Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, O God, thou God of my salvation: and my tongue shall sing aloud of thy righteousness.
O Lord, open thou my lips; and my mouth shall shew forth thy praise.
For thou desirest not sacrifice; else would I give it: thou delightest not in burnt offering.
The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise.
Do good in thy good pleasure unto Zion: build thou the walls of Jerusalem.
Psalm 51 (KJV)
When PJ and I moved to Ohio in June 2016, we thought we had a good idea of what it was going to be like here. PJ grew up two hours north in Marion, flat farmland between Columbus and Lake Erie. While our home in the Hocking Hills was different, we were completely surprised by the Amish community that surrounds us.
We always knew that Columbus has a vibrant arts scene with art galleries, theater, and especially music. We have attended performances by the Columbus Symphony Orchestra and the ProMusica Chamber Orchestra. The city is filled with arts and music festivals all year long. We don’t find it a problem to drive the hour north to Columbus to enjoy the arts.
We were not expecting very much in Lancaster (population 40,000), the closest town to our rural home. There are museums for the decorative arts and glass blowing and some local theater. The summer Lancaster Festival is the biggest event and draws thousands to town for music and art. But last Sunday we experienced something that opened our eyes. We went to the beautiful Southern Theater in Columbus to hear ProMusica’s performance of Beethovan’s 9th Symphony. The chorale was to be performed by the Lancaster Chorale, which we had never heard before. Before the symphony began, there was a performance of Gregorio Allegri’s Miserere mei Deus. With the first phrases, we all realized we were in for something special.
This 1639 composition was based on Psalm 51 and there is a wonderful story about the piece. The Miserere mei Deus was used exclusively for the Tenebrae service at the Sistine Chapel and transcription was forbidden under pain of excommunication. There was a violation of this edict, however, and I will quote the event entirely from the Wikipedia version: “According to the popular story (backed up by family letters), fourteen-year-old Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was visiting Rome when he first heard the piece during the Wednesday service. Later that day, he wrote it down entirely from memory, returning to the Chapel that Friday to make minor corrections. Less than three months after hearing the song and transcribing it, Mozart had gained fame for the work and was summoned to Rome by Pope Clement XIV, who showered praise on him for his feat of musical genius and awarded him the Chivalric Order of the Golden Spur on July 4, 1770.”
After the Miserere mei Deus, we didn’t think we would be any more thrilled, but that changed during the performance of the Beethoven piece. From the first familiar notes to the passionate choral finale, the audience was riveted, and at the conclusion the audience burst to their feet en masse. It was an ovation truly deserved.
So to honor their performance, I offer this excerpt of a performance of Miserere mei Deus by the Lancaster Chorale (recorded previously).