Humber Lodge, like many others round about, uses the words "Hail Eternal" for the opening, and "Now the Evening Shadows Closing" for the closing hymn. The author is Walter Clegg, a Yorkshire Freemason who moved to the Province of Lincolnshire. He wrote the words "Hail Eternal" for a Provincial meeting there.
The tunes used in Humber Lodge are Vienna and St. Sylvester. These tunes are used by many other Lodges in the Province. (It is customary for hymn tunes to have names, such as Crimond and Old Hundredth. In the nineteenth century, thousands of people turned their hands to writing hymns and this became a useful way of cataloguing them, which was necessary as often different tunes could be used for the same set of words.)
Vienna (first published 1799) is by the German composer Justin Heinrich Knecht (1752-1817). Little of his work is performed nowadays, but you are probably familiar with his hymn tune Kocher, which is usually sung to the words "O happy band of pilgrims".
St. Sylvester dates from about a century later. It is by the Rev. John Bacchus Dykes who was born in Wilberforce House, about half a mile from the Lodge building in central Hull. Sung in many Lodges in the Province, and, indeed, elsewhere - including Singapore - it is not to be found in modern hymn books.
John Bacchus Dykes also composed the music for the hymn sung after the toast to the Absent Brethren. This was written in 1860, and has been adopted as the "Navy Hymn" in the British Royal Navy and in the USA. It was the favourite hymn of President Franklin Roosevelt and was sung at his funeral. The Navy band played it in 1963 as President Kennedy's body was carried up the steps of the U.S. Capitol to lie in state. Roosevelt served as Secretary of the Navy and Kennedy was a PT boat commander in World War II.
It has been claimed - and disputed - that this hymn was played as the Titanic sank.
Its name Melita derives from the ancient name of the island of Malta, whereon the Apostle Paul was shipwrecked. The words are by a one-time Master of Winchester College Choristers' School, William Whiting, who wrote them as a poem for a student about to sail for America. The words have been modified for Masonic use.
Masonically this is often sung on the East Coast of the Province when the toast is given to the "Absent Brethren", many of whom could have been connected with the seafaring community in 19th century Hull.
As the Lodge is blessed with a number of talented singers, the Festive Board is often supplemented by such vocal contributions as Brethren from the East and West following the Toast to the Visitors, and Happy to Meet Again before the final toast. The points following the toast are done to music.
notes by Eddie Wildman
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