Abide with Me
Whilst living in Scotland, Prof Paul Mealor asked me to improvize a piano accompaniment of “Abide with Me” with the University of Aberdeen Chamber Choir during the Holocaust Memorial Day Meditation Service. Upon hearing this rather ‘free’ first performance, Ms Margaret Carlaw, a dear friend, invited me to spend the weekend at her farm, Baillieknowe, in the Scottish Borders. One bright morning, Margaret drove me to the Parish church in Ednam (a small village near Kelso) to view a plague commemorating Henry Francis Lyte who was born in this village. I was truly taken with the serenity of the church and the village while pondering the text “Abide with Me” which had been written by Henry Francis Lyte. Weeks later with the recent trip in my thoughts, this piano improvisation of “Abide with Me” was transformed into this finished arrangement. I thank both Paul Mealor and Margaret Carlaw for the inspiration given for this sensitive setting of “Abide with Me.”
This setting should always be approached with a feeling of calm and serenity. The opening begins with a gentle, smooth piano accompaniment and a clear tenor solo (preferably) — though it could be sung by the tenors and basses. The unaccompanied middle stanza moves slightly forward with equal ebb and flow of the musical line. Leading with a transitional bridge, the final stanza gains trajectory to the line, “Where is death’s sting?” as the climax of the piece. Slowly after this point, the piece unfolds returning to its gentle opening with the tenor solo singing the final words “Abide with Me” which are echoed by the choir in a hushed, calm manner.