The desolate Messiah dies
Source: Singing the Faith: 283
Words: Gareth Hill
Music: “Whinney Hill” by David Lee
Correction to music: Correct metre to “86 88 84″
The composer of “Whinney Hill”, David Lee, has also been in touch to say that in the fifth complete bar (at “unwanted by the earth”) “the quasi-alto line at ‘the’ should be E-natural rather than E-flat” i.e. the line rises chromatically from Eb (beat 1) to E natural (beat 4) and then (in the following bar) to F.
Ideas for use
The spare, “desolate” quality to David Lee’s tune, “Whinney Hill” lends itself to being played by a solo instrument such as a flute or even a trumpet (perhaps out of site in a remote part of the worship space). This would both introduce the mood that Gareth Hill’s words evoke and also help a congregation become more familiar with the tune.
Verses 1 and 2 of the hymn might be sung to accompany the “robing” of a cross in crimson cloth on Good Friday; equally the whole hymn might be sung on Easter Day as the cross is de-robed of its cloth and then dressed with flowers as verses 3 and 4 move us towards “life at Calvary” and grace that “has won the victory for all the world”.
Gareth Hill’s expressive Easter text begins with “The desolate Messiah… stretched out upon the cross”. It’s a bleak image matched by David Lee’s sad and spare opening musical phrase. The music then shifts keys and increases in tension, matching Gareth’s striking description of Christ as “death’s trophy to the world displayed”, before coming round full circle – the opening phrase repeated, with only the slightest tweak of harmony, to offer an ending that reflects the sense that “all hope is lost”.
“Whinney Hill” is a tune that one might think ideal only for words about Good Friday – and yet the curious thing is that, as we progress through the verses and arrive at the post-resurrection close of Gareth’s hymn, there’s a certainty and strength in the conclusion to the tune that matches perfectly Gareth’s words of faith: “death means life at Calvary and grace has won the victory for all the world”. “Whinney Hill”, manages that difficult trick of being a tune that takes the singer on a satisfying and self-contained emotional journey while, at the same time, sitting comfortably with the meaning of each one of the hymn’s four verses.