While this tune isn’t difficult to learn, it isn’t entirely familiar (though the style may be accessible to many, given the growing popularity of Irish folk bands in recent years). The other issue is the wordiness of the stanzas; a congregation could slow this down too much trying to get the words out. One way to introduce this into worship is to have a soloist (preferably a younger woman) sing the stanzas, and have everyone join in on the refrain. If you are reading the entire gospel account of Mary meeting Elizabeth, you might even have the soloist read Mary’s words in the first part of the Scripture, and then move directly into the hymn after Luke 1:45.
For accompaniment, it is important to keep the tune from getting bogged down. The congregation will, naturally, try to slow things down, but this tune, with this much text, especially needs to move forward. If you have fiddlers and flutists, this could be the time to put them to work in worship.
(from Reformed Worship, Issue 93)
James Hart Brumm
This is an Irish folk tune and one would do well to employ Irish traditional instruments such as a Celtic drum and a penny whistle. But it is more important to place the emphasis on the folk aspects of the tune rather than get hung up on “Irish performance practice.” The music translates well to almost any folk genre—the more primitive and unadorned, the better. If piano accompaniment is used, one could emphasize the rhythmic harmonic progression. Once the melody is established by the singers, percussively strike each new chord. Steer clear of the sustain pedal. This can be contrasted with arpeggiated sections where the text calls for a less strident accompaniment.
One reason this tune is easy to learn is that it is closely related to another Irish tune; in fact, star of county down is a variant of kingsfold. “Canticle of the Turning” is found in many recent hymnals; this setting was taken from Renewing Worship 5: New Songs and Hymns (2003), a resource prepared by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) for provisional use as the ELCA prepares the next edition of their denominational Lutheran Book of Worship to succeed the ground-breaking 1978 edition. Cooney has also prepared a choral octavo on this hymn for SAB or unison, with guitar, optional piccolo, and violin (GIA, G-3407).