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The Head that Once was Crowned

Sung in Worship: Thursday 9 May, 7pm (The Feast of the Ascension)

Words by Thomas Kelly (1769-1855): who wrote 765 hymns!  Born in Ireland, where his father was a judge, Kelly expected to enter the law.  He was educated in Trinity College, Dublin, and the Middle Temple, but after having some significant religious experience, abandoned law and was ordained in the Church of Ireland in 1792  An exuberantly evangelical preacher, he was inhibited from preaching in Dublin by the Archbishop of Ireland.  In the manner of other evangelicals of the time, he preached in outdoor locations, and in 1803 he left the established church.

The tune is presumably “St Magnus,” which first appeared in print in The Divine Companion of Henry Playford in 1707, without a composer’s name or a tune name. Later it was properly credited to Jeremiah Clark (or Clarke), b. London, ca. 1674, d. London 1707.  Clark was a chorister in the Chapel Royal.  From 1692 to 1695 he was organist of Winchester College, but returned to London as a Gentleman Extraordinary of the Chapel Royal from 1700, when he and William Croft were jointly appointed in order to succeed jointly as organists 1704-1707.  Clark succeeded John Blow as organist of St Paul’s in 1699, soon after the new organ was installed in Wren’s new building.  In December of 1707 Jeremiah Clark committed suicide by shooting himself; it has always been said that the cause was unhappy or unrequited love.  The tune name first appears in a collection of hymns compiled by  William Riley in 1762.