The Invitation

"Come ye hither all"

Date Completed

September 7, 1994


Choral (more like this)


SATB Choir





Difficulty Level


Liturgical Use

General, Communion, Inclusion, Community




George Herbert (1593–1632)


The Invitation



Date Written



Come ye hither all, whose taste
                        Is our waste;
Save your cost, and mend your fare.
God is here prepared and dressed,
                        And the feast,
God, in whom all good things* are.

Come ye hither all, whom wine
                        Doth define,
Naming you not to your good:
Weep what ye have drunk amiss,
                        And drink this,
Which before ye drink is blood.

Come ye hither all, whom pain
                        Doth arraign,
Bringing all your sins to sight:
Taste and fear not: God is here
                        In this cheer,
And on sin doth cast the fright.

Come ye hither all, whom joy
                        Doth destroy,
While ye graze without your bounds:
Here is joy that drowneth quite
                        Your delight,
As a flood the lower grounds.

Come ye hither all, whose love
                        Is your dove,
And exalts you to the sky:
Here is love, which having breath
                        Ev'n in death,
After death can never die.

Lord, I have invited all,
                        And I shall
Still invite, still call to thee:
For it seems but just and right
                        In my sight,
Where is all, there all should be.

*Note: I changed the original text "dainties" which means "desserts" to "good things," for 20th-century American sensibilities.




Publication Data

Publisher Name

Oxford University Press

Date Published


Catalog Number

ISBN 0-19-386065-1

This piece is also published in the collection Weddings for Choirs, published by Oxford, ISBN 0-19-353265-4 (the collection also includes Arise, My Love)






Commissioned by The Episcopal Church of the Transfiguration, Dallas, TX, on the occasion of the 30th anniversary of Howard E. Ross as Director of Music Ministries and Organist. Premiered October 2, 1994, at the same, Mollie McCollough, director, with the composer at the organ.

Joel's Comments

The composition of this anthem, perhaps my personal favorite of my choral compositions, was begun on August 26, 1994 following a summer of much activity and emotion in the life of the Dallas organ community. Central to this time was the Dallas AGO chapter's hosting of the National Convention in July. Behind the scenes, two very visible and important chapter members and leading musicians of our community were in their last struggle with AIDS: Paul Riedo who died in May, and Richard DeLong, who died in September. I had also lost my good friend Dorothy Good (see All Saints) and another long-time Saint Rita friend, too. Into this mix came the celebration of Howard ("Buddy") Ross' anniversary at the Church of the Transfiguration, my parish and spiritual home, and the composition of this piece.

At this time Transfiguration had just come through a rocky period of struggle within the parish regarding human sexuality and the visible acceptance of gay persons into the life of the congregation. Howard was very much in the midst of the movement to include all people in parish life, just as he had been in the leadership of the American Guild of Organists at the national level in the 1980s as Councilor for Professional Concerns. During his tenure in office the AGO adopted the non-discrimination clause which members still must abide by today.

When I was approached about a commission in honor of Howard, the text search was left to the then rector, The Rev. Terrence C. Roper, and myself. In the course of the conversation, I had suggested that we surprise Buddy with the piece during a service, as had been done with my friend Bruce Bengtson sometime earlier (Arise, Shine!). In any event, my search soon brought George Herbert's The Invitation to the fore, and Fr. Roper immediately agreed to its use.

In this poem, whose ideas are as fresh for the mission of the church over four centuries after it was written as during Herbert's own time, could be found all the themes of the summer, in addition to references of Transfiguration's liturgical life centered on the Eucharist: the feast, celebration, suffering, joy, God's love, unending life through Christ's resurrection, and above all — an open-ended invitation and the inclusion of all people in the banquet. (And in the words of Bishop Desmond Tutu: "All means ALL!")

Along with the choir and musicians at Transfiguration, this piece quickly became a favorite of the Saint Rita Choir. We frequently ended our choir season with it on Corpus Christi. It had a particularly poignancy for some of us at Saint Rita, where the closed communion practice of the Roman Church continued to be a challenge for us non-RC folk. The Invitation was sung by the combined choirs of Transfiguration and Saint Rita at my installation as director of music at Transfiguration in June of 2004, as well as at Howard Ross' retirement evensong in 2003, his funeral in September 2005, and our parish's 50th Jubilee Celebration one year later. For the latter occasion I prepared an orchestration for 2 Flutes, 2 Oboes, Horn, and Strings.

Though this piece is in honor of Howard Ross, the third stanza ("Come ye hither all, whom pain doth arraign") will always be in memory of my friend Richard DeLong.

Musically, the overall structure is somewhat arch form: ABCC'BA'. Each stanza is divided into two parts: an "invitation" and the following statement. The "invitations" have a major theme which is used in some form in the outer stanzas (1–2 and 5–6) and a minor theme heard in the middle two stanzas. There is also a through-composed feel to the piece because of the changes in the second half of each stanza, and the reoccurrence of these halves in the final two stanzas:

Introduction - ab - a'c - de - df - a'c' - a''f - Coda

In the course of the anthem, brief quotations from two well-known communion hymns occur:

Pange lingua in measure 29, beats 3 and 4 in the alto of the organ part and in the next bar in the tenor. This motive is later used to weave the accompaniment for the first part of the sixth stanza, measures 64 to 68.

Picardy in the first fives notes of the top choral parts of measures 49 and 73.


Partial recording on Oxford University Press demo CD Weddings for Choirs.

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