Bach’s Motets in English Translation

Last night I attended a performance of six motets by J. S. Bach, performed by the superlative Georgia Tech Chamber Choir, Jerry Ulrich, director, with Timothy Hsu, Baroque organ and Erin Ellis, Baroque cello.

So once again I’m revisiting a series I’ve done here that’s been quite popular; I’m providing my own translations of the texts, in this case from Bach’s German into modern English. I should restate my purpose:

My translations are intended only for English-speaking singers who are rehearsing and studying these pieces for performance in the original German.

My translationsare not for singing the piece in English. They are also not translations for printing in a concert program to be read by an audience during a performance.

What they are is more of a word-by-word translation to help singers who do not speak German to study the lyrics they are singing, and to find the emphasis of specific words within each line of melody. Therefore many grammatical structures in my translation will sound strange to a speaker of English, because German word order and modern English word order are very different.

If you are a music listener and you want a smooth-reading, easily-understood translation of the lyrics of these Bach motets, you can find those online in other places. If, however, you are a singer who is rehearsing and studying these pieces for your own performance, you might find my translations very useful.

I have labeled the Bible verses and source material in Bach’s texts. They are either from Martin Luther’s translation of the Bible (circa 1522) and are therefore un-rhymed, or they are rhyming lyrics from hymns; in that case I have identified the lyricists.

I encourage you to look up each of the Bible verses in the translation or version of the Bible to which you are accustomed. When there are Bible verses being used, I have not simply copied-and-pasted text from one particular English translation of the Bible, as many would do; rather, I have attempted a word-for-word translation of the German text that Bach himself set. My approach will necessarily sound awkward, but it will help the singer identify the important words according to the German sentence structure; that’s why I suggest that you look up the verses in your own Bible to get a more coherent understanding of the meaning.

Singet dem Herrn ein neues Lied, BWV 225

Sing to the Lord a new song

Hymn texts by Johann Gramann (1487 – 1541). Movement 3 is from “Nun lob, mein Seel, den Herren” (“Now praise, my soul, the Lord”), which is based on Psalm 103.

1. (Psalm 149:1-3)
Singet dem Herrn ein neues Lied!
Die Gemeine der Heiligen sollen ihn loben,
Israel freue sich des, der ihn gemacht hat.
Die Kinder Zion sei’n fröhlich über ihrem Könige.
Sie sollen loben seinen Namen im Reihen,
mit Pauken und Harfen sollen sie ihm spielen.
1. (Psalm 149:1-3)
Sing to the Lord a new song!
The congregation of the saints shall him praise,
Israel rejoices itself in him, who has created it.
The children of Zion are joyful over their king.
They should praise his name in dances,
with drums and harps should they play to him.
 2.
Gott, nimm dich ferner unser an!
Denn ohne dich ist nichts getan
mit allen unsern Sachen.
D’rum sei du unser Schirm und Licht,
und trügt uns unsre Hoffnung nicht,
so wirst du’s ferner machen.
Wohl dem, der sich nur steif und fest
auf dich und deine Huld verläßt!
 2.
God, take you from now on us (to you)!
For without you is nothing to be done with all of our belongings.
Wherefore be you our protection and light,
and if deceives us our hope not,
So will you us happier make.
Happy is one who strictly and tightly
to you and your mercy submits!
3.
Wie sich ein Vat’r erbarmet
Üb’r seine junge Kindlein klein:
So tut der Herr uns Armen,
So wir ihn kindlich fürchten rein.
Er kennt das arme Gemächte,
Gott weiß, wir sind nur Staub.
Gleichwie das Gras vom Rechen,
Ein Blum und fallendes Laub,
Der Wind nur drüber wehet,
So ist es nimmer da:
Also der Mensch vergehet,
Sein End, das ist ihm nah.
3.
As a father has mercy
upon his young children small:
so does the Lord does with us poor ones,
So we respond to him with childlike fear pure,
He knows his poor creations,
God knows, we are but dust.
Just as the grass that is mowed,
a flower and a falling leaf,
the wind only over it blows,
So is it no longer there;
So the person passes away,
His end, it is is near to him.
 4. (Psalm 150:2, 6)
Lobet den Herrn in seinen Taten,
loben ihn in seiner großen Herrlichkeit.
Alles was Odem hat, lobe den Herrn,
Halleluja!
4. (Psalm 150:2, 6)
Praise the Lord in his works,
praise him in his great lordship.
Everything that has breath, praise the Lord,
Hallelujah!

Der Geist hilft unsrer Schwachheit auf, BWV 226

The (Holy) Spirit helps our weakness

Movement 2. Hymn text by Martin Luther (1483-1546)

1. (Romans 8:26-27)
Der Geist hilft unsrer Schwachheit auf.
Denn wir wissen nicht, was wir beten sollen, wie sich’s gebühret;
sondern der Geist selbst vertritt uns aufs beste mit unaussprechlichem Seufzen.
Der aber die Herzen forschet, der weiß, was des Geistes Sinn sei,
denn er vertritt die Heiligen nach dem, das Gott gefället.
1. (Romans 8:26-27)
The Spirit helps our weakness.
For we know not, for what we should pray, what we should pay (in fees);
rather the Spirit itself intercedes for us in the best way with unutterable sighs.
He, however, who his heart examines, he knows, what the Spirit’s intention is,
because it intercedes for the saints according to that by which God is pleased.
2.
Du heilige Brunst, süßer Trost,
Nun hilft uns fröhlich und getrost
In dein’m Dienst beständig bleiben,
Die Trübsal uns nicht abtreiben!
O Herr, durch dein Kraft uns bereit
Und stärk des Fleisches Blödigkeit,
Daß wir hier ritterlich ringen,
Durch Tod und Leben zu dir dringen.
Halleluja, halleluja!
2.
You holy fire, sweet comfort,
Now help us joyfully and confidently
In your service firmly to remain,
Trouble to us is not aborted!
O Lord, through your strength us prepare
And strengthen the flesh’s bashfulness,
So that we here like knights may wrestle,
Through death and life to you can penetrate.
Hallelujah, hallelujah!

Jesu, meine Freude, BWV 227

Jesus, my joy

Hymn text by Johann Franck (1618 – 1677)

1.
Jesu, meine Freude,
meines Herzens Weide,
Jesu, meine Zier!
Ach wie lang, ach lange,
ise dem Herzen bange
und verlangt nach dir!
Gottes Lamm, mein Bräutigam,
außer dir soll mir auf Erden
nichts sonst Liebers werden.
1.
Jesus, my joy,
my heart’s pasture,
Jesus, my treasure!
Ah how long, ah long,
has my heart feared
and longed for you!
God’s lamb, my bridegroom,
besides You should I (hold) on earth
nothing dearer.
2. (Romans 8:1)
Es ist nun nichts Verdammliches an denen,
die in Christo Jesu sind,
die nicht nach dem Fleische wandeln, sondern nach dem Geist.
2. (Romans 8:1)
There is now nothing damnable in those,
who in Christ Jesus are,
who do not after the flesh walk,
but rather after the Spirit.
 3.
Unter deinen Schirmen
Bin ich für den Stürmen
Aller Feinde frei.
Laß den Satan wittern,
Laß den Feind erbittern,
Mir steht Jesus bei.
Ob es itzt gleich kracht und blitzt,
Ob gleich Sünd und Hölle schrecken,
Jesus will mich decken.
3.
Under your protection
Am I from the storms
And all enemies free.
Let Satan rage,
Let the Enemy fume,
By me stands Jesus.
Whether it now crashes and flashes,
whether now sin and hell terrify,
Jesus will me protect.
 4. (Romans 8:2)
Denn das Gesetz des Geistes, der da lebendig machet in Christo Jesu,
hat mich frei gemacht von dem Gesetz der Sünde und des Todes.
4. (Romans 8:2)
For the law of the spirit, which alive makes in Christ Jesus,
has me free made from the law of sin and death.
 5.
Trotz dem alten Drachen,
trotz des Todes Rachen,
trotz der Furcht dazu!
Tobe, Welt, und springe;
ich steh hier und singe
in gar sichrer Ruh!
Gottes Macht hält mich in acht;
Erd und Abgrund muß verstummen,
ob sie noch so brummen.
5.
Defy the old dragon,
defy death’s vengeance,
defy fear as well!
Rage, world, and attack;
I stand here and sing
in altogether secure peace!
God’s power holds me in watchfulness;
Earth and abyss must fall silent,
However much they might rumble.
 6. (Romans 8:9)
Ihr aber seid nicht fleischlich, sondern geistlich,
so anders Gottes Geist in euch wohnet.
Wer aber Christi Geist nicht hat, der ist nicht sein.
6. (Romans 8:9)
You, however, are not of the flesh, but rather of the Spirit,
since otherwise God’s Spirit in you lives.
Anyone, however, who  Christ’s Spirit does not have, is not his.
 7.
Weg mit allen Schätzen,
du bist mein Ergötzen,
Jesu, meine Lust!
Weg, ihr eitlen Ehren,
ich mag euch nicht hören,
bleibt mir unbewußt!
Elend, Not, Kreuz, Schmach und Tod
soll mich, ob ich viel muß leiden,
nicht von Jesu scheiden.
7.
Away with all treasures,
you are my delight,
Jesus, my desire!
Away, you vain honors,
I want to you not to listen,
remain to me unknown!
Poverty, misery, torture, shame and death
shall to me, although I must suffer much,
not from Jesus part me part me.
 8. (Romans 8:10)
So aber Christus in euch ist,
so ist der Leib zwar tot um der Sünde willen;
der Geist aber ist das Leben um der Gerechtigkeit willen.
8. (Romans 8:10)
So however if Christ is in you,
so is the body indeed dead indeed for sin’s sake;
the Spirit, however, is life for righteousness’s sake.
 9.
Gute Nacht, o Wesen,
Das die Welt erlesen!
Mir gefällst du nicht.
Gute Nacht, ihr Sünden,
Bleibet weit dahinten,
Kommt nicht mehr ans Licht!
Gute Nacht, du Stolz und Pracht!
Dir sei ganz, du Lasterleben,
Gute Nacht gegeben!
9.
Good night, nature,
that the world cherishes!
You please me not.
Good night, you sins,
Stay far away,
Come no more to light!
Good night, you pride and glory!
To you utterly, you corrupt life,
Good night be given!
 10. (Romans 8:11)
So nun der Geist des, der Jesum von den Toten auferwecket hat,
in euch wohnet, so wird auch derselbige,
der Christum von den Toten auferwecket hat,
eure sterblichen Leiber lebendig machen,
um des willen, daß sein Geist in euch wohnet.
10. (Romans 8:11)
Therefore now the Spirit of him, who Jesus from the dead raised,
in you dwells, so will therefore that same one,
Who Christ from the dead has raised,
Your dead bodies alive will make,
for the sake, that his Spirit in you will dwell.
 11.
Weicht, ihr Trauergeister,
denn mein Freudenmeister,
Jesus, tritt herein.
Denen, die Gott lieben,
muß auch ihr Betrüben
lauter Zucker sein.
Duld’ ich schon hier Spott und Hohn,
dennoch bleibst du auch im Leide,
Jesu, meine Freude.
11.
Hence, you Spirits of sadness,
because my Master of joy,
Jesus, comes here.
Those, that God love,
must even their troubles
(seem to be even moreso) pure sugar.
Endure I already here mockery and shame,
nevertheless you stay with me even in suffering,
Jesus, my joy.

Fürchte dich nicht, ich bin bei dir, BWV 228

Fear not, I am with you

Hymn text in Movement 3. by Paul Gerhardt (1607 – 1676)

1. (Isaiah 41:10)
Fürchte dich nicht, ich bin bei dir; weiche nicht, denn ich bin dein Gott; ich stärke dich, ich helfe dir auch,
ich erhalte dich durch die rechte Hand meiner Gerechtigkeit.
1. (Isaiah 41:10)
Fear you not, I am with you;
recoil not, for I am your God;
I will strengthen you, I will help you also,
I sustain you through the right hand of my righteousness.
2. (Isaiah 43:1)
Fürchte dich nicht, denn ich habe dich erlöset; ich habe dich bei deinem Namen gerufen, du bist mein.
2. (Isaiah 43:1)
Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by your name, you are mine.
3.
Herr, mein Hirt, Brunn aller Freuden!
Du bist mein,
ich bin dein,
niemand kann uns scheiden.
Ich bin dein, weil du dein Leben
und dein Blut,
mir zu gut,
in den Tod gegeben.
Du bist mein, weil ich dich fasse
und dich nicht, o mein Licht,
aus dem Herzen lasse!
Laß mich, laß mich hingelangen,
wo du mich, und ich dich
lieblich werd umfangen.

Fürchte dich nicht, du bist mein.

3.
Lord, my Shepherd, fount of all joy!
You are mine,
I am yours,
no one can us part.
I am yours, since you your life
and your blood,
for my sake,
in your death have you given.
You are mine, since I hold to you
and you (I do) not, O my light,
from my heart let go!
Let me, let me attain unto,
where You to me, and I to you
lovingly will embrace.

Fear not, you are mine.

Komm, Jesu, komm! BWV 229

Come, Jesus, come!

Hymn text by Paul Thymich (1656 – 1694)

1.
Komm, Jesu, komm, mein Leib ist müde,
die Kraft verschwindt je mehr und mehr,
ich sehne mich nach deinem Frieden;
der saure Weg wird mir zu schwer!
Komm, komm, ich will mich dir ergeben,
du bist der rechte Weg,
die Wahrheit und das Leben.
1.
Come, Jesus, come, my body is tired,
the strength wanes more and more,
I long for your peace;
the sour path becomes for me too hard!
Come, come, I will to you myself yield,
You are the true path,
the truth and the life.
2.
D’rum schließ ich mich in deine Hände
und sage, Welt, zu guter Nacht!
Eilt gleich mein Lebenslauf zu Ende,
ist doch der Geist wohl angebracht.
Er soll bei seinem Schöpfer schweben,
weil Jesus ist und bleibt
der wahre Weg zum Leben.
2.
Therefore enclose I myself in your hands
and say, World, to you good night!
Hurries my life’s run to its end,
is certainly my spirit fully prepared.
It shall with its Creator soar,
because Jesus is and remains
the true path to life.

Lobet den Herrn, alle Heiden, BWV 230

Praise the Lord, all heathens

(Psalm 117)
Lobet den Herrn, alle Heiden,
und preiset ihn, alle Völker!
Denn seine Gnade und Wahrheit
waltet über uns in Ewigkeit.
Alleluja!
(Psalm 117)
Praise the Lord, all heathen (nations),
and extol him, all peoples!
For his grace and truth
rule over us for eternity.
Hallelujah!

 

Please write to me and let me know if you have found this translation helpful. Let me know where in the world you live, and tell me about the choir that you sing with or the school where you study.

Cecilia McDowall’s “Christus Natus Est” in English Translation

In recent years, as I’ve learned another major sacred choral work and performed it, I’ve done my own study of translating the lyrics (usually from Latin) into English, and researching the source of the texts and Bible verses used as source material. As I’ve come up with each one, I’ve posted it here on my blog.

In the past few years, this has lead to my being contacted by musicians and music directors all over the world, and I’ve made some friends!

Here is my latest installment. If you would like to make use of, or reprint my work, please do me the courtesy of sending me an email first, asking for permission, and telling me how you will use it. Please introduce yourself and tell me about you, where you live, and about the choir you are working with. I look forward to hearing from you.

And in this case, my Latin and French are not the best or the most correct. If you have expertise in these languages and would like to send me corrections or suggestions for improvement, I would welcome them.

Copyright © 2013 by Wheat Williams. All rights reserved.

This season I’m preparing to sing in a production that includes Cecilia McDowall’s 2007 suite of ancient Christmas songs, Christus Natus Est. (Oxford University Press)

I have prepared a study of English translations of the texts she chose:

  • Personent Hodie (Latin, from Prague and Germany, 1300s)
  • Entre le bœuf (French, 1600s)
  • Gaudete! gaudete! Christus est natus (Latin, from Finland and Sweden, 1500s)
  • Infant holy, infant lowly (originally Polish, 1600s, presented by McDowall in English translation after Edith M. G. Reed)
  • Angelus ad Virginem (Latin, from France, 1200s)

The published and copyrighted sheet music for Christus Natus Est contains English rhyming translations of the text for use if a choir performs the piece in English. However, these settings are not literal, word-for-word translations of the original Latin and French.

I have endeavored to make a literal translation of the texts for the purposes of study by choral singers who want to understand the meaning of each line and phrase, and to identify the important words in each phrase so that they can better understand how to sing the text expressively.  My inelegant translations are not “singable”. As I have stated in previous posts, I have no formal training in Latin.

Personent Hodie

Latin  English translation
1. Personent hodie,
voces puerulae,
laudantes iucunde
qui nobis est natus,
summo Deo datus,
et de virgineo ventre procreatus.
1. Resound today
voices of children
praising pleasantly
Who to us is born
supreme God, given
and of a virgin born.
2. In mundo nascitur,
pannis involvitur;
praesepi ponitur
stabulo brutorum,
rector supernorum.
Perdidit spolia princeps infernorum.
2. Born into the world,
in swaddling clothes wrapped
Manger-laid
Stable brutes
Straight above
Lost and spoiled is the prince of Hell.
3. Magi tres venerunt,
munera offerunt,
parvulum inquirunt,
stellulam sequendo,
ipsum adorando.
Aurum thus et myrrham ei offerendo.
 3. Wise-men three came
Gifts they offer
searching
the little star following
him worshiping
Gold, frankincense and myrrh to him offering
4. Omnes clericuli,
pariter pueri,
cantent ut angeli:
adventisti mundo,
laudes tibi fundo.
Ideo gloria in excelsis Deo.
4. All clergy,
children together
as sing the angels
the arrival of the world
praise you from the foundation.
So glory in the highest to God.

Entre le boeuf et l’âne gris

French English translation
1. Entre le boeuf et l’âne gris,
Dorts le petit fils.
1. Between the ox and the grey donkey
Sleeps the small Son.
Mille anges divins,
mille séraphins,
Volent à l’entour de ce grand Dieu d’amour.
A thousand angels divine,
a thousand seraphim
Flying around the great God of love
2. Entre les deux bras de Marie
Dorts le fruit de la Vie
 2. Between the two arms of Mary
sleeps the Fruit of Life
3. Entre les roses, et les lys
Dorts le petit Fils
3. Between the roses and the lillies
Sleeps the small Son.
4. Entre les pastoureaux jolis,
Dorts le petit fils.
4. Between the beautiful shepherds
Sleeps the small Son.
 5. En ce beau jour solennel,
Dorts l’Emmanuel.
5. In this beautiful solemn day,
Sleep, Emmanuel.

Gaudete! gaudete! Christus est natus

Latin English translation
Gaudete, gaudete! Christus est natus
Ex Maria virgine, gaudete!
Rejoice, rejoice! Christ is born
Of the virgin Mary, rejoice!
Tempus adest gratiæ
Hoc quod optabamus,
Carmina lætitiæ
Devote reddamus.
The time of grace has come
that which we desire,
songs of joy
let us devoutly return.
Deus homo factus est
Natura mirante,
Mundus renovatus est
A Christo regnante.
God a man is made
Wonder of Nature,
The world is restored
By Christ’s reign.
Ezechielis porta
Clausa pertransitur,
Unde lux est orta
Salus invenitur.
Ezekiel’s gate
closed, is passed through,
Hence, light has risen,
Salvation is found.
Ergo nostra concio
Psallat iam in lustro;
Benedicat Domino:
Salus Regi nostro.
Therefore our gathering
Play already our plan
Bless the Lord:
The salvation of our King is ours.

Infant holy, infant lowly

1. Infant holy, infant lowly
For his bed a cattle stall;
Oxen lowing, little knowing
Christ the Babe is Lord of all.
Swiftly winging, angels singing,
Nowells ringing, tidings bringing
Christ the Babe is Lord of all.
2. Flocks were sleeping, shepherds keeping
Vigil ‘til the morning new,
Saw the glory, heard the story,
Tidings of a gospel true.
Thus rejoicing, free from sorrow,
Praises voicing, greet the morrow;
Christ the Babe was born for you.

Angelus ad virginem

Latin English translation
1. Angelus ad virginem
Subintrans in conclave.
Virginis formidinem.
1. The angel to the virgin
crept into the room.
The virgin was in fear.
Demulcens inquit “Ave.”
Ave regina virginum,
Coeli terraeque dominum.
Concipies
Et paries
Intacta,
Salutem hominum.
Tu porta coeli facta
Medela criminum.
He said to her, “Hail”.
Hail the Queen of virgins,
Of heavens and earth the master.
You shall conceive,
A wall
untouched,
the Salvation of men.
You the gate of heaven made
Healing sins.
2. Quomodo conciperem,
quae virum non cognovi?
Qualiter infringerem,
quae firma mente vovi?
How shall I conceive,
seeing that a man I do not know?
How shall make such an infraction,
I who made a vow with my mind firm?
Spiritus sancti gratia
Perficiet haec omnia;
Ne timeas,
sed gaudeas,
secura,
quod castimonia
Manebit in te pura
Dei potentia.
The Spirit’s holy grace
will bring all this;
Fear not
But rejoice
and safe
that chastity
will remain pure
in God’s power.
3. Ad haec virgo nobilis
Respondens inquit ei;
To these words the virgin noble
answered to him;
Ancilla sum humilis
Omnipotentis Dei.
Tibi coelesti nuntio,
Tanta secreti conscio
Consentiens
Et cupiens
Videre
factum quod audio,
Parata sum parere
Dei consilio.
The handmaiden am I, humble,
Of All-powerful God.
By your heavenly announcement
I am of such secrets made aware
I am in agreement
And I want
To see
that done, that I hear.
I am ready to obey
God’s will.
4. Eia Mater Domini,
Quae pacem reddidisti
Angelis et homini,
Cum Christum genuisti;
Tuum exora filium.
Ut se nobis propitium
Exhibeat,
Et deleat
Peccata;
Praestans auxilium
Vita frui beata
Post hoc exsilium.
4. Come, mother of the Lord
Who has peace restored
To angels and mankind,
When Christ you bore;
Pray your Son
to be good to us
Let Him show,
And wash away
Sins;
Giving help
Life to enjoy
After this exile.

The Lyrics and Bible Verses in Handel’s Messiah

Recently I prepared this for inclusion in the program notes of concerts for the Atlanta Baroque Orchestra and Georgia Tech Chamber Choir.

Handel got the lyrics from a preacher named Charles Jennens, who wrote out the whole piece as a collage of Bible verses designed to tell a story about the Messiah. In some cases Jennens copied verses from the King James Version of the Bible directly, and in other cases he abridged or modified the wording of the Bible verses somewhat to fit into something that could be set to music and sung. He also decided to change the “point of view” in a couple of places. Rather than quoting Jesus’ words about himself directly, for instance, he made a few changes so that the singers are singing about Jesus rather than portraying the role of Jesus.

The Atlanta Baroque is setting out to re-create the original performance of Messiah, conducted by Handel, from April 1742 in Dublin, Ireland. It must be noted that each time Handel performed Messiah over the years, certain parts got changed a bit. In many cases he changed solos around based on the abilities of the particular soloists he hired to sing on each concert. There are a couple of cases where an entirely different piece with lyrics from an entirely different set of Bible verses were substituted from one concert to the next. Therefore there is no one definitive version of Handel’s Messiah. These lyrics will cover most versions, however, with only one or two exceptions.

Messiah, George Frideric Handel (1685-1759)
Words compiled from the Holy Scriptures by Charles Jennens (1700-1773)

Part One

1. Sinfonia (Overture)
2. Tenor Recitative. — Isaiah 40:1-3
Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God. Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem, and cry unto her, that her warfare is accomplished, that her iniquity is pardoned. The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness: Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God.
3. Tenor Air — Isaiah 40:4
Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill made low, the crooked straight, and the rough places plain.
4. Chorus — Isaiah 40:5
And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together: for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it.
5. Bass Recitative — Haggai 2:6,7; Malachi 3:1
Thus saith the Lord of Hosts; Yet once, a little while and I will shake the heavens, and the earth, the sea, and the dry land; And I will shake all nations, and the desire of all nations shall come.
The Lord, whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to His temple, even the messenger of the covenant, whom ye delight in: Behold, He shall come, saith the Lord of Hosts.
6. Bass Air — Malachi 3:2
But who may abide the day of His coming? and who shall stand when He appeareth? For He is like a refiner’s fire.
7. Chorus — Malachi 3:3
And He shall purify the sons of Levi, that they may offer unto the Lord an offering in righteousness.
8. Alto Recitative — Isaiah 7:14; Matthew 1:23
Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a Son, and shall call his name Emmanuel, God with us.
9. Alto Air and Chorus — Isaiah 40:9; Isaiah 60:1
O thou that tellest good tidings to Zion, get thee up into the high mountain; O thou that tellest good tidings to Jerusalem, lift up thy voice with strength; lift it up, and be not afraid; say unto the cities of Judah, Behold your God!
Arise, shine; for thy light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee.
10. Bass Recitative — Isaiah 60:2,3
For, behold, darkness shall cover the earth, and gross darkness the people; but the Lord shall arise upon thee, and His glory shall be seen upon thee. And the Gentiles shall come to thy light, and kings to the brightness of thy rising.
11. Bass Air — Isaiah 9:2
The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light: and they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined.
12. Chorus — Isaiah 9:6
For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given: and the government shall be upon His shoulder: and His name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, the mighty God, the everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace.
13. Pifa (Pastoral Symphony)
14. Soprano Recitative — Luke 2:8,9
There were shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flocks by night.
And lo! the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.
15. Soprano Recitative — Luke 2:10,11
And the angel said unto them, Fear not; for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.
16. Soprano Recitative — Luke 2:13
And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,
17. Chorus — Luke 2:14
Glory to God in the highest, and peace on earth, good will toward men.
18. Soprano Air — Zechariah 9:9,10
Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; Shout, O daughter of Jerusalem: behold, thy King cometh unto thee. He is the righteous Savior. And he shall speak peace unto the heathen.
19. Alto Recitative — Isaiah 35:5,6
Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped. Then shall the lame man leap as an hart, and the tongue of the dumb shall sing.
20. Alto Air — Isaiah 40:11; Matthew 11:28, 29
He shall feed his flock like a shepherd; and he shall gather the lambs with His arm, and carry them in His bosom, and gently lead those that are with young.
Come unto Him, all ye that labour, that are heavy laden, and He shall give you rest. Take his yoke upon you, and learn of Him; for he is meek and lowly of heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.
21. Chorus — Matthew 11:30
His yoke is easy, and His burthen is light.

Part Two

22. Chorus — John 1:29
Behold the Lamb of God, that taketh away the sin of the world.
23. Alto Air — Isaiah 53:3; Isaiah 50:6
He was despised and rejected of men, a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief.
He gave His back to the smiters, and His cheeks to them that plucked off the hair: He hid not His face from shame and spitting.
24. Chorus — Isaiah 53:4,5
Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows. He was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon Him.
25. Chorus — Isaiah 53:5
And with His stripes we are healed.
26. Chorus — Isaiah 53:6
All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.
27. Tenor Recitative — Psalm 22:7
All they that see Him laugh him to scorn: they shoot out their lips, and shake their heads, saying:
28. Chorus — Psalm 22:8
He trusted in God that He would deliver Him: let Him deliver Him, if he delight in Him.
29. Soprano Recitative — Psalm 69:20
Thy rebuke hath broken His heart; He is full of heaviness. He looked for some to have pity on Him but there was no man; neither found He any to comfort Him.
30. Soprano Air — Lamentations 1:12
Behold, and see if there be any sorrow like unto His sorrow!
31. Tenor Recitative — Isaiah 53:8
He was cut off out of the land of the living; for the transgression of Thy people was He stricken.
32. Tenor Air — Psalm 16:10
But Thou didst not leave His soul in hell; nor didst Thou suffer Thy Holy One to see corruption.
33. Chorus — Psalm 24:7-10
Lift up your heads, O ye gates; and be ye lift up, ye everlasting doors; and the King of Glory shall come in. Who is this King of Glory? The Lord strong and mighty, the Lord mighty in battle. Lift up your heads, O ye gates; and be ye lift up, ye everlasting doors; and the King of Glory shall come in. Who is this King of Glory? The Lord of Hosts, He is the King of Glory.
34. Tenor Recitative — Hebrews 1:5
For unto which of the angels said He at any time, Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten hee?
35. Chorus — Hebrews 1:6
Let all the angels of God worship Him.
36. Bass Air — Psalm 68:18
Thou art gone up on high, Thou hast led captivity captive, and received gifts for men; yea, even for Thine enemies, that the Lord God might dwell among them.
37. Chorus — Psalm 68:11
The Lord gave the word: great was the company of the preachers.
38. Duetto for 2 Alto Solos and Chorus — Romans 10:15
How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things!
[39. Chorus — Romans 10:18
Their sound is gone out into all lands, and their words unto the ends of the world. Not sung in the original performance.]
40. Bass Air — Psalm 2:1,2
Why do the nations so furiously rage together: why do the people imagine a vain thing? The kings of the earth rise up, and the rulers take counsels together against the Lord and His anointed.
41. Chorus — Psalm 2:3
Let us break their bonds asunder, and cast away their yokes from us.
42. Tenor Recitative — Psalm 2:4
He that dwelleth in the heavens shall laugh them to scorn; the Lord shall have them in derision.
43. Tenor Air — Psalm 2:9
Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron; Thou shalt dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.
44. Chorus — Revelation 19:6, 11:15, 19:16
Hallelujah! for the Lord God Omnipotent reigneth.
The Kingdom of this world is become the Kingdom of our Lord, and of His Christ: and He shall reign for ever and ever.
King of kings, Lord of lords.

Part Three

45. Soprano Air — Job 19:25, 26; 1 Corinthians 15:20
I know that my redeemer liveth, and that He shall stand at the latter day upon the earth: And though worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God.
For now is Christ risen from the dead, the firstfruits of them that sleep.
46. Chorus — 1 Corinthians 15:21, 22
Since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.
47. Bass Recitative — 1 Corinthians 15:51, 52
Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep; but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet.
48. Bass Air — 1 Corinthians 15:52, 53
The trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.

49. Alto Air — 1 Corinthians 15:54b
Then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, “Death is swallowed up in victory.”
50. Duetto for Alto and Tenor — 1 Corinthians 15:55, 56
O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law.
51. Chorus — 1 Corinthians 15:57
But thanks be to God, who giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
52. Alto Air — Romans 8:31, 33, 34
If God be for us, who can be against us? Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God’s elect? It is God that justifieth. Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is at the right hand of God, who makes intercession for us.
53. Chorus — Revelation 5:12, 13
Worthy is the Lamb that was slain, and hath redeemed us to God by His blood, to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing. Blessing and honour, glory and power to be unto Him that sitteth upon the throne and unto the Lamb, for ever and ever. Amen.

Haydn’s Te Deum in English translation

I’m working with a church choir, preparing to perform Haydn’s setting of the ancient Latin hymn Te Deum. Here are my notes on the text.

Te Deum

Adapted from the entries at Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Te_deum

and at the Choral Public Domain Library: http://www2.cpdl.org/wiki/index.php/Te_Deum

Although I’m no expert in Latin, I have attempted to reorder some phrases from conventional English translations to provide a more word-by-word translation. For singing, it’s important to figure out what the most important word in each phrase needs to be.

Te Deum is an early Christian hymn of praise from around the 4th century, traditionally ascribed to Ambrose and Augustine. Contemporary scholars assign it to Nicetas of Remesiana. The closing section, adapted from various verses in the Psalms, was added later.

I have divided the text into four sections according to the musical structure of Haydn’s piece.

 

Te Deum laudamus:
te Dominum confitemur.
Te aeternum Patrem
omnis terra veneratur.Tibi omnes Angeli;
tibi caeli et universae Potestates;
Tibi Cherubim et Seraphim
incessabili voce proclamant:

Sanctus, Sanctus, Sanctus,
Dominus Deus Sabaoth.
Pleni sunt caeli et terra
majestatis gloriae tuae.

Te gloriosus Apostolorum chorus,
Te Prophetarum laudabilis numerus,

Te Martyrum candidatus laudat exercitus.
Te per orbem terrarum
sancta confitetur Ecclesia,

Patrem immensae majestatis:
Venerandum tuum verum et unicum Filium;
Sanctum quoque Paraclitum Spiritum.

Tu Rex gloriae, Christe.
Tu Patris sempiternus es Filius.
Tu ad liberandum suscepturus hominem,
non horruisti Virginis uterum.

Tu, devicto mortis aculeo,
aperuisti credentibus regna caelorum.

Tu ad dexteram Dei sedes, in gloria Patris.

Judex crederis esse venturus.

You O God, we praise:
You, Lord, we acknowledge to be.
You are the eternal Father.
All the earth venerates you.To you all Angels;
to you the heavens and all the Powers.
To you Cherubim and Seraphim
with unending voice proclaim:

Holy, Holy, Holy,
Lord God of Sabaoth.
Full are heaven and earth
with the majesty of your glory.

You the glorious chorus of Apostles (praise),
You the praiseworthy number of the Prophets (praise),
You the white-clothed army of Martyrs praise.
You throughout all the world
are acknowledged by the holy Church,

Father of immense Majesty:
Who is to be worshiped, your true and only Son;
Also the Holy Spirit, the Comforter.

You are the King of Glory, O Christ.
You are the everlasting Son of the Father.
When you took upon yourself to deliver man,
you did not abhor the Virgin’s womb.

You, by overcoming the sting of death,
opened to all believers the Kingdom of Heaven.

You sit at the right hand of God, in the glory of the Father.
Our Judge we believe that you will come to be.

Te ergo quaesumus, tuis famulis subveni:
quos pretioso sanguine redemisti.
To you therefore we ask you, help your servants:
whom you have redeemed with your precious blood.
Aeterna fac cum sanctis tuis in gloria
numerari.

[added later, adapted from Psalm
verses]

Salvum fac populum tuum, Domine,
et benedic hereditati tuae.

Et rege eos, et extolle illos usque in aeternum.
Per singulos dies benedicimus te;
Et laudamus Nomen tuum in saeculum, et in saeculum saeculi.

Dignare, Domine, die isto sine peccato nos custodire.
Miserere nostri Domine, miserere nostri.

Fiat misericordia tua, Domine, super nos,
quemadmodum speravimus in te.

In eternity with your saints make them in
glory to be numbered.

[added later, adapted from Psalm
verses]

Save your people, Lord,
and bless your heritage.

And rule them, and lift them up for ever.
Every day we bless you;
And we worship your Name forever, and forever for all ages.

Vouchsafe, O Lord, this day without sin to keep us.
Have mercy upon us, our Lord, have mercy upon us.

Let your mercy be upon us, O Lord,  since we have
trusted in you.

In te, Domine, speravi:
non confundar in aeternum.
In you, O Lord, I have trusted:
may I not be confounded forever.

Studying the Libretto to Theodore Dubois’ “The Seven Last Words of Christ”

If you would like to use this material, for instance to reprint it in a concert program or bulletin at your church, you have my permission to do so. But first, please send me an email introducing yourself and telling me about your church or choir. I would like to hear from you. I can also send this post to you in a format that is easy for you to copy, paste and edit.

The Seven Last Words of Christ (Les Sept Paroles du Christ)
Théodore DuBois, 1867
Libretto and Bible Study
Copyright © 2011 by Wheat Williams
wheat@wheatwilliams.com

DuBois’ Seven Last Words of Christ was composed in 1867. The original lyrics are in Latin, comprised of Bible verses and texts from traditional prayers of the Catholic Church.

The words presented here are from the English-language edition of the piece circa 1899.

There are other musical works by other composers based on the Seven Last Words; as far as I know, DuBois’ particular selection of verses and prayers is unique to him.

Words of Jesus are in bold.

Introduction

Soprano Solo

Lamentations 1:12

O vos omnes qui transitis per viam, attendite, et videte si est dolor sicut dolor meus. O all ye who travel upon the highway, hearken to me, and behold me: was e’er sorrow like unto my sorrow?

Ruth 1:20

Posuit me Dominus desolatam, totâ die mœrore confectam; ne vocetis me Nœmi, sed vocate me Mara. For the Lord Almighty hath dealt bitterly with me. Call me now no more Naomi, from today call me Mara.

First Word

Baritone and Tenor Solo, with Chorus

Luke 23:34

Pater, dimitte illis, non enim sicunt, quid faciunt. Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.

Matthew 26:66

Et dicebant omnes: Reus est mortis; And the people clamor’d: He is death-guilty;

Mark 15:13

 tolle, tolle, crucifige eum.  take him, take him, let us crucify him!

Matthew 27:25

Sanguis ejus super nos et super filios nostros! Be his blood on us, and on our children!

Luke 23:33

Crucifixerunt Jesum et latrones, unum a dextris et alterum a sinistris. Then they did crucify Jesus, and the two thieves, one at His right hand, the other at His left hand.

Second Word

Duet for Tenor and Baritone, with Chorus

Luke 23:43

Hodie mecum eris in Paradiso, amen, amen, dico tibi. Verily, thou shalt be in Paradise today with me. Amen, so I tell thee.

Luke 23:42

Domine, memento meî cum veneris in regnum tuum. Hear me, O Lord, and remember me, when Thou comest into Thy kingdom.

Third Word

Solos for Soprano, Tenor, Baritone with Chorus

John 19:26-27

Mulier, ecce filius tuus. See, O woman! here behold thy son beloved.

from Stabat Mater dolorosa, 13th century hymn

Stabat Mater dolorosa
Juxta Crucem lacrymosa,
Dum pendebat Filius.
Quis est homo, qui non fleret,
Christi Matrem si videret
In tanto supplicio?
See yon mother, bow’d in anguish
Who beside the cross doth languish,
Where on high her son is borne;
Is there mortal, who not feeleth
To behold her where she kneeleth,
So woeful, and all forlorn?

Fourth Word

Baritone Solo

Matthew: 27:46 and Mark 15:34

Deus meus, ut quid dereliquisti me? God, my Father, why hast Thou forsaken me?

based on the Book of Lamentations, Tenebrae for Maundy Thursday

Omnes amici mei dereliquerunt me; prævaluerunt insidiantes mihi; tradidit me quem diligebam. All those who were my friends, all have now forsaken me, and they that hate me do now prevail against me; and he whom I have cherished, he hath betray’d me.

from Tenebrae for Maundy Thursday

Vinea mea electa, ego te plantavi; quomodo conversa es in amaratudine ut me crucifigeres? Even the vine that I have chosen, and that I have planted: wherefore art thou now so strangley turned into bitterness, that I by thee am crucified?

Fifth Word

Chorus, and Solos for Tenor and Baritone

John 19:28

Sitio! I am athirst!

Mark 15:29-30*

Judæi prætereuntes blasphemabant eum, moventes capita sua et dicentes: Vah! qui destruis templum Dei, si tu es Christus, Filius Dei, descende nunc de cruce, ut videamus et credamus tibi. Si tu es rex Judeorum, salvum te fac. And the Jews then passing by him, all did rail upon him, and wagging their heads at him, they said unto him: Ah! Thou wouldst fain destroy the temple; if thou be Jesus, Son of the Father, now from the cross descend thou, that we behold it, and believe on thee when we behold it. If thou art king over Israel, save thyself, then!

Sixth Word

Tenor Solo and Chorus

Luke 23:46

Pater, in manus tuas commendo spiritum meum. Father, into Thy hands I commend my soul.

Psalm 88:27 (according to the numbering of Psalms in the Latin Vulgate)
Psalm 89:26 (according to later translations)

Pater meus es tu, Deus meus, susceptor salutis meæ. For Thou art my God and my Father; Thou art my Saviour.

Seventh Word

Solo for Soprano, Tenor and Baritone, with Chorus

John 19:30

Et clamans Jesu voce magna dixit:Consummatum est! And with a loud voice Jesus cried, exclaiming:“It is finished!”
Et inclinato capite, traddit spiritum. And He did bow His head, and rendered up His spirit.

Luke 23:44

Erat autem fere hora sexta; obscuratus est sol, et tenebræ factæ sunt in universam terram; velum templi scissum est; omnis terra tremuit; And it was about the sixth hour; and the sun was darkened, and darkness covered the earth, until about the ninth hour; and the veil of the temple was rent, and all the earth did quake;

from Matthew 27:52

petræ scissæ et monumenta aperta sunt. and the rocks were rent, and all the graves were opened wide.

prayer from the Stations of the Cross

Adoramus te, Christe, et benedicimus tibi.
Quia per sanctam Crucem tuam redemisti mundum.
Christ, we do all adore Thee, and we do praise Thee forever;
for on the holy cross hast thou the world from sin redeemed.

__________

*Mark 15:29 does not include the word “Jews” in the original Greek, and that word does not appear in that verse in the Latin Vulgate (which DuBois quoted), or in other translations. Rather, Mark 15:29 uses the Greek word oi, meaning “those passing by”.