Tag Archives: Cecilian Ode

Cecilian Ode #2: “Welcome to All the Pleasures”

In 1683, a new organization, the Musical Society of London, commissioned a setting of Christopher Fishburn’s ode Welcome to All the Pleasures for performance on St. Cecilia’s Day — November 22nd.  The Society chose Henry Purcell, 24 years old and already the organist at both Westminister Abbey and the Chapel Royal, as the composer.

Welcome to All the Pleasures proved a hit, with Purcell’s innovative use of the ritornello (a riff for strings punctuating a section of the work) and the ground (a repeating bass line anchoring vocal variations) causing quite the sensation.  Not only it was published the following year  — a rarity for an extended work in Restoration England — it became the first in a series of Cecilian odes commissioned by the Musical Society for their annual celebration.  Purcell wrote three more such odes before his untimely death in 1695, as did contemporaries like John Blow and successors like George Frederic Handel, often setting libretti by renowned poets such as John Dryden and Alexander Pope.

This year, St. Cecilia’s Day is also Thanksgiving Day in the United States.  Why not give thanks for the gifts of music and poetry by spending 15 minutes with Welcome to All the Pleasures?  The text of Christopher Fishburn’s ode follows below the playlist.

Welcome to All the Pleasures:

Symphony

Alto, tenor and bass: chorus: ritornello
Welcome to all the pleasures that delight
Of ev’ry sense the grateful appetite,
Hail, great assembly of Apollo’s race.
Hail to this happy place, this musical assembly
That seems to be the arc of universal harmony.

Alto: ritornello
Here the Deities approve
The God of Music and of Love;
All the talents they have lent you,
All the blessings they have sent you,
Pleas’d to see what they bestow,
Live and thrive so well below.

Two sopranos and bass: ritornello
While joys celestial their bright souls invade
To find what great improvement you have made.

Alto, tenor and bass: chorus
Then lift up your voices, those organs of nature,
Those charms to the troubled and amorous creature.
The power shall divert us a pleasanter way,
For sorrow and grief find from music relief,
And love its soft charms must obey.
Then lift up your voices, those organs of nature,
Those charms to the troubled and amorous creature.

Tenor: ritornello
Beauty, thou scene of love,
And virtue thou innocent fire,
Made by the powers above
To temper the heat of desire,
Music that fancy employs
In rapture of innocent flame,
We offer with lute and with voice
To Cecilia, Cecilia’s bright name.

Tenor: chorus
In a consort of voices while instruments play
With music we celebrate this holy day;
Iô Cecilia!

(This is the second in a series exploring the Cecilian Ode, a uniquely English poetic and musical genre that spans the centuries from the late 1600s to the present.  Check out Ode #1 here; look for a new ode on or about the 22nd of each month!)

— Rick Krueger

 

 

Cecilian Ode #1

A Hymn for St. Cecilia, composed by Herbert Howells [1892-1983]

Sing for the morning’s joy, Cecilia, sing,
In words of youth and praises of the Spring,
Walk the bright colonnades by fountains’ spray,
And sing as sunlight fills the waking day;
Till angels, voyaging in upper air,
Pause on a wing and gather the clear sound
Into celestial joy, wound and unwound,
A silver chain, or golden as your hair.

Sing for your loves of heaven and of earth,
In words of music, and each word a truth;
Marriage of heart and longings that aspire,
A bond of roses, and a ring of fire.
Your summertime grows short and fades away,
Terror must gather to a martyr’s death;
But never tremble, the last indrawn breath
Remembers music as an echo may.

Through the cold aftermath of centuries,
Cecilia’s music dances in the skies;
Lend us a fragment of th’immortal air,
That with your choiring angels we may share,
A word to light us thro’ time-fettered night,
Water of life, or rose of paradise,
So from the earth another song shall rise
To meet your own in heaven’s long delight.

— Text by Ursula Vaughan Williams [1911-2007]

This is the first in an occasional series exploring the Cecilian Ode, a uniquely English poetic and musical genre that spans the centuries from the late 1600s to the present.  More to come!

— Rick Krueger