Sacred Music Studies
Year 1 - October

Welcome to October - I hope you enjoy learning and singing the hymn for this month! "Dear Angel, Ever at My Side" honors our guardian angels, whose feast day is October 2. Father Frederick Faber wrote this poem for children, and it has become a popular devotional hymn. 

Now, when I researched a melody for this hymn, I was surprised and overwhelmed to find at least 12 different melodies for the same hymn! It seemed like no one tune ever "stuck". How to choose? I finally settled on one by Vincent Novello because it seemed easier to sing than most others.

I was also happily surprised to find that there are more verses than the usual 3-4 that you find in most hymnals. Fr. Faber wrote 13 verses, and I'm going to give you all of them, because when you read them in order, as a poem, it gives a more complete picture of how our guardian angels are so devoted and faithful to us throughout our lives. 

Please don't feel pressured to memorize all of them in a month! Maybe choose your favorite 3? (Some of the verses are actually a little awkward for singing, specifically verses 4 and 5.) 

I suggest printing out the sheet music I made on Musescore, because I include all the verses - that way you'll always have all 13 verses handy in your family hymnal.

Hymn Tune Information:

Hymn tune name: ALBANO  

By Vincent Novello (1781-1861)
Biography of Vincent Novello on Wikipedia

Four Week Basic Schedule:

If possible, sing everyday at the start of school, at morning prayers, or another set time of family prayer. If the hymn is sung often enough, memorization will come naturally. Try to memorize as much as you can by the end of the month. Although memorization is one goal of these studies, it is much more important to ENJOY singing the hymn together. 

Prep - Print out music; put in binder. Briefly look over the history of the hymn, tune, composer, lyricist, time period, etc. to get ideas about additional assignments.

Week 1 - Introduce the hymn and its history. Listen to the audio, and sing along. Choose which, if any additional assignments will be given, and assign. Flexibility, interest, age, musical ability etc. will determine which type of assignment is best. 

Weeks 2 - 4 - Complete additional assignment(s). Sing and memorize. Review other hymns. Listen to recordings suggested below.
Dear Angel, Ever at My Side
Text by Fr. Frederick William Faber (1814-1863)
Biography of Frederick Faber
Music by Vincent Novello (1781-1861)
Biography of Vincent Novello
SATB in Mediator Dei Hymnal - Go to p.96 in the online PDF. When you go to print, print p.55.

Sheet music on Musescore - This includes all the verses. Click "Download" on the right to save as a PDF and print.

Audio - YouTube organ accompaniment. Different title, same hymn tune. The organist gives a little introduction before the first verse.

Text - View source: A Library of Religious Poetry

Hymn to My Guardian Angel Text:

1. Dear Angel ever at my side
How loving must thou be,
To leave thy home in heaven to guide
A little child like me.

2. Thy beautiful and shining face
I see not, though so near; 
The sweetness of thy soft low voice
I am too deaf to hear.

3. I cannot feel thee touch my hand
With pressure light and mild,
To check me, as my mother did
When I was but a child.

4. But I have felt thee in my thoughts
Fighting with sin for me: 
And when my heart loves God, I know
The sweetness is from thee.
5. And when, dear Spirit! I kneel down
Morning and night to prayer
Something there is within my heart
Which tells me thou are there.
6. Yes! when I pray, thou prayest too
Thy prayer is all for me;
But when I sleep, thou sleepest not,
But watchest patiently.
7. But most of all I feel thee near,
When, from the good priest's feet,
I go absolved, in fearless love,
Fresh toils and cares to meet.
8. Ah me! how lovely they must be
Whom God has glorified:
Yet one of them, O sweetest thought!
Is ever at my side.
9. And thou in life's last hour wilt bring
A fresh supply of grace,
And afterwards wilt let me kiss
Thy beautiful bright face.
10. Then for thy sake, dear Angel! now
More humble will I be:
But I am weak, and when I fall,
Oh, weary not for me:
11. Oh, weary not, but love me still,
For Mary's sake, thy Queen:
She never tired of me, though I
Her worst of sons have been.
12. She will reward thee with a smile;
Thou know'st what it is worth!
For Mary's smiles each day convert
The hardest hearts on earth.
13. Then love me, love me, Angel dear!
And I will love thee more;
And help me when my soul is cast
Upon the eternal shore.
Learn to Read Gregorian Chant

This year, we are using "A Gregorian Chant Coloring Book for Children and Adults" by Noel Jones. It is free to download. Here is the Teacher's edition (Same as the coloring book, but with more explanation. Great for older students.) Since the teacher's edition is colored in, it would be too expensive to print out, but you can still download it for free. You will need to refer to it so you know what to explain to your children. 

Assignment for OCTOBER: Simply complete one page a week. Review terms from previous lessons. If you wish, find a "real" Gregorian score, and find and example of what has been learned. 

Are your children too young to learn to read chant? Try singing songs from "Stories of the Redemption for Children in Chant". Free audio is available for each song. Your littles will easily become familiar with numerous Gregorian melodies. The stories go along perfectly with beginner catechism lessons.
Optional Enrichment and Learning
Language Arts Ideas:
  • Copywork - copy a verse or the chorus; make a handwriting sheet here
  • Dictation
  • Choose a favorite stanza and enter it in a personal journal
  • Define any new vocabulary words
  • Narration - have your student tell you what the hymn is about in his own words

History Ideas:

  • Read the biographies of the composer and poet
  • Locate birthplaces on a globe
  • What else was happening in the world/country of origin when it was written?
  • Make a page for your Book of Centuries or add it to a Timeline 
Religious Ideas:
For further learning about sacred music:
More Sacred Music to Listen to and Enjoy:
Connect on the Google+ Community

I started a Google+ community for these studies. This has great potential for being a place to: 1) discuss the music we are learning each month, and 2) share our learning experiences with others. I think it would be helpful if Q&A, interesting facts found, or other helpful information could be easily seen and discussed by all.  Think of it as an online study and support group. 

Let's enjoy this learning experience together!

If you are new to Google+,  here's a great tutorial on getting started
Sacred Music Studies Community
Sacred Music Studies Community
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