Celebration Hymn is a setting for four voices (SATB unaccompanied) of verses by the Reverend Robert (Bob) Archer, formerly Pastor of Wycliffe Baptist Church in Reading, in the south of England. It is straightforward to sing.
The music is unhurried, with some hauntingly beautiful harmonies.
Dear Lord you are my guiding light:
You lead me in your way
And guide me through the darkest night
To your eternal day.
You're my salvation: from your throne
You came my soul to heal;
Your blood you shed, sin to atone,
God's covenant to seal.
Lord Jesus, stronghold of my life
And conqueror of my fears,
Source of my confidence in strife,
Who my heart's prayer hears:
Come shed your light on all mankind,
Save those who on you call;
Raise up your church, renew our mind
To do your perfect will.
In November 1985 I was playing piano at an evening service in Wycliffe Baptist Church, Reading, when my wife walked to the front of the church and read a poem. It was only afterwards that she told me that the Pastor had asked her as she came into church if she would be willing to read some words that he had composed.
I decided to set them to music that allowed the words to speak, while at the same time adding depth to them. So I wrote a simple melody, with harmonies consisting of open fifth, major seventh and minor second intervals. The result has a sense of vastness, sounding “almost Nordic” as somebody said when it was first sung.
I cannot remember why I named the piece Celebration Hymn because it was over thirty years ago. I have a feeling it coincided with centenary of the Church as a fellowship being founded (which would fit, because its present building was completed in 1887). In any case, the Rock that is Christ Jesus is worth celebrating and for that reason I am content to keep the title.