Updated: May 3, 2020
Text: William Kethe (d. 1593) Tune: Louis Bourgeois (1510-1561)
1. All people that on earth do dwell,
Sing to the LORD with cheerful voice.
Serve him with joy, his praises tell,
Come now before him and rejoice!
2. Know that the LORD is God indeed;
He formed us all without our aid.
We are the flock he surely feeds,
The sheep who by his hand were made.
3. O enter then his gates with joy,
Within his courts his praise proclaim!
Let thankful songs your tongues employ.
O bless and magnify his name!
4. Because the LORD our God is good,
His mercy is forever sure.
His faithfulness at all times stood
And shall from age to age endure.
For my tenth birthday I got a coloring book featuring the coronation of Queen
Elizabeth II, June 2, 1953. The red and gold crayons I had were quickly worn down.
The beefeaters, the Anglican clergy, the Queen’s Guard outside Buckingham Palace. Then the golden carriage, her crown, the scepters. The pages on the floor in the living room where I colored glowed up at me.
Whether or not we listened to it on our Philco radio, I cannot remember, but at the
time it was the most watched program BBC had ever broadcast on television,
something we did not have in North Dakota yet. Over 85 million watched it, in black
and white, in the United States. Only in magazines and books could we enjoy its full
glory in color.
It was also the occasion for the premier of Ralph Vaughan Williams’ setting of Psalm
100. Williams (1872-1958) was England’s greatest composer at the time. That setting has become a standard piece in the repertoire of hymn settings.
English hymnody first really started with Calvinists who wrote psalm paraphrases.
The Methodists, whose hymnody attracted many to its revivals, sang joyful hymns of
praise. Anglicans used chants or anthems on the psalms. Calvin, in urging his hymn
writers to write hymns in the vernacular, said a hymn should precisely paraphrase
the Psalms for they are where “God teaches us how to sing his praise.”
They started setting them first in Geneva, the city of Calvin, where dissenters fled to
escape the terrors of Queen Mary who was trying to return England to the Catholic
fold. The writer William Kethe, a Scot, found refuge in Geneva, and time to help with
the translation of the Geneva Bible (1560), considered by some to be the best and
most scholarly translation of the Bible into English. In addition Kethe created some
twenty-five English paraphrases of the psalms, among them Psalm 100, for what
became known as the Anglo-Genevan Psalter of 1561.
This began centuries of psalters that shaped the Calvinist tradition, all greatly
influential in America. The earliest settlers brought their psalters with them: The
French Huguenots to New York and South Carolina, the English pilgrims in New
England, the Dutch Calvinists in New York, the Scotch, all over. Everywhere, early
Americans sang paraphrased psalms to the glory of God. The first book published on
American soil was the Bay Psalm Book in 1640. It included all the psalms made into
singable hymns by clergy who knew the Hebrew and English poetry well enough to
do so in the wilds of the frontier!
Elizabeth II heard it in Westminster Abbey during her coronation. A tradition
persecuted by English royalty, now the centerpiece in an event of world-wide
significance with a grandeur the dissenters might have disapproved of. The young
woman, now 94, still reigns and heard this thrilling setting at her Diamond Jubilee.
“All People that on earth do dwell/Sing to the Lord with cheerful voice.” People
around the world glued to their radios or televisions heard the words of Scripture
urging them to praise the Lord, set into fine English poetry by Kethe. The Gospel
proclaimed gets through.
We are the sheep of his pasture. We follow him. Now in this time as we celebrate Good
Shepherd Sunday in isolation, find comfort in this: “His faithfulness at all times
stood/And shall from age to age endure!”
The tune, Old Hundredth, by Louis Bourgeois, originally intended for the French
version of Psalm 134, became known as Old Hundredth because of its attachment to Kethe’s paraphrase of Psalm 100. Bourgeois composed much of the music for the Genevan psalter. He lived in Geneva, and was musician where John Calvin served as pastor, pictured here.
The Jubilee for the Queen in 2012
Song at the actual Coronation 1953
Sacred Harp version/how it probably sounded at the beginning—This is the
doxology text, however.