Hymn of the Week: I Bind Unto Myself Today (Updated music!)

 Hymn Title: I Bind Unto Myself Today

Tune Name: ST PATRICK"S BREASTPLATE / DIERDRE

Meter: LMD (Long Meter Double, that is, 88 88 two times)

The first hymn I put up on this site was a fine example of an old Irish lorica or prayer of protection. This one is the Big Great Grandaddy of all Old Irish Loricas, named the breastplate of St Patrick. If hymns were people, this one would be a legendary general. If hymns were food, this one would be an entire banquet. If hymns were dwelling places, this one would be a fortress.

Performance of this wonder should not be undertaken without preparation - it's hard to know what is going on and when, unless everyone has looked over the music together at least once. The first verse is a shortened version of the subsequent verses, so I have typeset it first by itself, outside of the repeats. Then, you may notice that the remaining verses are numbered 2-5, then 7. This is because, not content to be a great hymn, this one sidetracks for the sixth verse into a second great hymn (hence the double tune name), only to be pulled back into a final seventh verse with the original tune. I hope it is clearly labeled enough that someone unfamiliar with it can follow.* That said, it is a catchy tune in a range of only one octave, and after hearing it a couple of times, any congregation could sing along and be inspired.

I recommend singing verse one with all voices together, then alternating treble and baritone voices for verses 2-5, as singing this one can get tiring. When switching to the sixth verse harmony, it will be trickiest for the tenors, as they are the ones responsible for shifting from minor to major. The DIERDRE section needs its own count-in, as the note values are not quite equivalent - the half note is longer, but not as long as double. Keep it at a lilting pace, and give it some space on either side; a little beat of silence as you move back and forth.

As for the organist, the first link below is to vocal parts only, edited by me; the second (updated!), a three-page version with organ accompaniment that is still missing notes for the Amen - for now, just go ahead and play c minor-> G major; and the third to the original harmonizations by Charles Villiers Stanford, with enough variations to keep you busy, including a crashing great majestic final verse. Mix and match as your skill level takes you. As with any hymn in unison, but especially one with as many verses as this one, this is the organist's time to shine.

Also, please note: St Patrick's Day is not a liturgical season. This is not a special St Patrick's Day hymn, nor should it replace other, more appropriate hymns on Sundays close to St Patrick's Day. It's great for All Saints, awesome for Sundays when the readings have those strong Old Testament Vibes, and I've heard it at weddings twice, to great effect.

Click here for the vocal score!

Click here for the simpler arrangement!

Click here for the awesome variations!


*I am always learning new things about the way my typesetting program works, and this is one hymn that has challenged my skills a great deal already. I intend to revisit and revise it again, probably more than once.

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