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Updated 05/28/2013

 

All Praise to Thee, My God, This Night


Thomas Ken
The lyrics to “All Praise to Thee, My God, This Night” were written by Thomas Ken. Thomas Ken (July 1637 – 19 March 1711) was an English cleric who was considered the most eminent of the English non-juring bishops, and one of the fathers of modern English hymnology. 

Ken was born in 1637 at Little Berkhampstead, Hertfordshire. His father was Thomas Ken of Furnival's Inn, of the Ken family of Ken Place, in Somerset; his mother was the daughter of little known English poet, John Chalkhill. In 1646 Ken's stepsister, Anne, married Izaak Walton, author of The Compleat Angler, a connection which brought Ken under the influence of this gentle and devout man. 

In 1652 Ken entered Winchester College, and in 1656 became a student of Hart Hall, Oxford. He gained a fellowship at New College in 1657, and proceeded B.A. in 1661 and M.A. in 1664. He was for some time tutor of his college; but the most characteristic reminiscence of his university life is the mention made by Anthony Wood that in the musical gatherings of the time Thomas Ken of New College, a junior, would be sometimes among them, and sing his part. Ordained in 1662, he successively held the livings of Little Easton in Essex, St. Mary's Church, Brighstone (sometimes called Brixton) in the Isle of Wight, and East Woodhay in Hampshire; in 1672 he resigned the last of these, and returned to Winchester, being by this time a prebendary of the cathedral, and chaplain to the bishop, as well as a fellow of Winchester College.


Thomas Tallis

 

He remained there for several years, acting as curate in one of the lowest districts, preparing his Manual of Prayers for the use of the Scholars of Winchester College (first published in 1674), and composing hymns. It was at this time that he wrote, primarily for the same body as his prayers, his morning, evening and midnight hymns, the first two of which, beginning "Awake, my soul, and with the sun" and "Glory to Thee, my God, this night," are well known. The latter is often made to begin with the line "All praise to Thee, my God, this night," but in the earlier editions over which Ken had control, the line is as first given. Both of these hymns end with a doxology beginning "Praise God, from whom all blessings flow," which is widely sung today by itself, often to the tune Old 100th.

In 1674 Ken paid a visit to Rome in company with young Izaak Walton, and this journey seems mainly to have resulted in confirming his regard for the Anglican communion.

In 1679 Ken was appointed by Charles II chaplain to the Princess Mary, wife of William of Orange. While with the court at the Hague, he incurred the displeasure of William by insisting that a promise of marriage, made to an English lady of high birth by a relative of the prince, should be kept; and he therefore gladly returned to England in 1680, when he was immediately appointed one of the king's chaplains.

He was once more residing at Winchester in 1683 when Charles came to the city with his slightly disreputable court. His residence was chosen as the home of Nell Gwynne, the King's official mistress—hardly an appropriate arrangement! But Ken stoutly objected and succeeded in making the favorite find quarters elsewhere. In August of this same year he accompanied Lord Dartmouth to Tangier as chaplain to the fleet, and Pepys, who was one of the company, has left on record some quaint and kindly reminiscences of him and of his services on board.

The fleet returned in April 1684, and a few months after, upon a vacancy occurring in the see of Bath and Wells, Ken (now Dr Ken) was appointed bishop. It is said that, upon the, occurrence of the vacancy, the King, mindful of the spirit he had shown at Winchester, exclaimed, "Where is the good little man that refused his lodging to poor Nell?" and determined that no other should be bishop. The consecration took place at Lambeth on 25 January 1685; and one of Ken's first duties was to attend the death-bed of Charles, where his wise and faithful ministrations won the admiration of everybody except Bishop Burnet.

In this year he published his Exposition on the Church Catechism, perhaps better known by its sub-title, The Practice of Divine Love.

In 1688, when James reissued his Declaration of Indulgence, Ken was one of the seven bishops who refused to publish it. He was probably influenced by two considerations: first, by his profound aversion from Roman Catholicism, to which he felt he would be giving some Episcopal recognition by compliance; but, second and more especially, by the feeling that James was compromising the spiritual freedom of the church. Along with his six brethren, Ken was committed to the Tower on 8 June 1688, on a charge of high misdemeanor; the trial, which took place on 29 June and 30 June, and which resulted in a verdict of acquittal, is a matter of history.

With the Glorious Revolution which speedily followed this impolitic trial, new troubles encountered Ken; for, having sworn allegiance to James, he thought himself thereby precluded from taking the oath to William of Orange. Accordingly, he took his place among the non-jurors, and, as he stood firm to his refusal, he was, in August 1691, superseded in his bishopric by Dr Richard Kidder, dean of Peterborough. From this time he lived mostly in retirement, finding a congenial home with Lord Weymouth, his friend from college days, at Longleat in Wiltshire; and though pressed to resume his diocese in 1703, upon the death of Bishop Kidder, he declined, partly on the ground of growing weakness, but partly no doubt from his love for the quiet life of devotion which he was able to lead at Longleat. His death took place there on 19 March 1711. and at dawn the following day, whilst his faithful friends sang "Awake, my soul, and with the sun" Bishop Ken's remains were laid to rest beneath the East Window of the Church of St. John in Frome - the nearest parish in his old Diocese of Bath and Wells. "I am dying," Ken had written, "In the Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Faith professed by the whole Church before the disunion of East and West; and, more particularly, in the Communion of the Church of England, as it stands distinguished from both Papal and Protestant innovation, and adheres to the Doctrine of the Cross." There is no finer statement of the Anglican position to be found anywhere.

He was buried at the Church of St. John the Baptist, Frome where his crypt can still be seen. He is remembered in the Church of England with a Lesser Festival on 8 June.

The music was written by Thomas Tallis.  Tallis (c. 1505 – 23 November 1585) was an English composer who flourished as a church musician during the often stormy 16th century in England. He occupies a primary place in anthologies of English church music, and is considered among the best of its earliest composers. Tallis has been said to be one of the most important composers of his time and is honored for his original voice in English musicianship.

Little is known about Tallis's early life, but there seems to be agreement that he was born in the early 16th century, toward the close of the reign of Henry VII. His first known appointment to a musical position was as organist of Dover Priory in 1530-31, a Benedictine priory at Dover (now Dover College) in 1532. His career took him to London, then (probably in the autumn of 1538) to the Augustinian abbey of Holy Cross at Waltham until the abbey was dissolved in 1540; then he went to Canterbury Cathedral, and finally to Court as Gentleman of the Chapel Royal in 1543, composing and performing for Henry VIII during which he wrote music for the Church of England, Edward VI (1547-1553), Queen Mary (1553-1558), and Queen Elizabeth I (1558 until he died in 1585). Throughout his service to successive monarchs as organist and composer, Tallis avoided the religious controversies that raged around him, though, like William Byrd, he stayed an "unreformed Roman Catholic."

Tallis married around 1552; his wife, Joan, outlived him by four years. They apparently had no children. Late in his life he lived in Greenwich, likely close to the royal palace: a local tradition holds that he lived on Stockwell Street.
 

The earliest surviving works by Tallis, Salve intemerata virgo, Ave rosa sine spinis and Ave Dei patris filia are devotional antiphons to the Virgin Mary, which were used outside the liturgy and were cultivated in England until the fall of Cardinal Wolsey. Henry VIII's break with Roman Catholicism in 1534 and the rise of Thomas Cranmer noticeably influenced the style of music written. Texts became largely confined to the liturgy. The writing of Tallis and his contemporaries became less florid. Tallis's Mass for four voices is marked with tendencies toward a syllabic and chordal style and a diminished use of melisma. Tallis provides a rhythmic variety and differentiation of moods depending on the meaning of his texts. Tallis helped found a relationship that was specific to the combining of words and music.

The reformed Anglican liturgy was inaugurated during the short reign of Edward VI (1547-1553), and Tallis was one of the first church musicians to write anthems set to English words, although Latin continued to be used. The Catholic Mary Tudor set about undoing the religious reforms of the preceding decades. Following the accession of the Catholic Mary in 1553, the Roman Rite was restored and compositional style reverted to the elaborate writing prevalent early in the century. Two of Tallis's major works, Gaude gloriosa Dei Mater and the Christmas Mass Puer natus est nobis are believed to be from this period. Only Puer natus est nobis can be accurately dated in 1554. As was the prevailing practice, these pieces were intended to exalt the image of the Queen as well as to praise the Mother of God.

Elizabeth succeeded her half-sister in 1558, and the Act of Settlement in the following year abolished the Roman Liturgy and firmly established the Book of Common Prayer. Composers at court resumed writing English anthems, although the practice of setting Latin texts continued, growing more peripheral over time.

The mood of the country in the beginning of Elizabeth's reign leant toward the puritan, which discouraged the liturgical polyphony. Tallis wrote nine psalm chant tunes for four voices for Archbishop Parker's Psalter, published in 1567. One of the nine tunes, the "Third Mode Melody", inspired the composition of Fantasia on a Theme of Thomas Tallis by Ralph Vaughan Williams in 1910. Tallis's better-known works from the Elizabethan years include his settings of the Lamentations (of Jeremiah the Prophet)  for the Holy Week services and the unique motet Spem in alium written for eight five-voice choirs. It is thought that this 40-voice piece was part of a celebration of the Queen's 40th birthday in 1573. Tallis is mostly remembered for his role in composing office hymns and this motet, Spem in alium.

Toward the end of his life, Tallis resisted the musical development seen in his younger contemporaries such as William Byrd, who embraced compositional complexity and adopted texts built by combining disparate biblical extracts. Tallis' experiments during this time period were considered rather unusual). Tallis was content to draw his texts from the Liturgy and wrote for the worship services in the Chapel Royal . In 1543, he probably began to serve full time as a member of the Chapel Royal. The Chapel Royal later became a Protestant establishment. Tallis has been variously claimed to be a Protestant, Catholic, and a religious Pragmatist. Mary granted him a lease on a manor in Kent that provided a comfortable annual income. Elizabeth granted to Tallis and Byrd a twenty-one year monopoly in 1575 for polyphonic music and a patent to print and publish music, which was one of the first arrangements of that type in the country. Tallis' monopoly covered 'set songe or songes in parts, and he was able to compose in English, Latin, French, Italian, or other tongues as long as they served for music in the Church or chamber. Tallis had exclusive rights to print any music, in any language. He and William Byrd were the only ones allowed to use the paper that was used in printing music. Tallis and Byrd used their monopoly to produce Cantiones quae ab argumento sacrae vocantur but the piece did not sell well and they appealed to Queen Elizabeth for her support. Tallis and Byrd could work for two opposing religions as long as they did not bring their beliefs into their jobs. He retained respect during a succession of opposing religious movements and deflected the violence that claimed Catholics and Protestants alike. Tallis endured a difficult period during the time of the church and his music often displays characteristics of the turmoil.

Thomas Tallis died peacefully in his house in Greenwich in November 1585 on either the 20th or 23rd. He was buried in the chancel of the parish of St Alfege's Church. A couplet from his epitaph reads:

As he did live, so also did he die, In mild and quiet Sort (O! happy Man).
 

Lyrics by Thomas Ken

  All praise to Thee, my God, this night,
For all the blessings of the light!
Keep me, O keep me, King of kings,
Beneath Thine own almighty wings.

Forgive me, Lord, for Thy dear Son,
The ill that I this day have done,
That with the world, myself, and Thee,
I, ere I sleep, at peace may be.

Teach me to live, that I may dread
The grave as little as my bed.
Teach me to die, that so I may
Rise glorious at the judgment day.
O may my soul on Thee repose,
And with sweet sleep mine eyelids close,
Sleep that may me more vigorous make
To serve my God when I awake.

When in the night I sleepless lie,
My soul with heavenly thoughts supply;
Let no ill dreams disturb my rest,
No powers of darkness me molest.

O when shall I, in endless day,
For ever chase dark sleep away,
And hymns divine with angels sing,
All praise to thee, eternal King?