Draw Us in the Spirit's Tether
Every September around the country, one anthem is often sung for its beauty of music, text, and theology for the time of year that we return from our summer travels and resume our full schedule at work, school, and church. The anthem, Draw Us in the Spirit's Tether, was written in 1945 by one of America's more influential church musicians of the 20th century, Harold Friedell (1905-1958). Born in Queens, New York on May 11, 1905, the young Harold began his church music career as the organist at the Methodist Church of Jamaica, Long Island before eventually serving on the faculties at the Julliard School of Music, the Guilmant Organ School, and later teaching composition and improvisation at the School of Sacred Music of Union Theological Seminary in New York. He served as organist-choirmaster at St. John's Episcopal Church in Jersey City Heights, New Jersey and later at New York's Calvary Episcopal Church, where the dynamic The Rev. Samuel Moor Shoemaker served as rector. During his tenure at Calvary, Friedell founded a series of oratorio concerts and recitals that firmly established Calvary's name in Church music history. It was also during this time that his famous anthem Draw Us in the Spirit's Tether was written as a communion hymn for Pentecost Sunday 1945. By 1946, his work at Calvary had drawn critical acclaim and he was asked to succeed his mentor and teacher, David McK. Williams, as organist-choirmaster at Park Avenue's esteemed St. Bartholomew's Church. From 1946 until his death in 1958, throngs of people flocked to St. Bartholomew's to hear the superb professional choir of 70 voices sing weekly Sunday afternoon services (Evensong) where the great choral repertoire of oratorios, passions, requiems, and recently composed works were performed in their entirety following the sung propers of the daily office.
Whether you are from an Episcopal, Methodist, Presbyterian, Lutheran, or Roman Catholic background, the message of this text by English theologian and author Percy Deamer (1867-1936) remains the same:
Draw us in the Spirit's tether; For when humbly, in thy name,
Two or three are met together, Thou art in the midst of them:
Alleluya! Alleluya! Touch we now thy garment's hem.
As the brethren used to gather In the name of Christ to sup,
Then with thanks to God the Father Break the bread and bless the cup,
Alleluya! Alleluya! So knit thou our friendship up.
All our meals and all our living Make us sacraments of thee,
That be caring, helping, giving, We may true disciples be.
Alleluya! Alleluya! We will serve thee faithfully.
Come and be drawn into the Spirit's tether and faithfully serve in the choir. We rehearse every Thursday evening from 7:30 to 9:00 in the Choir Room beginning on Thursday, September 8th.
Derek E. Nickels, DMA
Director of Music