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Rugby and song! St Paul's marks start of World Cup with home nation hymns

The sport of rugby has long been associated with great song, so to mark the start of the 2015 World Cup we have chosen a great hymn from St Paul's for each of England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland to get into the spirit of the tournament.

ENGLAND

The England rugby team is most associated with the hymn, Jerusalem, which regularly resonates around Twickenham. Unfortunately we could not track down a recording of that great Hubert Parry tune, but it is no poor substitute to offer Ralph Vaughan Williams' epic Old Hundredth - All people that on earth do dwell. This wonderful rendition is from the Diamond Jubilee of HM The Queen in 2012.

 

WALES

Ah, Cymru - the land of song itself! And this choice was particularly easy - we couldn't possibly choose anything other than the majestic Guide me, O thou great Redeemer to John Hughes' tune, Cym Rhondda. Rugby fans take particular joy in belting out the line "Bread of heaven, bread of heaven, feed me till I want no more." Again, this video is from the Diamond Jubilee service, in an arrangement by our current Organist, Simon Johnson. The final verse descant leaves great smiles on the faces of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.

 

SCOTLAND

Not to be outdone, our friends north of the border can boast one of the most stirring national anthems in the world of rugby, often played by band of pipes and drums at their Murrayfield stadium. Our Scottish hymn choice is perhaps less stirring, but absolutely beautiful and known to all. Set to the words of Psalm 23, The Lord's my shepherd, the tune Crimond was written by the teenager Jessie Seymour Irvine in the 19th century. This recording is from the album, Great Hymns from St Paul's, directed by Malcolm Archer.

 

IRELAND

There have been few places more daunting for a visiting rugby player over the decades than Dublin's Lansdowne Road, and the same atmosphere from that historic stadium has now moved to the new Aviva Stadium. Our hymn choice shows a contrasting, mellow beauty. The hymn Lord of all hopefulness is set to the traditional folk tune, Slane. This recording is from the 1981 album, Music for the royal occasion, directed by Barry Rose.
 

 



But what about the rest of the world? Well, however, hard we tried we just couldn't find any Romanian, Tongan, Namibian or Japanese hymns.

But don't fear, because there is one hymn tune which sums up the whole tournament, Gustav Holst's I vow to thee my country. Taken from the Jupiter movement of his Planets suite, this tune is known internationally and has been played at some momentous moments in the history of St Paul's, notably the wedding of Prince Charles to Lady Diana in 1981 and the funeral of Baroness Thatcher in 2013.

Since 1991 it has also been the official song of the Rugby World Cup, set to new words, World in Union.

This recording is also from the album, Music for the royal occasion.