The hymns of Fr. Theodore Metcalf
  • Don9of11Don9of11
    Posts: 317
    There are a couple of hymns that I used to sing when I was in St. Mary's Choir in Akron, Ohio. And so, I decided to do some research on these hymns particularly "O Sacred Heart! O Love Divine!" and through perseverance discovered who the author and composer is. The document "The Hymns of Fr. Theodore A. Metcalf" is a brief chronology of his life and the hymns he arranged, authored and composed and can be correctly attributed to him. It's my hope that it meets with your approval and my hope that someday you'll incorporate his hymns into your own choirs repertoire.
  • Kathy
    Posts: 5,162
    This is extremely cool. Thank you!
    Thanked by 1Don9of11
  • CHGiffenCHGiffen
    Posts: 4,310
    Interesting that all of the hymns in question are in triple meters.
    Thanked by 1Don9of11
  • NihilNominisNihilNominis
    Posts: 538
    1) Very cool and interesting, thanks!

    2) I am reminded that some 19th Century Anglicans, with an axe to grind, criticized Catholic organists for approaching the instrument as if it were a giant banjo. :-D
    Thanked by 1Don9of11
  • ronkrisman
    Posts: 1,349
    Yes, "cool" and "interesting." But from what Don9of 11's research discovered, I'm of the opinion that the reason Fr. Metcalf's music is not known today is that he wrote junk more suited to a Western saloon than a church. God save us from such tripe (not the menudo type of tripe, which I like).
    Thanked by 1JL
  • oldhymnsoldhymns
    Posts: 137
    Thanks, Don9of11, for this important and interesting contribution to the history of American Catholic Hymnody. I’m glad that Father Theodore Metcalf is finally being recognized for at least two of his fine talents: authoring the words for hymns and composing hymns. So few are so gifted. His hymn, “O Sacred Heart, O Love Divine,” was the most popular of all hymns to the Sacred Heart in pre-Vatican II days. It is contained on a DOT record 33 LP Album, circa 1961, “Best-Loved Catholic Hymns.” The hymns are sung by the Lennon Sisters and directed by Lawrence Welk. Some may recall, too, that it was used as an introduction to the “Sacred Heart Hour,” a radio program in the 1940s that converted to a TV program in the 1950s and even into the early 1960s. My father used to watch it when we would return from Sunday morning Mass in the early 60s.

    Father Metcalf’s hymn for the League of the Sacred Heart, “Form your ranks, oh! all ye Leaguers” is much more obscure than “O Sacred Heart, O Love Divine” or “Heart of Jesus, We Are Grateful.” Obviously, it was intended for a limited audience—the “league” members of the Apostleship of Prayer. It appears in the early editions of St. Basil’s Hymnal and also in the Crown Hymnal (not to be confused with Crown of Jesus Music/Hymnal), which was compiled by Rev. Leslie Kavanagh and James M. McLaughlin in 1912. This is the McLaughlin who was a partner in the well-known “McLaughlin & Reilly Co.” of Boston, from which he departed in 1906. McLaughlin was organist at St. Mary’s Church, Charlestown (Boston), at the time, so he probably had some connections with Father Metcalf because attribution for this hymn is given as “Adapted by Rev. T. A. Metcalf,” this being the only place in any of the hymnals where Father Metcalf is mentioned. As Don9of11 mentions, Father Metcalf was pastor at St. Mary's in the 1880s.

    Don9of11 also mentions that “O Sacred Heart, O Love Divine” and “Heart of Jesus, We Are Grateful” appeared in the 1944, 1954, 1958, and 1968 editions of “The Catholic Chapel Hymnal,” a publication of McLaughlin & Reilly Co. There are no new hymns (previously unpublished) contained in this volume; the hymns included are the result of an extensive survey compiled by McLaughlin & Reilly of military chaplains in World War II. The 118 Catholic chaplains were asked what hymns elicit spontaneous singing by the servicemen participating in chapel services. “The Catholic Chapel Hymnal” is the outcome of that survey.

    “O Sacred Heart, O Love Divine” and “Heart of Jesus, We Are Grateful” honor Jesus in both his humanity and divinity in simple, prayerful ways. Unfortunately, we do not hear much about Sacred Heart devotions today; and Sacred Heart hymns are seldom, if ever, sung. Would that we could hear these two fine hymns once again—possibly hearing them could spark a flame of devotion to the Heart of Our Saviour once again.
    Thanked by 2Don9of11 irishtenor
  • ronkrisman
    Posts: 1,349
    oldhymns, “O Sacred Heart, O Love Divine” is atrocious, both in its text and its tune. Popularity is a poor criterion for judgment. If that's the standard for crap written a century ago, then it is an appropriate standard for crap written in our own day. And I won't go down that road.

    Jesus, the divine dartboard. Shameful.
    Thanked by 1Gamba
  • Kathy
    Posts: 5,162
    Fr. Krisman hates to think of the heart of Jesus on fire with love for us. I've never been sure why.
  • ronkrisman
    Posts: 1,349
    Kathy, my remark was focused only on the "darts." Your comment is uncalled for.
  • chonakchonak
    Posts: 8,170
    Darts? I had to look up the lyric to get that reference. Fr. Metcalf mentions "darts" of sin in the fourth stanza of the song and calls them "cruel". I don't think I get what Fr. Krisman is disagreeing with, in regard to the line.
  • ronkrisman
    Posts: 1,349
    Correct, darts of sin. A metaphor we probably all use several times each day.
  • chonakchonak
    Posts: 8,170
    It's a spin on a fairly common metaphor from the era, the late 1800s, isn't it? Hearts "pierced" by love, symbolized by arrows or daggers, aimed by Cupid or a lover, were a long-standing trope in sentimental poetry.
    https://emotionsblog.history.qmul.ac.uk/2011/12/love-darts-and-broken-hearts/

    And the image of a pierced heart is not foreign to the Roman liturgical tradition, as the gospel and the office hymn Cor arca legem continens confirm:

    Te vulneratum caritas
    Ictu patenti voluit
    Amoris invisibilis
    Ut veneremur vulnera.

    Charity willed you (to be) wounded
    by the opening spear
    that we may venerate the wounds
    of an invisible love.

    So Metcalf shifts the image from a heart wounded by love, to a heart wounded by sin but still loving. The image -- no, rather, the language is out of style now, granted, but I don't think we should be narrow-minded about it.
  • Don9of11Don9of11
    Posts: 317
    I received an email from the Archive & Library Director of the Archdiocese of Boston and he informed me that Fr. Metcalf died July 29, 1920. I had inquired of the archive department regarding when Fr. Metcalf died back in Feb. They are also very interested in my research because other Catholic - music historians and enthusiasts have asked about Fr. Metcalf in the past. Of course everyone there has been working from home the last couple of months and the Director happened to go into the office today for some housekeeping items and thats how he was able to reply back to me.
    Thanked by 2oldhymns Kathy
  • chonakchonak
    Posts: 8,170
    Thanks for providing the summary of his life; it was particularly interesting, given his local connections.
    Thanked by 1Don9of11