John Henry Newman wrote the words of ‘Lead Kindly Light’ in 1833 after the young priest became sick at Palermo during his Mediterranean travels. He viewed his illness as providential, claiming that God had work for him to do in England. In his own words ‘I was aching to get home, yet for want of a vessel I was kept at Palermo for three weeks’. He eventually left, bound for Marseilles, but was becalmed in the Straits of Bonifacio, where he wrote the lines ‘Lead Kindly Light’.
Again a commission by Neil Page, Lead, kindly Light is perhaps the most personal piece written by the composer to date. It received its first performance in December 2011 by the St Barnabas Cathedral Choir, conducted by the composer and was later described as ‘radiantly beautiful’ after a performance by the joint choirs of St Barnabas Cathedral and St Mary’s Church Choirs in February 2012.
Lead, Kindly Light, amidst th'encircling gloom, Lead Thou me on! The night is dark, and I am far from home, Lead Thou me on! Keep Thou my feet; I do not ask to see The distant scene; one step enough for me.
I was not ever thus, nor prayed that Thou Shouldst lead me on; I loved to choose and see my path; but now Lead Thou me on! I loved the garish day, and, spite of fears, Pride ruled my will. Remember not past years!
So long Thy power hath blest me, sure it still Will lead me on. O’er moor and fen, o’er crag and torrent, till The night is gone, And with the morn those angel faces smile, Which I have loved long since, and lost awhile!