Wednesday, June 6, 2007

The Loveliness of Nineteenth Century Liturgical Music

Okay, so it's not an official "Loveliness Fair" (though I wouldn't mind if it were).

At choir practice tonight we practiced, for the third time, this piece of music. I've come to love Faure's church music; there is a graceful rhythm about the pieces I've encountered so far that seems to be very prayerful and oriented toward worship. You can listen to a tiny sample of the Cantique de Jean Racine here.

Rather than write a lengthy discussion about this beautiful piece of music tonight, I'm just going to post one of the many English translations of the lyrics that I found:

O Word, worthy of the Most High,
our sole hope, eternal day of earth and the heavens,
we break the silence of the peaceful night.
Divine saviour, cast Thine eyes upon us!
Shed the light of Thy mighty grace upon us.
Let all Hell flee at the sound of Thy voice.
Dispel the slumber of a languishing soul
that leads it to the forgetting of Thy laws!
O Christ, be favorable unto this faithful people
now gathered to bless Thee.
Recieve these hymns it offers unto Thine immortal glory
and may it return fulfilled by Thy gifts.


baltobetsy said...

Red Cardigan, I have happily just discovered your blog, and am enjoying your writing and your wonderful understanding of human nature.

I am a professional chorister, and I have sung the Cantique more times than I can count, but I've never seen such a lovely and accurate translation. One of the things (funny how tiny details are so fascinating) that I love is the last line of the piece, with the French words, "et de tes dons." There are three different pronunciations of the "e," which I just love to do all in a row.

I'm not sure what a "loveliness fair" is, but I would contribute the works of Maurice Durufle, the 20th Century French Catholic composer. His "Requiem" is my very favorite of all the settings of the Requiem, and the Four Motets (Ubi Caritas, Tantum Ergo, Tu Es Petrus and Tota Pulchra Es)are breathtaking.

Red Cardigan said...

baltobetsy, welcome! I'm glad the translation I posted is an accurate one; there were several on the Internet, most of them unattributed, but I thought this was the most poetic (and I'll admit to a fondness for Thee/Thine/Thy in English liturgical translations).

If you have a moment sometime, could you explain how the three "e" sounds in the last line of the Cantique are supposed to be pronounced? I'm afraid our choir is quite amateur, and I'd say we tend to pronounce all three more or less identically.

I'm going to enjoy finding copies of the Maurice Durufle music you've mentioned--thanks! My love of music has always far outpaced my knowledge, so I'm always very appreciative when someone more knowledgeable shares music that is new to me.

Again, welcome!

baltobetsy said...

The three E's

"Et" is like a sharp, pointed long "a" sound - ayyyy - almost a combination of long "a" and long "e." Form your mouth to say "ee", but say "ay."

"De" is like the combination "oe." Or a more refined "duh." Lips are rounded, almost pursed.

"Tes" is a short "e." Teh. As in "met."

Hope this helps. Does your choir work all summer long?

Have you ever noticed how the Sanctus, especially in a Requiem, is a vision of heaven?

Red Cardigan said...

Thank you so much! I'm going to practice singing this way. :)

Our choir does sing at Mass all summer, but some of the practices get canceled, and the choir tends not to take on many new pieces at this time. Since my family has recently joined, though, all the music is new to us!

I love your insight about the Sanctus!

baltobetsy said...

If you want to hear a Sanctus that's really over the top, get the John Rutter Requiem. Much of it is dark. What's not dark is sappy/sentimental. But the Sanctus bursts forth in the joy of heaven.