THE tune of the Easter Day hymn Thine Be the Glory was written by Handel in 1747 as a chorus called See the Conq’ring Hero Comes for the oratorio Joshua, which he composed in a month between July 19 and August 19. However it was so popular that he added it retrospectively to his opera Judas Maccabaeus which had premiered the previous year, and so it appears in both works. When a friend kindly informed Handel that he had written better things than See the Conq’ring Hero Comes, Handel replied: ‘You will live to see it a greater favourite with the people than my other fine things.’
Here it is in Judas Maccabeus:
In 1796, Beethoven composed twelve variations on it for piano and cello.
Here is a lovely arrangement for trumpets.
A YouTube commenter has written: ‘In January 1806 The Times newspaper reported: “The funeral procession of the late Admiral Lord Nelson ascended Ludgate Hill towards St Paul’s Cathedral, to the sound of Herr Handel’s music See the Conquering Hero Comes which could not be heard for the sound of universal weeping”.’
The tune was traditionally played by brass bands at the opening of railway lines and stations in Britain during the 19th century, and Sir Henry Wood used it as a movement in his Fantasia on British Sea Songs, often played at the Proms (starts at about 15’ 40”).
In 1884, Swiss pastor Edmond Louis Budry (1854-1932) wrote words to Handel’s tune, with the first line À toi la gloire Ô Ressuscité (‘To you the glory, O Risen’), which was published in the French hymn book Chants Evangéliques.
In 1923 the World Student Christian Federation obtained permission from Budry to translate his hymn into English. The commission was given to a Baptist minister and theologian, Richard Birch Hoyle (1875-1939).
Hoyle was born in Cloughfold, a hamlet near Rawtenstall in Lancashire. Despite having a hearing problem he was a gifted linguist, fluent in 12 languages. He translated about 30 French hymns into English.
So, here are a few versions of the hymn.
This is by the choir of King’s College, Cambridge.
Here it is given a resounding performance by the First-Plymouth Church in Lincoln, Nebraska.
For sheer power this has got to be my favourite. It’s by an unidentified player at the Wellington Town Hall organ in New Zealand. There may be one or two duff notes, but it’s joyful!
A version of this article was first published on The Conservative Woman on April 21, 2019.