Friday 4 October 2013

By the Waters of Babylon

I have been looking at the chant for this Sunday (EF), and see that the Offertory is the wonderful Super flumina Babylonis (the opening verses of Psalm 136 or 137).

Unfortunately, the only youtube video of this which I can find is accompanied. This is atypical of the usually excellent Giavanni Vianini, and he goes on to explain that, liturgically, it is not to be sung accompanied, but that it is helpful to do so when learning a piece, to ensure accuracy of pitch.  I sympathise.

If you are very lucky (hem, hem) I may record it myself and link to it later, once I have learned it.

One of the reasons it is a particular favourite of mine, is because of the breathtaking setting by Palestrina:


There have been many other settings, of course, ranging from Orlando de Lasso to Philippe de Monte, and in English from Don Maclean to Boney M (that is not a recommendation!)

But for me, the chant and the Palestrina are my favourites.

Super flumina Babylonis, 
illic sedimus et flevimus 
dum recordaremur tui Sion.
(In salicibus in medio ejus
suspendimus organa nostra.)

By the rivers of Babylon
There we sat and wept
As we remembered thee, Sion.
(On the willow trees growing there,
We hung our harps.)

The second sentence of the psalm (in parentheses) is included in the Palestrina setting, but is not part of the Offertory verse for the Mass, or the Chant version.

No comments: