Tag Archives: Hyfrydol

Reflections on Come Thou Long Expected Jesus

“Come Thou Long Expected Jesus” is probably the track from “What Child” least familiar to most people, but it has significant and interesting roots. This hymn was written by one of the founders of the Methodist Movement in the 18th century and was subsequently set to two different tunes, one by an accomplished 18th century German musician, and the other by a nineteen year old Welshman amateur during the following century.

The Lyrics

Charles_WesleyCharles Wesley formed a prayer group at Oxford University in 1727 that set in motion events that would lead to the creation of the Methodist Church, headed by his brother John Wesley.  Charles Wesley wrote many of the hymns found in the Methodist hymnal.  It is possible that he wrote around 6,500 hymns during the course of his life!  One of his hymns for Christmas was “Hark, how all the welkin rings”, which is now known and popularized as “Hark, the Herald Angels Sing”.  He authored “Come Thou Long Expected Jesus”, and it was printed in Hymns for the Nativity of Our Lord, published in 1744.

The Music

“Come Thou Long Expected Jesus” was traditionally set to the hymn tune “Stuttgart”.  “Stuttgart” was included in the Psalmodia Sacra, 1715, and is considered to be composed by Christian Friedrich Witt.  Witt was a German organist and kapellmeister who had studied music performance, composition, and counterpoint under several tutors and wrote over 100 of the hymns included in the Psalmodia Sacra.

In contrast, the second hymn tune to which it is commonly set, and the one that we used as the basis for our arrangement, is “Hyfrydol”.  “Hyfrydol”, which means “tuneful” or “pleasant” in Welsh, was composed by a nineteen year old Welshman and amateur musician named Rowland H. Pritchard in 1830, and was later published in his children’s collection Cyfaill y Cantorion (The Singers’ Friend) in 1844.  Another of Wesley’s works, “Love Divine, All Love Excelling” is also frequently paired with this hymn tune.

Chocolate and Peanut Butter, Chocolate and Caramel

The two hymn tunes are quite different, and each affects the lyrics in a different way.  “Stuttgart” has no repeating parts in a single verse, moves in a stately 4/4 time, and has strophic effect upon the lyrics common to many hymns that renders all four verses in equal weight.

Verse Verse 1 Verse 2 Verse 3 Verse 4
Music Music A Music A Music A Music A
Formal Effect Verse Verse Verse Verse
Lyrical Effect Statement Statement Statement Statement

“Hyfrydol” is set in an almost whimsical and lilting 6/8, and actually has the form AAB, where the “B” is equal in length to the two “A”s.  The verses are paired in an alternating fashion AA and B, giving the effect similar to a verse and refrain, or AB couplet.

Verse Verse 1 Verse 2 Verse 3 Verse 4
Music Music AA Music B Music AA Music B
Formal Effect Verse Refrain Verse Refrain
Lyrical Effect Entreatment Extension Entreatment Extension

Our Take

The words of the song not only reflect on the birth of baby Jesus, but bypassing the romanticization of the child in the manger they look to the significant impact that Christ has on human history, the central place He assumes in the Christian’s heart, and the promise of experiencing Him in his full glorification.  “For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.” 1 Cor. 13:12

By the Mane made a darker and perhaps more musically desperate take on the hymn, making the verses minor with broad beats overlain with super-human arpeggios in the synths, and pleading leads from the guitar.  Listen to it to hear what we mean:

Lyrics

Come, thou long expected Jesus,
born to set thy people free;
from our fears and sins release us,
let us find our rest in thee.

Come, thou long expected Jesus,
born to set thy people free;
from our fears and sins release us,
let us find our rest in thee.

Israel’s strength and consolation,
hope of all the earth thou art;
dear desire of every nation,
joy of every longing heart.

Born thy people to deliver,
born a child and yet a King,
born to reign in us forever,
now thy gracious kingdom bring.

By thine own eternal spirit
rule in all our hearts alone;
by thine all sufficient merit,
raise us to thy glorious throne.

By thine own eternal spirit
rule in all our hearts alone;
by thine all sufficient merit,
raise us to thy glorious throne.