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Balfour Gardiner's Evening Hymn


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#1 Vox Humana

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Posted 01 October 2016 - 06:08 PM

Please excuse this rather off-topic query, but this is the most sensible place I know to ask and those with choirs might perhaps be mildly interested.

 

Balfour Gardiner’s Evening Hymn was published with both English and Latin texts underlaid. The Latin is the ancient Compline hymn Te lucis ante terminum and the English a rhyming translation of this. The anthem is almost invariably sung in Latin, which is odd as the music was obviously framed expressly for the English words. The Latin is a poor fit. Compare the accents on termiNUM and posciMUS with the way that ‘day’ and ‘pray’ help the music forward; ditto the corresponding points in verse 3, where you can throw in ‘reign’ as well. In the second verse the harmonic word-painting fits ‘terrify’, not somnia. There are other similar instances. Throughout the anthem the English text fits like a glove; the traditional Latin looks like it was shoehorned in, presumably to allow the anthem to be performed by Catholic choirs. (It wouldn’t be the only anthem printed in both English and Latin with this aim.) ‘Grove’ tells me that Evening Hymn was composed in 1908. I’m not even sure whether Latin was acceptable in C of E services at that date.* The English must have originated as an alternative to the Latin, but where did it come from? In perusing old hymnals I have come across a few translations of Te lucis ante terminum, but not this one and I have not found it anywhere else either. Was it written especially for the anthem?

 

Stanford's three Latin motets were originally non-liturgical; I don't know the background to Wood's Latin motets.



#2 SL

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Posted 02 October 2016 - 09:24 AM

I wonder which edition you are looking at?

 

The version I have, words in Latin, uses the translation of Te Lucis ante terminum by Pope Urban VIII and, seemingly in my opinion, the music and words fit together well. The English translation, I suspect you have there and I suspect, by the great J. M. Neale might be translation of the original Latin text. I don't know whether Latin was acceptable in the Church of England in 1908 (was it written whilst he was teaching at Winchester? - in which case it may, very well, have been acceptable in a college chapel) but Balfour Gardiner would have known the Urban VII translation rather than the version more normally used to today, the original, re-adopted in the Paul VI Breviary in the 1970's..

 

My version gives phantasmata with the same music ( + the up-beat) as somnia (dreams) - et noctium phantasmata - phantoms (night phantoms).

 

It's not a piece I know - I think I have only heard it performed once and, despite being told that it is a classic piece of the English choral repertoire, I'm not totally convinced - only my opinion, of course.

 

Does that help? I suspect not - but it's a thought!


SL (late of Kings College, Cambridge)


#3 Vox Humana

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Posted 02 October 2016 - 04:15 PM

Thank you for your thoughts, SL, and my apologies: I assumed that everyone would know the piece. I shouldn't make assumptions!

 

The first verse of the English text is:

 

Thee, Lord, before the close of day,

Maker of all things, Thee we pray

For thy dear loving-kindness' sake

To guard and guide us in thy way.

 

The author is uncredited, but I can't imagine J. M. Neale writing anything this clunky. The words do fit the music, which is what makes me wonder whether they were tailor-made. Neale's translation is in the English hymnal and is one of those beginning "Before the ending of the day".

 

According to 'Grove', Gardiner was at Winchester for only a term, in 1907. However important Latin then was in public and grammar school education, I do wonder whether it would have been countenanced in the chapel services. It certainly would not have been before the Tractarians and even then I am not sure how long it would have taken to infiltrate Anglican services. Mozart's Ave verum corpus was an extremely popular concert item in the nineteenth century, but I have not been able to find any performances in the C of E until the twentieth. My gut feeling (perhaps misconceived) is that the main catalyst for the acceptance of Latin will have been the editions of Tudor music by Fellowes and others published in the 1920s.

 

For what it's worth, I don't think 'phantasmata' has quite the same connotations as 'terrify' and, if singing in Latin, the harmonic bolt has already been shot before that word is reached. :)



#4 SL

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Posted 02 October 2016 - 09:00 PM

The point I was making, probably not very well, was that the edition I have uses the Latin translation of the hymn made by Pope Urban and not the original and that, in my opinion, the Latin fits really rather well. VH said that he thought, in the edition he was looking at, the Latin was 'a poor fit' - which was why I suggested that we were looking at different editions..

 

I would, certainly, agree that the translation quoted is not by Neale and I suspect that you are right in that it is a tailor made translation.


SL (late of Kings College, Cambridge)


#5 Vox Humana

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Posted 02 October 2016 - 10:00 PM

The point I was making, probably not very well, was that the edition I have uses the Latin translation of the hymn made by Pope Urban and not the original and that, in my opinion, the Latin fits really rather well.

 

You are quite right. The version set by Gardiner was indeed the revised version by Urban, not the original. I have to disagree that this is a good fit, except that it is in the required metre. In fact I am inclined to think that the original makes a marginally better one, although neither is as natural as the English. Urban's 'PaRAclito' in the last verse sounds particularly ugly (compared to 'our ADvocate'), and 'reGNANS' is less happy than 'whose REIGN'.

 

Is your edition a commercially published one, SL, or the homemade one available at CPDL? If the former I would be interested to know who published it and whether it is dated.



#6 OmegaConsort

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Posted 03 October 2016 - 05:30 PM

Fascinating! I must admit then whenever I conduct this piece with my choir (on a fairly regular basis as the trebles like it so much!), I am often moaned at by the men because I insist on singing it using the English translation rather than the Latin! The only reasons I give is that I like the English, it fits the music well (especially the middle section), and nowhere in the score does it gives the composers preference to the language to use in performance!

We sang it recently in a West Country Cathedral where the Precentor announced it, and continued to give a full translation of the Latin for the benefit of the congregation. It was mildly amusing to see his face when he heard the English in the opening bars of the choral entry!


Richard Harrison




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