Like the murmur of the dove’s song (StF 389)

Like the murmur of the dove’s song 

Source: Singing the Faith: 389
Words: Carl Daw
Music: “Bridegroom” by Peter Cutts
Metre: 87.87.6.
Verses: 3

Ideas for use

The shape of Peter Cutts’s tune, “Bridegroom”, steadily rising up to a climax at the end of the fourth line, will give the feel of starting quietly and getting louder as each verse progresses. An accompanist or praise band might wish to emphasise this effect.

Similarly, it may be appropriate to emphasise the closing invocation of each verse (“come, Holy Spirit, come”) in other ways: for example, have verse 1 sung as a solo, inviting the congregation to join in only on the last line. That effect could be developed in the second verse, with a small group or choir singing the first four lines and the full congregation participating in the final call to the Holy Spirit. Verse 3 might then be sung in full by the whole congregation.

“Bridegroom” is a lovely melody that lends itself to instrumental performance (flutes and guitars are obvious possibilities for taking the tune) – offering a time of quiet reflection within a service.

The three verses may also be used as sung responses to spoken or silent prayer, for example following the pattern of prayer for God’s presence; for the life and work of the Christian people; for the needs of the world around us.

More information

Peter Cutts’ tune “Bridegroom” has attracted two texts: “Not for tongues of heaven’s angels” by Timothy Dudley-Smith, and this hymn by the American Episcopalian priest, Carl Daw. (See Wild and lone the prophet’s voice, StF 189, for brief biographical details.)

Daw’s hymn was written at the request of the text committee for The Hymnal 1982 – a hymn book of the Episcopal Church in the United States.. The tune predated the text, but they seem to have been made for each other. The understated opening phrases match Daw’s words beautifully, while the melody rise in lines three and four complement the increased momentum in the words: “like the vigour of the wind’s rush, / like the new flame’s eager might”.

Carl Daw writes:

“In the writing of this text, the content of the refrain ["come, Holy Spirit, come"] became obvious first. Once it became clear that each stanza would lead up to a prayer for the coming of the Holy Spirit, the stanzas fell into several natural clusters of images. The first stanza portrays how the Spirit comes… The second stanza turns to the where or to whom aspect of the Spirit’s coming… The third stanza is concerned with the purposes for which the Spirit is given (the why): for reconciliation, prayer (Romans 8:26), divine power (Acts 1:8), and quiet confidence.” (A Year of Grace: hymns for the Church year, 1990)

In the same account of this hymn, Carl Daw explains how he settled upon the hymn’s opening phrase, saying that the image of the dove is not chosen because of its shape but because of its constant murmuring that can sound like a moan. Drawing upon the thinking of others, Daw says that it is because the Holy Spirit moans that the image of the dove is appropriate – as suggested in Romans 8:26 (“we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words”) and Isaiah 38:14 (“Like a swallow or a crane I clamour, I moan like a dove.”)

See Touching the wind: how we describe the Holy Spirit

Categories: 87.87.6., Bridegroom, Cutts, Peter, Daw, Carl P, Intercessory response, Pentecost, The Gift of the Holy Spirit.

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