Lo! he comes, with clouds descending

Posted on 9th December 2019 by simonbeattie

Today, we feature the carol ‘Lo! he comes, with clouds descending’, which first appeared in A Collection of Psalm and Hymn Tunes never published before (London, ‘To be had at the Lock Hospital near Hyde Park Corner, and of E. Dilly’, 1769). 

Charles Wesley’s classic Advent hymn, which dates from the 1750s, received its tune early on.  The composer, Martin Madan (1726–1790), had originally gone to hear Wesley preach so he could study the Methodist’s mannerisms for a later impersonation at a drinking club to which he belonged.  But he was converted, became a minister, and served as both chaplain and director of music at the Lock Hospital (a charitable institution which cared for women with venereal diseases), for which he wrote Lo! he comes in 1769. 

The first appearance in print of ‘Lo! he comes’

The other important inclusion here is ‘Hark! the Herald Angels sing’ (to the tune ‘The Nativity’; pp. 88–9), ‘a fine setting for high voices and organ … which treats the hymn in eight-line stanzas.  The composer is given as “C. B.”, and may well be the great historian Charles Burney …  “C. B.”, or perhaps Madan, altered the last couplet of Wesley’s verse 2 to “With th’angelic host proclaim / Christ is born in Bethlehem”’ (Keyte, p. 328).

‘Hark! the Herald’ to the tune ‘The Nativity’.

‘The “Lock Collection”, as it is known, is unusually coherent for the period, as Madan, wearing one hat, had selected the psalms and hymns to be used in the hospital chapel and, wearing another, had chosen, arranged, and sometimes composed the music to which they were sung’ (op. cit., p. 256). 

Posted in

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *