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Reflections from the Gloria Dei Choir

Feb 22, 2018

For the Second Sunday in Lent, the Gloria Dei Choir sings Gabriel Faure’s Cantique de Jean Racine. Composed at the age of 19 for a competition at the music academy where Fauré studied, the piece won him first prize and has been regularly performed since, especially in conjunction with his Messe de Requiem. The text by the great 17th Century dramatist Jean Racine is a French paraphrase of the Latin Consors paterni luminis, a hymn for Tuesday matins from the Roman Breviary. Until recently, the Gloria Dei Choir has sung the work to an English paraphrase of Psalm 84 provided by Hal Hopson. Today’s presentation is in an English paraphrase by Harold Heiberg that is much more faithful to Racine’s original French text:

O Redeemer divine, our sole hope of salvation, eternal Light of the earth and the sky, we kneel in adoration. O Savior, turn on us Thy loving eye! Send down on us the fire of Thy grace all consuming, whose wondrous might dispersed the powers of hell, and rouse our slumbering souls with radiance all-illumining, that they may waken Thy mercy to tell! O Christ, bestow Thy blessing on us, we implore Thee, who here are gathered on penitent knee. Accept the hymns we chant unto Thine everlasting glory and these Thy gifts we return unto Thee!

During Communion, the choir sings Orlando Gibbons’ Almighty and Everlasting God. Gibbons (1583-1625) was a leading early 17th Century English composer whose output includes significant contributions to the keyboard repertoire as well as sacred and secular choral music. Born in Oxford and educated at Cambridge, Gibbons served as organist at the Chapel Royal and at Westminster Abbey until his untimely death of apoplexy at the age of 41. Today’s anthem features increasingly dense contrapuntal writing – challenging musically for the choir as well as for the listener to follow the text:

Almighty and everlasting God,

mercifully look upon our infirmities,

and in all our dangers and necessities

stretch forth thy right hand to help and defend us,

through Christ our Lord. Amen.

—Dr. Kevin St. Clair

Director, Gloria Dei Choir

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