This hymn tune, usually known in the English-speaking world as the “Old 100th,” comes from from the 1551 Genevan Psalter, but has been adopted by many non-Calvinist Protestant denominations, and sung with a variety of lyrics. The words used in this arrangement, which was created by Ralph Vaughan Williams for Queen Elizabeth’s coronation, are standard in the Church of England:
All people that on earth do dwell,
Sing to the Lord with cheerful voice.
Him serve with fear, His praise forth tell;
Come ye before Him and rejoice.
The Lord, ye know, is God indeed;
Without our aid He did us make;
We are His folk, He doth us feed,
And for His sheep He doth us take.
O enter then His gates with praise;
Approach with joy His courts unto;
Praise, laud, and bless His Name always,
For it is seemly so to do.
For why? the Lord our God is good;
His mercy is for ever sure;
His truth at all times firmly stood,
And shall from age to age endure.
To Father, Son and Holy Ghost,
The God Whom Heaven and earth adore,
From men and from the angel host
Be praise and glory evermore.
Although the entire arrangement is amazing, I particularly like the part is when the trumpet countermelody enters at around the two-minute mark.
Both the music and the words to this hymn (technically known as a “fuguing tune”) are the work of William Billings (1746-1800), who is often described as the United States’ first composer:
When I with pleasing wonder stand
And all my frame survey
Lord, ’tis thy work, I own thy hand
Thus built my humble clay
Our life contains a thousand springs,
And dies if one be gone.
Strange that a harp of thousand strings
Should keep in tune so long.
With its open, primitive harmonies, Billings’s music bears many similarities to the shape-note hymns that are still used by Southern Baptists today. Although a brilliant and creative musician, he had no formal musical training, resulting in a sturdy, austere, and rough-hewn music which invites easy comparisons—in fact, they almost feel too easy—to the spirit of pilgrims and pioneers.