Hymn: In Christ there is no East or West

Sung in Worship: 16 June, 2024

The words are by William Arthur Dunkerly (1852-1941), using the pseudonym John Oxenham ( the name of a character in Charles Kingsley’s Westward Ho).  This poem was written for “The Pageant of Darkness and Light,” presented by the London Missionary Society in 1908.  Based n some degree on Galatians 3:28, it was probably also inspired in part by Kipling’s “Ballad of East and West” (1889).  Journalist, novelist and poet, Dunkerly was a deacon and teacher in the Congregational Church.  In 1892 He co-founded, and wrote for, The Idler, a general interest magazine, of which Jerome K. Jerome was an early editor.   Jerome urged him to write. The pen name John Oxenham he used for poetry and prose fiction (including several mystery novels); he also wrote under his own name, and under the pen name Julian Ross for some journalism.  He wrote several volumes of patriotic and morale-raising verse in the First World War. Some of Oxenham’s hymns are published in hymnals of non-liturgical churches.

The tune McKee was published in a four-part arrangement for these words in 1939 by the African-American baritone and composer Henry T. Burleigh, a lifelong advocate of black spirituals.  Burleigh’s adult musical training was in the National Conservatory of Music in New York City, where he was supported by the Director, Antonin Dvořák (who is said to have used some of the spirituals Burleigh sang for him in his “New World Symphony” and elsewhere).  The tune is named for Elmore M. McKee, the Rector of St George’s Episcopal Church in New York where Burleigh was the soloist for 52 years.  Burleigh knew the tune from the spiritual “The angels changed my name”; he may also have known it in Samuel Coleridge-Taylor’s piano arrangement in Twenty-Four Negro Melodies, published in Boston in 1905.  (Coleridge-Taylor sent Stanford a copy of his piano pieces and Stanford replied, saying, “By the way, one of the tunes, ‘The Angel’s changed my Name’, is an Irish tune. . . .”  Like some of the negro tunes Dvořák got hold of, these have reached the American negroes through the Irish Americans. A curious instance of the transmigration of folk-songs.”)

-Dr. Phil Rogers