Vaughan Williams' love of folk music exhorted him to collect over 800 folk songs and arrange many for various combinations of vocal and instrumental works. But that affection was matched by his curious attraction to sacred music, which inspired him to produce a substantial body of church music and countless arrangements of hymns. It was "curious" because Vaughan Williams was an atheist in his early years and an agnostic in the latter part of his career. Who else among non-believers wrote masses and arranged both popular and obscure hymns? This is an arrangement of No. 165 from the English Hymnal, which Vaughan Williams edited with Percy Dearmer in 1904 - 06 (revised, 1933).
"Father We Praise Thee" is one of the composer's finer arrangements. The text begins with the words "Father we praise thee, now the night is over/Active and watchful, stand we all before thee." After a brief introduction on organ, the chorus sings these words proudly, conveying a providential sense, a feeling of worshipful glee throughout all three verses. Vaughan Williams, ever-respectful of this idiom, wisely keeps the expressive nature of his arrangement simple, never trying to thrust his musical persona on it. The melody is an arrangement of Christe sanctorum and the words have been attributed to Gregory the Great, from the sixth century.