To end the school year, we have a final musical moment from music lover and departing school archivist, Mr Bartram:
The School anthem “Except the Lord build the house” has been part of our school’s life for over a hundred years. It was originally written for Truro High School for Girls in 1897 to celebrate their new building programme. Armed with this fact the words of the anthem make a lot more sense when you realise that they were chosen for the building of a new school.
The headmistress of Truro, Miss Morison, came to us in 1909 and bought the song with her and the rest, as they say, is history. She speaks with fondness of hearing the anthem being practised by the FHS girls for the school birthday and this reminding her of her time at Truro.
The anthem itself is a bit of a curate’s egg, that is to say, good in parts! It was composed by the organist and choirmaster of Truro Cathedral Revd MJ Monk using psalm 127 as his text. You may never have heard of any of his other works as they have all faded into obscurity. Some people may wish that this piece had too… You would have to ask the Music Department for their honest opinion of the musicality of the piece but suffice to say it is quite eccentric! The arcane words have led to some confusion amongst the girls and Father Kenny has often stepped up in assembly to explain the meaning behind them. A modern translation of the text would read more like:
Unless the LORD builds the house, its builders labour in vain. Unless the LORD watches over the city, the watchmen stand guard in vain. In vain you rise early and stay up late, toiling for food to eat– for he grants sleep to those he loves.
For me the anthem is an integral part of our school it doesn’t need a reason to be here, its history is the school’s history, it is one small but important facet of our school and I hope it continues to be sung with much enthusiasm and some degree of accuracy for the next one hundred years.
Click here to hear a recording of our pupils singing “Except the Lord build the House”.