Audio demo: Prologue - Hymnal verse - Hymnal verse a cappella - (bridge) - Harmonized descant (2:48) Free score.
BLAENWERN is the signature work of William Penfro Rowlands, written in 1905 and published ten years later in Cân a Moliant (Song and Praise). A striking feature of BLAENWERN is its culminating statement comes at the passage between the third and fourth phrases, followed by a more relaxed cadence. The tune is named for the farm of family friends where Rowlands, who until then lived with his parents in industrial Wales near Cardiff, was sent to live where country air proved to be the best treatment for his subpar health - he lived a productive life of seventy-seven years (1860-1937). Rowlands was a church musician and school teacher, and among his life's work were several hymn tunes and anthems, and a stint as conductor of the famous Morriston United Choral Society. He was also precentor of the Tabernacle Congregational Church in Morriston, and previously of the Bethania Chapel; in the non-liturgical environment, a precentor directed the practice of a cappella hymnody, such as in Reformed Presbyterian use. BLAENWERN was featured in the Billy Graham crusades, sung to "What a Friend We Have in Jesus." Charles Wesley's sublime (and infinitely more substantial) "Love divine, all loves excelling" would hardly be improved by an explanation here. This pairing is a favorite of congregations in the UK.
Jan. 2022 - rewritten cadence in descant, small voice leading edits.
Nov. 2022 - descant opens in lower tessitura, voice leading edits throughout
Descant to the hymn tune BLAENWERN. Free score with harmonized descant and choir part. Prologue can be downloaded free here.
Love divine, all loves excelling
–Charles Wesley, 1747