Baptism of Christ

On January 3rd, the choir returns from its Christmas holiday for one of the most important Sundays of the Church Year, The Baptism of Our Lord Jesus Christ. I didn't want to let the four powerful hymns from that Sunday go unmentioned.
Hymn 124 "What star is this, with beams so bright" (Puer nobis) owes its history to the French Latinist Charles Coffin (1676-1749) who wrote the original six stanzas of this vesper hymn for Epiphany and published it in 1736 in what is now known as the Paris Breviary. Over 100 years later, the English priest and one of the most influential translators of hymns into the English language, John Chandler (1806-1876), translated Coffin's text in Chandler's The Hymns of the Primitive Church in 1837. The tune Puer nobis is one of oldest in the Hymnal 1982-the melody can be traced back to the Trier Manuscript from the 15th century that the German composer Michael Praetorius (1571-1621) later adapted. We are also familiar with this melody since every year, the first hymn on our Advent Lessons and Carols Service is based on this melody, but with the text, "Come, thou Redeemer of the earth."
Hymn 296 "We know that Christ dies no more" (Engelberg) is one of the most popular hymns to address the Church's need for baptismal hymnody. The British Congregational minister and New Testament scholar, John Brownlow Geyer (b. 1932) wrote this text in 1967 as a student at Chestnut College in Cambridge, UK. Numerous American research students at that time were producing living cells that ultimately became "the baby in the test tube." Challenged by this, Geyer wrote this text based on Romans 6:9 and rich in imagery of the baptismal rite. The tune Engelberg was originally written in 1904 by Charles Villiers Stanford (1852-1924) for William Walsham How's text "For all the saints, who from their labors rest." In 1906, Ralph Vaughan Williams wrote the tune Sine nomine for How's poignant All Saints text, forever changing the musical association for this famous text with a tune.
Hymn 339 "Deck thyself, my soul with gladness" (Schmücke dich) was authored by Johann Franck (1618-77), a German-born lawyer who held several prestigious positions as a legal advisor in Prague and Germany. Franck's hymns appeared in the musical collections of his friends, such as Johann Crüger (1598-1662), an organist, musicologist, and hymnal editor. The melody Schmücke dich, o liebe Seele was written by Johann Crüger and first appeared in the 1649 Geistliche kirchen Melodien. The tune has remained throughout the centuries one of Crüger's most popular hymns, except for perhaps Nun danket alle Gott ("Now thank we all our God").
The text of the popular Epiphany Hymn 119 "As with gladness men of old" (Dix) was written by the 19th century poet William Chatterton Dix (1837-1898). This gifted poet wrote more than 40 hymns during his life including such famous favorites as "What child is this" and "Alleluia, Sing to Jesus!" The tune associated with the text "As with gladness men of old" was written by the German composer Conrad Kocher (1786-1872). William Henry Monk (1823-1889), the editor of Hymns Ancient and Modern, excised the third phrase of Kocher's melody for the 1861 edition of Hymns Ancient and Modern. It is this form that we now know and use today.