New Music

Updated: Sep 10

by Jesse Ratcliffe


As a parish musician, I strive to utilize music that resounds within all the folks in the pews, and to do so I often think outside our Episcopalian resources. A reoccurring goal is to keep the service music fresh. The Sanctus and Fraction Anthem setting we will use for the next several weeks has become a favorite of mine---it uses a familiar tune, Land of Rest, (304 – I Come With Joy and 620 – Jerusalem, My Happy Home) and is accessible to children and adults. This setting is published by the Gregorian Institute of America (GIA), the publisher for Catholic resources.


The story of this melody is quite unique--this American folk tune has roots in Northern England and Scotland and spread throughout the Appalachians by oral tradition. In 1844, a shape-note version of the tune was published in The Sacred Harp and paired with the text O land of rest! for thee I sigh. Shape-note hymnals were the first tools of music education in the Appalachians. Instead of relying predominately on letter note names (A, B, C, D, E, F, G) to be associated with the piano keyboard, singers were taught to rely on their ear by learning solfege syllables (Do, Re, Mi, etc.). Each syllable had a matching shape:

Land of Rest transitioned from a Shape Note and folk tune to a “modern” hymn by the hand of Annabel M. Buchanan (1888-1983), a Texan by birth, whose grandmother sang this tune to her as a child. She harmonized the tune and published it in her Folk Hymns of America (1938). Buchanan published numerous articles on folk traditions of the Appalachian area of the United States. She also lectured widely on this topic and gave recitals of folk music. In 1980, Richard Proulx (1937-2010) a Chicagoan who composed predominately for the Catholic Church and served on the Hymnal 1982 committee, paired an adaption of the Sanctus and Fraction by Marcia Pruner with this old folk tune.

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