Sunday, February 08, 2009

Bless Thou the Lord, O My Soul

I'm nuts for singing Orthodox (and Orthodox-ish) music these days. The melodies (and harmonies) are almost always pretty simple; it's the dynamics that give these songs their impact - and working on dynamics like this is really good for breathing, which is so key in singing everything.

We sang Bogoroditse Dyevo (the Orthodox "Hail Mary") at Christmas:

And this morning as the Motet after Communion we sang the beautiful Bless Thou the Lord, O My Soul, by Mikhail Ippolitov-Ivanov; I believe this is a setting used in the Russian Orthodox liturgy - and specifically (unless I'm reading this all wrong), Ippolitov-Ivanov's "Liturgy of John Crysostom." You can download the whole liturgy in PDF form (found at this page); go to page 6, "No. 2" for Blagoslovi dushe moya Gospoda, "Bless Thou the Lord, O My Soul."

If you're feeling patient (or feeling like skipping ahead) you can listen to it sung by the Minnesota Compline Choir on this .wma recording, at about 19:50; follow along with No. 2 above, too! The translation we used today was better, IMO, but the music is the same in either case. (And don't forget: you can always listen to the whole service of Compline, and sing along with the parts you know, just before bedtime tonight, too. Heh.)

Here's another version, not the one we sang today, but gorgeous: Blagoslovi dushe moya Gospoda, in a modern setting by Sergei Tolstokulakov:

The note says that "Bless the Lord, O my soul" is "the first antiphon of the liturgy." A place of key importance!

Here's another, labeled Blagoslovi Dushe Moya Gospoda (Vespers):

The note on that page says:
The first psalm (Psalm 103, Septuagint numbering) of the Vechernya ("evening service, Vespers) in the Ipatiev Monastery Chant, with harmonisation by Archimandrite Matfei Mormil, the grand old man of modern Russian Orthodox chant.

That's Psalm 104, for us 'Piskies.
1 Bless the LORD, O my soul. O LORD my God, thou art very great; thou art clothed with honour and majesty.

2 Who coverest thyself with light as with a garment: who stretchest out the heavens like a curtain:

3 Who layeth the beams of his chambers in the waters: who maketh the clouds his chariot: who walketh upon the wings of the wind:

4 Who maketh his angels spirits; his ministers a flaming fire:

5 Who laid the foundations of the earth, that it should not be removed for ever.

6 Thou coveredst it with the deep as with a garment: the waters stood above the mountains.

7 At thy rebuke they fled; at the voice of thy thunder they hasted away.

8 They go up by the mountains; they go down by the valleys unto the place which thou hast founded for them.

9 Thou hast set a bound that they may not pass over; that they turn not again to cover the earth.

10 He sendeth the springs into the valleys, which run among the hills.

11 They give drink to every beast of the field: the wild asses quench their thirst.

12 By them shall the fowls of the heaven have their habitation, which sing among the branches.

13 He watereth the hills from his chambers: the earth is satisfied with the fruit of thy works.

14 He causeth the grass to grow for the cattle, and herb for the service of man: that he may bring forth food out of the earth;

15 And wine that maketh glad the heart of man, and oil to make his face to shine, and bread which strengtheneth man's heart.

16 The trees of the LORD are full of sap; the cedars of Lebanon, which he hath planted;

17 Where the birds make their nests: as for the stork, the fir trees are her house.

18 The high hills are a refuge for the wild goats; and the rocks for the conies.

19 He appointed the moon for seasons: the sun knoweth his going down.

20 Thou makest darkness, and it is night: wherein all the beasts of the forest do creep forth.

21 The young lions roar after their prey, and seek their meat from God.

22 The sun ariseth, they gather themselves together, and lay them down in their dens.

23 Man goeth forth unto his work and to his labour until the evening.

24 O LORD, how manifold are thy works! in wisdom hast thou made them all: the earth is full of thy riches.

25 So is this great and wide sea, wherein are things creeping innumerable, both small and great beasts.

26 There go the ships: there is that leviathan, whom thou hast made to play therein.

27 These wait all upon thee; that thou mayest give them their meat in due season.

28 That thou givest them they gather: thou openest thine hand, they are filled with good.

29 Thou hidest thy face, they are troubled: thou takest away their breath, they die, and return to their dust.

30 Thou sendest forth thy spirit, they are created: and thou renewest the face of the earth.

31 The glory of the LORD shall endure for ever: the LORD shall rejoice in his works.

32 He looketh on the earth, and it trembleth: he toucheth the hills, and they smoke.

33 I will sing unto the LORD as long as I live: I will sing praise to my God while I have my being.

34 My meditation of him shall be sweet: I will be glad in the LORD.

35 Let the sinners be consumed out of the earth, and let the wicked be no more. Bless thou the LORD, O my soul. Praise ye the LORD.

(I have to say it amazes me that each time I read a Psalm, there are portions of it I could swear I've never seen before! I've read or sung all the Psalms literally dozens (if not hundreds) of times each - and yet something is always new; it's really uncanny - but it demonstrates perfectly why Psalms are the "worship of the church" and utterly timeless.)

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