Ye choirs of New Jerusalem

Ye choirs of New Jerusalem
Your sweetest notes employ,
The Paschal victory to hymn,
In strains of holy joy.

This hymn is from a medieval original 'Chorus novae Ierusalem', the work of St Fulbert, Bishop of Chartres (d. 1028). The hymn was used in England during his lifetime, and became one of the office hymns in the Sarum, York and Hereford breviaries for the Sundays after Easter. It was translated from the Sarum Breviary in the late 1840s by Robert Campbell (1814-68) and first appeared in his Hymns and Anthems (1850).

The hymn takes the theme of Christ as the deliverer of the prisoners from hell, alluded to in the hymn of praise in Revelation 5. This is itself an allusion to many references to the lion of Judah in the Old Testament; Genesis 49:9, Hosea 5:14, Joel 1:6 and Micah 5:8. Verse 2 line 2 alludes to the fulfilment of the promise of redemption in Genesis 3:15. Hymns Ancient and Modern uses Campbell's original first verse, but then uses different versions of verses two to five. There have been other translations of St Fulbert's hymn with first lines such as: 'Thou New Jerusalem on high', 'Wake, choir of our Jerusalem' and 'Jerusalem, thy song be new'.

Tune - St Fulbert

The tune St Fulbert by H J Gauntlett (1805-1876) was first published in The Church Hymn and Tune Book, (1852) where it was set to the hymn 'Now Christ, our Passover, is slain'. The original name of the tune was St Leofred, but in the 1861 edition of Hymns Ancient and Modern the tune was set to 'Ye choirs of New Jerusalem' and took the name 'St Fulbert'. The setting of the concluding words 'Alleluia ! Amen' also appeared at this time. Gauntlett trained as a lawyer, and received the Archbishop of Canterbury's D.Mus in 1842 whilst still technically an amateur musician (the first award of that degree for over 200 years).

Nigel Day
St Peter's Church, Nottingham
Last revised 5th July 1997