Love divine, all loves excelling
Source: Singing the Faith: 503
Words: Charles Wesley
Music: “Blaenwern” by William Penfro Rowlands arr Paul Leddington Wright
Metre: 87.87.D. (Trochaic)
Ideas for use
The tune “Blaenwern” is one of a number of hymn tunes in Singing the Faith drawn from Welsh heritage. It’s a “big” tune: rousing, best sung by a decent number of gathered people, and demanding large reserves of breath. Think Welsh male voice choir in full flow. Unaccompanied four-part harmony makes a wonderful sound but a strong organ or band accompaniment will most likely be needed.
A unison arrangement of the tune with added descant by Paul Leddington Wright is provided for verse 3.
The combination of stirring tune and Charles Wesley’s words may be said to have provided Methodism with one of its most iconic hymns. The steady rise of each verse from its opening low notes towards a high, confident and emphatically faith-full climax can bind a singing community together like no other hymn:
changed from glory into glory,
till in heaven we take our place,
till we cast our crowns before thee,
lost in wonder, love, and praise!
Unsurprisingly, the tune’s composer, William Penfro Rowlands, was an experienced choral conductor, of the Morriston United Choral Society and, from 1892, also precentor of the Tabernacle Congregational Church in Morriston, Swansea. Blaenwern itself was composed around 1904-5 during the Welsh revival of that time, largely experienced in the chapels and churches of Wales through the medium of the Welsh language. The tune was named for a small farm near Tufton, Dyfed (formerly Pembrokeshire), where the composer had recuperated from a serious illness during boyhood.
See Songs for St David.