This is the third of my series of Advent hymn recordings to mark the third Sunday in Advent.
Thomas Olivers was born at Tregynon, near Newtown, Montgomeryshire, in 1725. His father's death, when Olivers was only four years of age, followed by that of his mother shortly afterwards, caused him to be passed on to the care of a series of relatives and with little formal education. He was apprenticed to a shoemaker.
His youth was one of profligacy, through which at the age of 18 he was compelled to leave his home town and to journey to Shrewsbury, Wrexham, and Bristol. It was there that he heard G. Whitefield preach from the text "Is not this a brand plucked out of the fire?" That sermon coverted him to Christianity. His intention at first was to join the followers of Whitefield, but being discouraged from doing so by one of Whitefield's preachers, he subsequently joined the Methodist Society at Bradford-on-Avon. There, he met John Wesley, who, recognising in him both ability and zeal, engaged him as one of his preachers. Olivers joined Wesley at once as an evangelist to Cornwall in 1753.
He continued his work till his sudden death in March 1799. He was buried in Wesley's tomb in the City Road Chapel burying ground, London.
The tune "Helmsley" (87 87 47) is attributed to Olivers, and is sung to "Lo! He Comes With Clouds Descending", the lyrics of which are by Wesley's brother, Charles. There is a definite Methodist feel to the composition, and is one that I enjoy very much. For those who like singing along, the score (including the lyrics) is attached as a PDF, and one full verse is played as introduction. I play it pretty straight throughout with just some alteration in the pedal line in the last verse. I hope you enjoy this performance of it.