faith References

The God who was active in providing his Son for our redemption, has also been active in the course of history and in the lives of his people. His activity in the course of history began when he created all things. Belgic Confession, Article 12 teaches that God, “when it seemed good to him, created heaven and earth and all other creatures from nothing, by the Word—that is to say, by the Son.” In addition, “God created human beings from the dust of the earth and made and formed them in his image and likeness.”
 
His activity also includes his constant care for all he has created. “…He watches over us with fatherly care, sustaining all creatures under his lordship” (Belgic Confession, Article 13). Additionally, God reveals himself by this “creation, preservation and government of the universe, since that universe is before our eyes like a beautiful book...” (Belgic Confession, Article 2).
 

We also believe that God’s mighty acts are revealed “in the unfolding of covenant history…witnessing to the news that Our World Belongs to God and he loves it deeply” (Our World Belongs to God, paragraph 33). Primary among these actions in the unfolding of covenant history is “the long road of redemption to reclaim the lost as his people and the world as his kingdom” (paragraph 18). As God’s people observe his work in their lives and in history they respond with praise and adoration.

Tune Information

Name
LASST UNS ERFREUEN
Key
D Major
Meter
8.8.8.8.8.6.4.4.4

Recordings

Musical Suggestion

With young children, start with the simple four-note descending scale passage (alleluias and "O praise him!"). For children who are able to read, make a chart with the beginning and important words of each phrase. Use colored markers to underline the words, coloring the same tune with the same color (e.g., phrases 1 and 2, same color; alleluias, different, etc.).
 
Be meticulous about holding the note in the next to the last measure for three beats: lu_ _ia. When the children know the first stanza, have them introduce the hymn to the congregation.
 
As suggested before, use organ preludes and offertories to acquaint the congregation with the melody. Henry Coleman's Varied Hymn Accompaniments make useful preludes if a flute or violin plays the melody. John Ferguson has a short, easy setting in Concordia Hymn Prelude Series, vol. 30, in both D and E-flat.
 
In a choir setting, the hymnal in E-flat. Play an introduction, possibly using the Ferguson setting or his intonation.
  • Stanza 1: Choir sings hymnal version.
  • Stanza 2: Men sing unison phrases; all sing harmony phrases.
  • Stanza 3: Women and children, or children only, sing unison phrases; choir on harmony.
  • Stanza 4: Choir sings hymnal version.
Stanza 5: All, perhaps including the congregation, sing hymnal version with organ playing varied accompaniment. (Nobel, 100 Hymn Accompaniments or Gerre Hancock, Organ Improvisations for Hymn-Singing. Both are in E-flat.)
(from Reformed Worship, Issue 22)

 
— Wilma Vander Baan

Hymn Story/Background

Virtually blind and unable to endure daylight, St. Francis wrote this nature hymn during the summer of 1225 in the seclusion of a hut near San Damiano, Italy. The text is a meditation on Psalm 145 (although it also reflects Psalm 148 as well as the “Canticle of the Three Young Men in the Furnace,” an apocryphal addition to Dan. 3). Originally in Italian ("Laudato sia Dio mio Signore"), the text is known as the "Song of All Creatures" and as the "Canticle of the Sun."
 
William H. Draper translated—or rather, paraphrased—the text (which appears in virtually all English hymnals) for a children's Whitsuntide (Pentecost) Festival in Leeds, England, around 1910. Originally in seven stanzas, Draper's translation was published with the tune LASST UNS ERFREUEN in the Public School Hymn Book (1919).
 
“All Creatures of Our God and King” is a “catalog” text that enumerates various features of the creation and summons all to praise the Lord with their "alleluias." Although not found in the original text, the "alleluias" make splendid sense and are necessary for the tune. Repeating the words "O praise him" each stanza emphasizes the cosmic praise of all creation: the sun and moon (st. 1); wind, clouds, and light (st. 2); water and fire (st. 3); the earth and its produce (st. 4); all creatures (st. 5), and all of creation (st. 6).
 
LASST UNS ERFREUEN derives its opening line and several other melodic ideas from GENEVAN 68. The tune was first published with the Easter text "Lasst uns erfreuen herzlich sehr" in the Jesuit hymnal Auserlesene Katholische Geistliche Kirchengesänge (Cologne, 1623). LASST UNS ERFREUEN appeared in later hymnals with variations in the "alleluia" phrases.
 
The setting is by Ralph Vaughan Williams; first published in The English Hymnal (1906), it has become the most popular version of LASST UNS ERFREUEN. In that hymnal the tune was set to Athelstan Riley's "Ye watchers and ye holy ones" (thus it is sometimes known as VIGILES ET SANCTI).
 
In this hymn a great text is matched by an equally strong and effective tune. Try these two possibilities of antiphonal singing: divide stanzas between women and men, or assign the verses to one group and the "alleluias" to another. Accompanists can signal such antiphonal effects in their use of varied registration. Registration changes also will help interpret the text; for example, the third stanza can begin with a lighter registration and move to a "blazing" sound on the second half.
 
Try having the congregation sing some stanzas unaccompanied but add organ (with full stops) at the "alleluias." Or, for a fine effect, have the congregation sing some stanzas in unison with accompaniment and the choir sing the "alleluias" in harmony unaccompanied. It is musically correct and pastorally wise to observe a fermata at the end of the second "alleluia" on the second system by turning that half note into a whole note. No ritard is necessary at the end of the hymn; it is built right into the final "alleluia" phrase. Try adding instruments to enhance this magnificent tune; there are several fine concertato versions in print that involve trumpets and/or full brass scoring.
— Bert Polman

Author Information

St. Francis of Assisi (b. Assisi, Italy, c. 1182; d. Assisi, 1226) is universally known for preaching to the birds and urging them to praise God. But his whole life was one of service to God and humanity. The son of a wealthy cloth merchant, Francis led a carefree, adventurous life as a youth, but after an illness and a pilgrimage to Rome in 1205, he voluntarily began a traveling life of poverty. He restored run-down chapels and shrines, preached, sang devotional "laudi spirituali" (adapted from Italian folk songs), and helped the poor and the lepers. Other young men joined him, and Francis founded the order named after him; the Franciscans were approved by the Pope in 1210. Legends about Francis abound, and various stories, prayers, and visions are attributed to him.
— Bert Polman

William H. Draper (b. Kenilworth, Warwickshire, England, 1855; d. Clifton, Bristol,  England, 1933) translated—or rather paraphrased—the text . Educated at Cheltenham College and Keble College, Oxford, England, Draper was ordained in the Church of England in 1880. He served at least six churches during his lifetime, including the Temple Church in London (1919-1930). He is known for his sixty translations of Latin, Greek, and German hymns, many published in The Victoria Book of Hymns (1897) and Hymns for Holy Week (1899).
— Bert Polman

Composer Information

Through his composing, conducting, collecting, editing, and teaching, Ralph Vaughan Williams (b. Down Ampney, Gloucestershire, England, October 12, 1872; d. Westminster, London, England, August 26, 1958) became the chief figure in the realm of English music and church music in the first half of the twentieth century. His education included instruction at the Royal College of Music in London and Trinity College, Cambridge, as well as additional studies in Berlin and Paris. During World War I he served in the army medical corps in France. Vaughan Williams taught music at the Royal College of Music (1920-1940), conducted the Bach Choir in London (1920-1927), and directed the Leith Hill Music Festival in Dorking (1905-1953). A major influence in his life was the English folk song. A knowledgeable collector of folk songs, he was also a member of the Folksong Society and a supporter of the English Folk Dance Society. Vaughan Williams wrote various articles and books, including National Music (1935), and composed numerous arrange­ments of folk songs; many of his compositions show the impact of folk rhythms and melodic modes. His original compositions cover nearly all musical genres, from orchestral symphonies and concertos to choral works, from songs to operas, and from chamber music to music for films. Vaughan Williams's church music includes anthems; choral-orchestral works, such as Magnificat (1932), Dona Nobis Pacem (1936), and Hodie (1953); and hymn tune settings for organ. But most important to the history of hymnody, he was music editor of the most influential British hymnal at the beginning of the twentieth century, The English Hymnal (1906), and coeditor (with Martin Shaw) of Songs of Praise (1925, 1931) and the Oxford Book of Carols (1928).
— Bert Polman

Song Notes

As we sing this hymn, we join with Christians throughout the ages and with all of Creation to sing our praises to God the Creator. Psalm 145 says, “My mouth will speak in praise of the LORD. Let every creature praise his holy name for ever and ever.” This is our call and our invitation, and now, using the words God has given us through the voice of a saint, we answer that invitation with a joyful “Alleluia!”
— Laura de Jong