This is the second of my series of Advent hymn recordings to mark the second Sunday in Advent.
William Henry Monk was born on March 16, 1823, in London.
By age 18, Monk was organist at St Peter's Church, Eaton Square (Central London). He left after two years, and moved on to two more organist posts in London (St. George's Church, Albemarle Street, and St. Paul's Church, Portman Square). He spent two years in each. Each served as a stepping stone toward fostering his musical ambitions.
In 1847, Monk became choirmaster at King's College London. There he developed an interest in incorporating plainchant into Anglican services, an idea suggested by William Dyce, a King's College professor with whom Monk had much contact. In 1849, Monk also became organist at King's College.
In 1852, he became organist and choirmaster at St Matthias' Church, Stoke Newington, where he was music director for almost four decades. In that time he made many changes: plainchant was used in singing psalms, and the music performed was more appropriate to the church calendar. By now, Monk was also arranging hymns, as well as writing his own hymn melodies.
In 1857, his talents as composer, arranger, and editor were recognized when he was appointed the musical editor of Hymns Ancient and Modern, first published in 1861. Thomas Hardy wrote of Monk’s editing for Hymns Ancient and Modern:
Stripped of some of your vesture
By Monk or another. Now you wore no frill,
And at first you startled me. But I know you still,
Though I missed the minim’s waver
And the dotted quaver.
Monk died on March 1, 1889, and is buried in Highgate Cemetery (East), London.
This tune, "Merton" (87 87) is sung to "Hark! A Herald Voice Is Calling". For those who like singing along, the score (including the lyrics by E Caswall) is attached as a PDF, and one full verse is played as introduction. I play my own harmonisation of the last verse, and I hope you enjoy this performance of it.