March 22, 2013 | 02:15 pm

The Tragic Trumpets of Palm Sunday

The hymn, “Ride On! Ride On in Majesty!” that we will sing on Sunday morning was written when Henry Hart Milman was 30 years old and shortly before he became professor of poetry at Oxford in 1821. The original tune for this hymn was called “Winchester New” which is more popularly known as an Advent hymn: “On Jordan’s Bank the Baptist’s Cry”. The tune in our hymnal, however, is “The King’s Majesty” and was written by Graham George. It was first published in the Episcopal Hymnal of 1940. In reply to an inquiry about the origin of the tune, George wrote: “It originated as the result of a choir practice before Palm Sunday in – I suppose – 1939, during which I had been thinking, “Winchester New” is a fine tune, but it has nothing whatever to do with the ‘tragic trumpets,’ as one might theatrically call them, of Palm Sunday. At breakfast the following morning I was enjoying my toast and marmalade when the first two lines of this tune sang themselves unbidden in my mind. This seemed too good to miss, so I went to my study, allowed the half-tune to complete itself – which it did with very little trouble – and there it was.”

When you encounter this hymn as we close our Palm Sunday service, think of the ‘tragic trumpets’ of that day when Jesus rides into Jerusalem, on a humble donkey, knowing the outcome.