On the second Sunday of Epiphany we sing Jesus Calls us o’er the Tumult, written by Cecil Frances Alexander, and sung to the tune Restoration.
Born in Dublin, Ireland, in 1818, Alexander was a prolific Anglo-Irish hymn writer. In 1850 she married the priest, William Alexander, who later became Archbishop of Armagh. Her writing was heavily influenced by the Oxford Movement, and especially by John Keble, who edited one of her books. She was devoted to charitable work during her life, a common practice of devotees of the Oxford Movement.
Restoration is a tune from The Southern Harmony, a hymn book compiled by William Walker and first published in 1835. This hymnal was used as a text book to teach students how to read music, and also provided music for congregational singing. It grows out of the colonial American tradition of singing schools that were formed to teach choral singing.
William Walker was born in Martin’s Mills, South Carolina in 1809, and grew up near Spartanburg. He was a member of his ancestral church, the Welsh Baptist Church, the music of which was influenced by the music of Wales.
Although Walker is credited as the composer of many of the tunes in The Southern Harmony, he acknowledged that many of them were taken from the folk music tradition of the Piedmont area, and it is reliance on this indigenous sacred folksong tradition that gives his music its distinctive Southern appeal.
Walker died in Spartanburg County, South Carolina in 1875, but The Southern Harmony continues to have a strong influence over hymnody not only in our own Hymnal 1982, but also in hymnals of many other religious traditions.