Last Sunday (Advent I) we sang “Lo, he comes with clouds descending,” (tune name HELMSLEY) for the exit hymn, one of my favorite Advent hymns. “Lo, he comes with clouds descending” was also the caption to the cartoon above, which was posted on the Episcopal Meme’s Facebook page yesterday. It reminded me of the few times that we used incense at LCH (for Solemn Vespers, Easter Vigil and Epiphany Feast of Lights). In the past, we had to turn off the air conditioning when we used incense because it got into the A/C and was oppressive and choking. That all changed, though, when we switched to Russian incense which was much sweeter and less heavy.
The composer of the tune HELMSLEY is uncertain. One source names Thomas Olivers, another Thomas Arne, and another just calls it a traditional English melody. The tune was published by John Wesley and has been called “the greatest musical achievement of Methodism.” Clark Kimberling wrote a complete explanation of this tune in a journal called The Hymn, which you can read by clicking here. The author concludes by calling it a great anonymous melody, and that it was a favorite of Queen Victoria (I guess this melody has been around for awhile!)
For a grand rendition of this hymn, here’s an arrangement by John Rutter and the Cambridge Singers.