On 24th April, 387 Augustine of Hippo was baptised by Ambrose of Milan in Milan Cathedral, Italy. This occasion has traditionally been associated with the composition of Te Deum Laudamus (‘We Praise Thee, O God’). Ambrose and Augustine are reputed to have sung part of the text spontaneously in a call-and-response fashion. Its authorship has also been attributed to St Hilary and Nicetas of Remesiana (c.335-414) and St Hilary of Poitiers (c.300-368). Whoever its original composer was, it stands out as one of the Christian church’s oldest, and certainly the longest, hymns of praise.
The hymn is oart of the morning liturgies (‘Matins’ or ‘Morning Prayer’) of the Roman Catholic, Anglican and Lutheran Churches. Outside of this regular usage it is also often sung or recited at thanksgiving services. From its origins until the present day it has been sung to the tones of the plainchant repertory, but it has also received more elaborate musical treatment. Several composers have written musical settings which employ orchestra and singers, for example, W.A. Mozart (1756-1790)and Anton Bruckner (1824-1896). Part of the text was included by Giacomo Puccini (1858-1924) in his opera Tosca. From the nineteenth century onwards many settings have been written for choir and organ, by, for example, C.V. Stanford (1852-1924) and Benjamin Britten (1913-1976). These were principally intended for use in the Anglican church’s service of Matins. William Walton (1902-1983) wrote a highly-exhuberant and festal musical setting for choir, orchestra and organ which was first sung at the coronation service of Elizabeth II.