Hosanna, loud hosanna
Text: Origins. Among the poems of Jennette Threlfall (1821–1880), this is the only one still in common use, and it has served its purpose well as a hymn for Palm Sunday. The text was first published in her collection Sunhine and Shadow (London: William Hunt & Company, 1873 | Fig. 1), in four stanzas of eight lines, without music. In her brief preface, Threlfall offered a glimpse of her motivation for writing poems:
Some of the pieces are specially written for children, others for those upon whom life’s shadows have fallen. The author’s wish for all is that they may possess the Sunshine which brings no shadow with it.
The author’s wishes seem to have been a reflection of her own life experience. In 1899, the Rev. John Brownlie said of her:
Her life was a clouded one. She early lost both parents and found a home with relatives, carrying with her brightness and joy, despite her sorrow and suffering. These were due partly to accidents she met with, by which she was maimed and rendered an invalid for life.
Threlfall’s collection also featured an introduction by Christopher Wordsworth (1807–1885), bishop of Lincoln, and skilled poet in his own right. He was glad to recommend the poems, “in which considerable mental powers and graces of composition are blended with pure religious feeling, and hallowed by sound doctrine and fervent devotion.”
Text: Analysis. This hymn, at its most foundational level, draws from the story of the triumphal entry, found in Matthew 21, Mark 11, Luke 19, and John 12, except Threlfall has shifted the initial focus to the participation of children. This focus is not mentioned specifically in the scriptural text, but it follows a long tradition of children participating in Palm Sunday processions. In the famed processional hymn by Theodulf of Orléans, his hymn “Gloria laus et honor” was headed by the instruction “Verses made to be sung by boys on the day of palms” [“Versus facti a pueris in die palmarum cantarentur”], and this idea was carried out in many liturgical traditions. Threlfall’s line “To Jesus who had blessed them” and the last two lines of stanza three are a reference to Matthew 19:13-15 and its parallels in Mark 10:13-16 and Luke 18:15-17. In the second stanza, the inclusion of angels and “Glory to God on high” is apparently an allusion to Luke 2:14. In the third stanza, the reference to the ancient city of Salem is meant to reflect the historical equation of this place with Jerusalem (see Genesis 14:18, Psalm 76:2, Hebrews 7:1-2).
Tune. Threlfall’s hymn was initially popularized in part through its inclusion in the Scottish Church Hymnary (1898 | Fig. 2), a successful hymnal, revised and updated in four editions through 2005. In this collection, her hymn was paired with the German tune, ELLACOMBE, a pairing of great endurance. The tune supports the grand, celebratory nature of the text. This harmonization is nearly identical to the one in Hymns Ancient & Modern (1868, see Fig. 6 below), except in the second measure of the first, second, and fourth lines.
ELLACOMBE is sometimes credited as first appearing in an appendix to Gesang-Buch nebst angehängtem öffentlichen Gebethe zum Gebrauche der Herzogl. Wirtembergischen katholischen Hofkapelle (1784 | Fig. 3), but this tune only shares a few series of notes with ELLACOMBE and should not be regarded as the same tune.
Wilhelm Bäumker (1842–1905), in Das katholische deutsche Kirchenlied, vol. 4 (1911, completed posthumously by Joseph Gotzen), no. 145, pp. 533-536 (HathiTrust), published five variants of the ELLACOMBE tune, the earliest being a version set to the text “Im Himmel und auf Erden,” said to be in a manuscript of the early nineteenth century, in the possession of A. Feigel, a schoolteacher in Altwasser. The current location of this MS is unknown.
The earliest printed source is Xaver Ludwig Hartig’s Vollstandige⸗Sammlung der gewöhnlichen Melodien zum Mainzer⸗Gesangbuche (Mainz: Franz Zimmermann, ca. 1827 | Fig. 4), no. 89, set to the text “Der du im heilgsten Sacrament.” This source is often cited as 1833, but Lutheran hymnologist Joe Herl made the following observations regarding the proper dating:
There is no publication date in the source, but the preface refers the reader to “Cäciliaheft No 8 2 Band,” which appeared in 1825; and the title of source 3 [Die Melodien des Gesang⸗Buches für die Diözes Mainz nach Herrn Hartigs “Vollständiger Sammlung” zum Gebrauch für Schulen; see below], published in 1829, refers to Hartig’s book, so the book cannot have been published before 1825 or after 1829. In addition, the Yale University copy of Hartig’s book has a review of it by G. Otto from an unidentified periodical inserted after the front flyleaf; the review is dated “M[ainz] — im Julius 1827,” which means the book very likely appeared in 1826 or early in 1827.
In this early version, notice especially the melodic endings of the phrases, with the first two phrases repeated, yielding a form of AABBA.
The next earliest source, derived from Hartig’s work, is Die Melodien des Gesang⸗Buches für die Diözes Mainz nach Herrn Hartigs “Vollständiger Sammlung” zum Gebrauch für Schulen in Ziffern mit unterlegtem Texte (Mainz: Zimmermann, 1829 | Fig. 5), no. 89. The last part of the title describes the nature of the contents: “for use by schools, in numbers, with text underneath.” Hartig’s melody is repeated here, except replaced by numbers representing scale degrees, for the purpose of music training. This collection is also important for dating the melody; it has to be earlier than 1829.
The German melody is sometimes also associated with the text “Ave Maria, klarer und lichter Morgenstern,” an association traced to Kirchenchoral und Melodien-Buch (Köln, 1844), as noted by Bäumker, p. 535.
This melody was adopted into English hymnody through its appearance in the Appendix to Hymns Ancient & Modern (1868 | Fig. 6), where it was set to the text “Come, sing with holy gladness” by John J. Daniell (1819–1898). The tune was named ELLACOMBE, probably a reference to the district in Devonshire, England, or to the English vicar Henry Thomas Ellacombe (1790–1885), who was from Devonshire, or both.
This version of the tune, when compared to the German versions in Bäumker, differs in the omission of the repeats, with each phrase having its own melodic ending, therefore granting the tune a little more interest with less verbatim repetition. In the 1868 edition of Hymns Ancient & Modern, the music and the harmonization were credited in the index as being from “St. Gall. Katholisches Gesangbuch.” This is most likely a reference to Katholisches Gesangbuch mit einem Anhang von Gebeten zum Gebrauche bei dem öffentlichen Gottesdienste (St. Gallen, A.J. Köppel, 1863 | Fig. 7), where the tune appeared as no. 132, set to the text “Johannes auserkoren,” a song for the commemoration of John the Baptist.
Fig. 7. Katholisches Gesangbuch mit einem Anhang von Gebeten zum Gebrauche bei dem öffentlichen Gottesdienste (St. Gallen, A.J. Köppel, 1863).
The 1863 arrangement is nearly identical to what appeared in HA&M in 1868, except at the end of the third full phrase, where the German form has repeated the first part of that phrase, while the English form has effectively eliminated the last syllable for the purpose of the meter. This small change was probably made by HA&M’s musical editor William H. Monk. Many hymnological sources credit the whole arrangement to Monk, but proper credit goes to the St. Gallen collection, with Monk as alterer.
ELLACOMBE is frequently associated with other texts, including “The day of resurrection,” a translation by J.M. Neale from the Greek text of John of Damascus, and “I sing th’ almighty power of God” by Isaac Watts.
by CHRIS FENNER
for Hymnology Archive
20 March 2019
Rev. John Brownlie, “Jennette Threlfall,” The Hymns and Hymn Writers of the Church Hymnary (London: Henry Frowde, 1899), p. 275.
Joe Herl, “ELLACOMBE,” Companion to the Lutheran Service Book (2019).
A.B. Grosart, “Jeanette Threlfall,” ed. John Julian, A Dictionary of Hymnology (London, 1892), pp. 1171-1172.
William Cowan & James Love, “ELLACOMBE,” The Music of the Church Hymnary (Glasgow: Henry Frowde, 1901), p. 51.
Maurice Frost, “The day of resurrection!” Historical Companion to Hymns Ancient & Modern (London: William Clowes & Sons, 1962), pp. 212-213.
Marilyn Kay Sulken, “O day of rest and gladness,” Hymnal Companion to the Lutheran Book of Worship (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1981), pp. 325-326.
Louis Weil & Morgan Simmons, “ELLACOMBE,” The Hymnal 1982 Companion, vol. 3A (NY: Church Hymnal Corp., 1994), no. 210.
Bert Polman, “Hosanna, loud hosanna,” Psalter Hymnal Handbook (Grand Rapids: CRC, 1998), p. 534.
Paul Westermeyer, “ELLACOMBE,” Hymnal Companion to Evangelical Lutheran Worship (Minneapolis: Augsburg Fortress, 2010), pp. 166-167.
Carl P. Daw Jr. “Hosanna, loud hosanna,” Glory to God: A Companion (Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 2016), p. 200.
J.R. Watson, “Hosanna, loud hosanna,” Canterbury Dictionary of Hymnology:
“Hosanna, loud hosanna,” Hymnary.org: