Music in Time of Pestilence
  • Josh
    Posts: 97
    Over the past months, as this dreadful pandemic has arisen and spread, I have been gathering together suitable prayers and devotions to pray, begging God to avert this terrible scourge, the chosen instrument of his justice appointed on account of our sins, that his wrath may be assuaged and all mankind be delivered from this new plague. For while on the natural level the outbreak of a novel coronavirus is but an example of a common natural process, and the means of social isolation needed to slow the spread of infectious diseases have been known for centuries, yet with the eyes of faith we know that all occurs at the direction of divine providence, and we also know that God from all eternity has determined to grant some favours in response to prayer - may the amelioration and swift end of this pestilence be one of them!

    A. I attach copies of the music for the following:

    1. The Antiphon Parce, Domine, together with a selection of verses from Lenten hymns (borrowed from the Parish Book of Chant, spread over two pages), plus an extra verse for use in place of v. 4, which is only suitable during Lent;
    2. The Responsory Media vita;
    3. The Responsory Recordare, Domine, testamenti tui;
    4. The famous Marian anthem Stella cæli for use in time of plague;
    5. The Antiphon O beate Sebastiane - I could not find the music for this online, so I made a contrafactum chant setting based on O beate Dionysi, which looks likely to be the text on which the later antiphon to St Sebastian was based.

    B. Here are four English hymns suited to these grim days - others far abler than I will suggest appropriate tunes:

    James Montgomery (1771-1854), “[Two] Hymns to be sung on the Day of Humiliation, Wednesday, August 22nd, 1832” [as observed in Sheffield, England, to pray for the cessation of a cholera outbreak]:

    Hymn 1. (C.M.) [I omit the original first verse]
    1. Let priests and people, high and low,
    Rich, poor, and great, and small,
    Invoke, in fellowship of woe,
    The Maker of them all.
    2. For God hath summoned from his place
    Death in a direr form,
    To waken, warn, and scourge our race,
    Than earthquake, fire, or storm.
    3. Let churches weep within their pale,
    And families apart;
    Let each in secrecy bewail
    The plague of his own heart.
    4. So, while the land bemoans its sin,
    The pestilence may cease,
    And mercy, tempering wrath, bring in
    God’s saving health and peace.

    Hymn 2. (L.M.)
    1. It is the Lord!—Behold his hand
    Outstretched with an afflictive rod;
    And hark! a voice goes through the land,
    “Be still, and know that I am God.”
    2. Shall we, like guilty Adam, hide
    In darkest shades our darker fears?
    For who his coming may abide,
    Or who shall stand when he appears?
    3. No,—let us throng around his seat;
    No,—let us meet him face to face;
    Prostrate our spirits at his feet,
    Confess our sins, and sue for grace.
    4. Who knows but God will hear our cries,
    Turn swift destruction from our path,
    Restrain his judgments, or chastise
    In tender mercy, not in wrath?
    5. He will, he will, for Jesus pleads;
    Let heaven and earth his love record;
    For us, for us he intercedes,
    Our help is nigh:—it is the Lord.

    Isaac Watts (1674-1748), from the first part of Psalm 91 (Psalm 90 in the Vulgate), subtitled “Safety in public diseases and dangers” in his The Psalms of David (1719), stanzas 6, 5, 7, 9 and 10 [the reordering gives a better sense]:

    Hymn. (L.M.)
    1. If vapours with malignant breath
    Rise thick, and scatter midnight death,
    Israel is safe; the poisoned air
    Grows pure, if Israel’s God be there.
    2. If burning beams of noon conspire
    To dart a pestilential fire,
    God is their life; his wings are spread
    To shield them with a healthful shade.
    3. What though a thousand at thy side,
    At thy right hand ten thousand died,
    Thy God his chosen people saves
    Amongst the dead, amidst the graves.
    4. But if the fire, or plague, or sword,
    Receive commission from the Lord
    To strike his saints among the rest,
    Their very pains and deaths are blest.
    5. The sword, the pestilence or fire,
    Shall but fulfil their best desire;
    From sins and sorrows set them free,
    And bring thy children, Lord, to thee.

    William Bullock (1798-1874), Hymns Ancient and Modern:

    Hymn. (C.M.)
    1. In grief and fear to thee, O Lord,
    We now for succour fly;
    Thine awful judgements are abroad,
    O shield us lest we die.
    2. The fell disease on every side
    Walks forth with tainted breath;
    And pestilence, with rapid stride,
    Bestrews the land with death.
    3. O look with pity on the scene
    Of sadness and of dread;
    And let thine Angel stand between
    The living and the dead.
    4. With contrite hearts to thee, our King,
    We turn who oft have stray’d;
    Accept the sacrifice we bring,
    And let the plague be stay’d. Amen.
  • Josh
    Posts: 97
    If anyone can find the actual music for the antiphon to St Sebastian, please supply it if possible.
  • Josh
    Posts: 97
    P.S. The Cantuale Romano-Seraphicum contains the attached antiphon in honour of the famous plague saint, St Roch.

    Yet another plague saint, St Rosalia, has a long proper hymn in her honour, from which I selected the following stanzas; I am unsure of what melody would be appropriate, but there are many that would fit:

    Hymnus (abbrev.)
    Ave, rosa sine spina,
    Contra pestem medicina,
    Rosalia, dux inclyta,
    Recens a mundo cognita.

    Post tot sæcla revelata,
    In Patronam orbi data
    Contra pestem nobis fave,
    Dum tibi sonamus Ave.

    Laus, honor sit Majestati,
    Uni, trinæ Deitati,
    Rosaliam exaltanti,
    Pestem per eam sedanti.
    Thanked by 1Incardination
  • Since tomorrow is St. Benedict's feast, does anyone know a hymn to St. Benedict relevant to pestilence?
  • Josh
    Posts: 97
    Unfortunately not - but I forgot to mention that the singing of the Trisagion is associated with times of trouble; either in chant (as on Good Friday, only without the rest of the Improperia) or set to polyphony (such as Victoria's sublime version, again without the rest of the Improperia) it is most solemn and appropriate as a cry to the Trinity for mercy.
  • tomjaw
    Posts: 1,666
    Here are some of the Hymns to St. Benedict,
    https://societyofstbede.wordpress.com/2015/03/21/st-benedict/

    He has Hymns for todays Feast, also a set for his Feast in July? and also the feast in December. The Antiphaonale Monasticum 1934 also has Hymns.

    I notice that while a minor pestilence rages in parts of Europe, their Patron is ignored!
  • Sub Tuum Praesidium
    Thanked by 1Caleferink
  • francisfrancis
    Posts: 8,543
    Veni Creator Spiritus

    The Angelus at 6, 12, 6 (and 12?)
  • francisfrancis
    Posts: 8,543
    this terrible scourge, the chosen instrument of his justice appointed on account of our sins, that his wrath may be assuaged and all mankind be delivered from this new plague. For while on the natural level the outbreak of a novel coronavirus is but an example of a common natural process, and the means of social isolation needed to slow the spread of infectious diseases have been known for centuries, yet with the eyes of faith we know that all occurs at the direction of divine providence, and we also know that God from all eternity has determined to grant some favours in response to prayer - may the amelioration and swift end of this pestilence be one of them!
    spot on. the bishops should be processing in the streets with the Holy Eucharist.
    Thanked by 2Drake CCooze
  • tomjaw
    Posts: 1,666
    Our bishops have been such a shining light in this darkness.*

    Although considering what so many of them have been up to over the last 50 years (or more), I too would be afraid of death.

    * O.K. a handfull have been a light in the darkness. But then looking at history it usually is 1 in 12 a best that stands up to be counted.
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 10,314
    I once heard Archbishop (then Bishop) Sheen say to not look to the bishops to safeguard the faith. They are the first to fold in time of heresy. Not a direct quote but captures his sentiment. He pointed to the English bishops in the time of Henry VIII as an example.
  • Tomjaw,

    Your comment almost makes me wonder what would have happened if St. John had been a journalist, instead....
    Thanked by 1Incardination
  • [comment is in isolation, as a result of viral infection]
    Thanked by 1Incardination
  • http://www0.cpdl.org/wiki/images/1/18/Purcell_Remember_not.pdf

    Purcell's very memorable Remember not, Lord, our offences
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 10,314
    I was sure Haugen and Haas would be the preferred pestilential music.
  • Charles,

    That's music which accompanies pestilence, or is evidence that the plague has arrived.
    Thanked by 2francis Carol
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 10,314
    Both!!!
    Thanked by 2francis Carol
  • francisfrancis
    Posts: 8,543
    No, you are both close, but the reality is, it IS the plague! It is the locusts that swarmed our vineyards... And Charles, did you come up with the word 'pestilential'? stroke of genius... I do see it is in the dictionary... but there is nary a more perfect word than that to describe the nuisance or application of such thereof.
    Thanked by 2CharlesW Carol
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 10,314
    I didn't make it up.


    pes·ti·len·tial
    /ˌpestəˈlen(t)SH(ə)l/
    Learn to pronounce
    adjective
    relating to or tending to cause infectious diseases.
    "you shouldn't be out on a pestilential night like this"
    Similar:
    plaguelike
    contagious
    communicable
    epidemic
    pestilent
    dangerous
    injurious
    harmful
    destructive
    virulent
    pernicious
    toxic
    venomous
    malign
    fatal
    deadly
    catching
    pestiferous
    (of a plant or animal) very widespread and troublesome.
    "a pestilential weed"
    INFORMAL
    annoying.
    "what a pestilential man!"
    Thanked by 1CHGiffen
  • Josh
    Posts: 97
    I have found suggested tunes for two of the four hymns I supplied above:

    1. "In grief and fear to thee, O Lord"

    Salisbury (HA&M 377); also suggested are St Bernard (HA&M 112) and Burford (HA&M 253). Other tunes paired with this hymn are Downs (Mason), Dundee (Ravenscroft), and Windsor (Old 116th).

    There is also a newly composed tune proposed:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EUGXmA3kNZI

    2. The hymn by Isaac Watts "If vapours with malignant breath" (extracted from "He that hath made his refuge God") is usually sung to either Lyconia or St John's Highlands, apparently.

    I trust those far more learned will be able to give their views on which if any of these are appropriate and suitable.