Wednesday, November 04, 2009

O Divine Redeemer

In my sermon for All Souls' Day, I made reference to the song "O Divine Redeemer" by Charles Gounod. You can play the song (above), sung so beautifully by Dame Kiri Te Kanawa. You will want to turn up the volume for this one.

As James Welch reports: Gounod's compositions include over a dozen operas (the most famous being Faust), 17 Mass settings, a host of sacred and secular choral works, six oratorios (the most famous being La Rédemption), two symphonies, chamber music, solo piano and organ pieces, and even teaching methods for piano and French horn. His most recognizable instrumental piece is Funeral March of a Marionette, written in London in 1872 for piano and later orchestrated in 1879. This colorful piece was much later adopted as the theme music for the Alfred Hitchcock television show.

Gounod composed both the words (in French) and music to "O Divine Redeemer" in April 1893, six months before his death, so it is one of his last compositions. Some consider it to be one of his last expressions of faith. The song was written originally for mezzo-soprano with orchestral accompaniment. The original title of the song is Repentir, meaning "Repentance," and is subtitled Scene sous forme de priere, (literally, "Scene in the form of a prayer").

The standard English translation, which is a little watered down from the imagery in the original French, goes like this:

Ah! turn me not away, receive me, tho' unworthy!
Hear Thou my cry, behold, Lord, my distress!
Answer me from Thy throne, haste Thee, Lord, to mine aid,
Thy pity show in my deep anguish!
Let not the sword of vengeance smite me,
Tho' righteous Thine anger, O Lord!
Shield me in danger, O Regard me! On Thee, Lord, alone will I call.

O Divine Redeemer! O Divine Redeemer!
I pray Thee, grant me pardon, and remember not my sins!
Forgive me, O divine Redeemer!
Night gathers round my soul; fearful I cry to Thee;
Come to mine aid, O Lord! Haste Thee, Lord, haste to help me!
Hear my cry, Save me, Lord, in Thy mercy;
Hear my cry! Come and save me, O Lord!
O, divine Redeemer! I pray Thee, grant me pardon,
And remember not, O Lord, my sins!
Save, in the day of retribution, from Death shield Thou me, O my God!
O, divine Redeemer, have mercy! Help me, my Savior!

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