(1872, edited by Barnby), the Congregational Church hymnal (1887, edited by E. J. Hopkins) and the Presbyterian Church hymnary (1898, edited by Stainer).9 It was, however, Hymns ancient & modern that had the widest audience, appealing to all branches of the church with its combination of Gregorian melodies, chorales, eighteenth-century psalm tunes and hymns specially written for the collection, though it was the latter that caught the contemporary imagination.
Of the many composers who contributed tunes - Gauntlett, Barnby, S. S. Wesley, Sullivan, Goss, E. J. Hopkins, H. Smart, Stainer and Dykes - it was Dykes above all who seemed to encapsulate the archetypal art form and whose contributions were more abundant than any of his contemporaries. Melodies such as 'Dominus regit me' ('The King of love my shepherd is') were attractive for their yearning contours and sequential phrases, but what truly distinguished Dykes's work was the quality of his harmony, part-writing and bold structure. Dykes had been a keen Cambridge musician, a founder of the University Musical Society, and numbered Walmisley and Ouseley among his friends. His innate musicality drew him to contemporary Romantics such as Mendelssohn, Spohr, Schumann, Chopin and Weber. It was an assimilation of these continentals that found its way into the chromatic emotionalism of tunes such as 'Melita' ('Eternal Father, strong to save'), 'Strength and Stay' ('O strength and stay') and the little known 'Charitas' ('Lord of glory, Who hast bought us'), and it was Dykes's strong bass lines, suspensions, striking modulations, deft tonal recoveries and variation structures in microcosm that raised his art form to a higher level. Perhaps more significantly, Dykes's expressive style of hymn established a norm, which, though it provoked violent reactions in the next generation of hymn book editors (such as Vaughan Williams in the English hymnal of 1906) who either bowdlerised their chromaticisms or omitted them altogether, still remains one of the most widely sung examples of the genre.
9 See Bradley, Abide with me and Watson, The English hymn.
Was this article helpful?