Millennium prize winner derides `sickening hype'

ORGANISERS OF the St Paul's Cathedral hymn for the millennium competition were probably thrilled when they heard their winner was the aptly named Hilary Jolly. Yesterday, at the prize-giving, their joy must have seemed a little premature as she lambasted all aspects of the celebrations.

Given the choice, Mrs Jolly, 52, would have ignored the arrival of the year 2000. She was "sickened by millennium hype", which she described as "pagan and most unpleasant".

Her parish priest persuaded her to compose a hymn for the millennium. "As he put it, `If the millennium is going to be celebrated, we should claim it for Jesus Christ'," she said, adding: "And that's about as positive as I can feel about the millennium, quite frankly."

Speaking in St Faith's Chapel, in the crypt of St Paul's, Mrs Jolly, from Cambridge, elaborated on what she meant by pagan hype. "Dare I say it: the Dome, and a lot of other things besides." At this point the Dean of St Paul's, the Very Rev John Moses, was concerned that what was supposed to be a happy occasion was taking a bitter turn. "In this cathedral, let's be quite clear what dome she means," he said, trying to leaven the mood.

But Mrs Jolly had the bit between her teeth. "The other Dome, the lesser Dome," she railed. "I think it's a temple to Man ... I particularly dislike the fact that it seems to have as the centre-piece a giant human figure. The millennium is not about Man, it's about God."

Mrs Jolly's hymn, chosen from 444 entries, is set to music by Paul Bryan, director of music at St John's College School, Cambridge. His entry beat 309 other tunes.

Mrs Jolly, who has two children, heard the combination of words and music for the first time yesterday. She was thrilled. "I was expecting, in rather a cynical way, something much more upbeat. I'm happy, because it's dignified."

The hymn will be sung at the national millennium service at St Paul's on 2 January 2000 and in churches across the country throughout next year. The organisers of the competition hope it will find its way into mainstream hymn books.

Asked if she had plans for New Year's Eve 1999, Mrs Jolly said: "I will go to bed, as I always do, at about 8.30pm and get up, as I always do, at about 5.30am."

The Hymn For 2000

First and last verses of the winning hymn, ``Through the Darkness of the Ages". Words by Hilary Jolly.

Music by Paul Bryan.

Through the darkness of the ages,

Through the sorrows of the days,

Strength of weary generations,

Lifting hearts in hope and praise,

Light in darkness, joy in sorrow,

Presence to allay all fears,

Jesus, you have kept your promise,

Faithful through two thousand years.

Master, we shall sing your praises,

Man of sorrows, God of power,

For the measured march of seasons

Shall at last bring in the hour

When, as lightning leaps the heavens,

You return to lead us

home.

You have promised, "I am coming".

Swiftly, our Lord Jesus, come.

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