The author of this hymn, Rev Timothy Dudley-Smith was inspired to compose this hymn when reviewing the New English Bible on its publication in 1961 for the religious press. He was struck by the rendering of the opening phrase of the Magnificat as it appeared in the N. E. Bible, “Tell out my soul, the greatness of the Lord”. He later wrote, “I saw it in that first opening line and the whole poem came speedily to mind and thus to paper”. This was the beginning of a long career as a writer of hymns. In 1967 he composed a Nunc Dimittis, “Faithful Vigil Ended”, as a companion to his Magnificat, both of which appear in the New English Hymnal as well as other hymn books.
In a poll for readers of the Church Times in 1979 for the most popular new hymns, Timothy Dudley-Smith’s hymn topped the results list, and it also won high praise by the poet Sir John Betjeman.
Timothy Dudley-Smith (b 1926) was the son of a Derbyshire school master and educated at Tonbridge School and Pembroke College, Cambridge. After ordination he served as a Curate at Erith followed by a period running the Cambridge University Mission in the East End, a follow up organisation to the Billy Graham Crusade of 1955. He then spent the next thirteen years on the staff of the Church Pastoral Aid Society before becoming Archdeacon of Norwich. In 1981 he was appointed the suffragan Bishop of Thetford in Norfolk. Over the ensuing years and up to the present time hymns and poems have continued to flow from the pen of this writer.
Tell out my Soul has been greatly enhanced by the sweeping music of Walter Greatorex’s grand tune, Woodlands, much used in public school worship. It was as Director of music for thirty years at Gresham Public School at Holy, Norfolk, that Greatorex composed the tune. It appears in the music of almost all the Public School Hymnals published during the last 100 years and is still today, sixty plus years after the composer’s death known as “Gogs Tune” by the pupils of Gresham school, the composer’s nickname.