Super Fluminem

Description: 

Duration c. 8’
Instrumentation: Four voices (counter tenor, 2 tenors, baritone)
First Performance: The Orlando Consort, York Early Music Centre, St. Mary’s Church York, April 7th 2000

Super Flumina (2000)

for four voices (counter tenor, 2 tenors, baritone)

Commissioned for the Orlanda Consort by the York Early Music Foundation, Super Flumina was written specially for the opening of their new centre. To this end the piece marries the ideas that the Orlando Consort has begun to explore in developing works from 'fragments' of extant musical texts with the context of the piece's first performance. The piece focuses on a legend associated with St. Mary's Abbey in York whereby, in 1377, fishermen brought the lifeless body of a 14 year-old girl, who had fallen into the Ouse, into the chapel. The monks prayed that the Virgin would intercede and had begun to sing the anthem Ave Regina Caelorum when the girl regained consciousness. After a night in the chapel she recovered completely.

The piece does not attempt to tell the story in a literal way, but rather approaches the legend through a series of musical and textual fragments: the hymn Ave Regina Caelorum; the text of the Psalm "By the waters... (Psalm 137, but 136 in the old Latin bible); coincidences of phrases between the various texts, as well as divergences of text within different settings of the same material (for example, Dufay's setting of Ave Regina Caelorum sets substantially different words for the third line).

The piece was written specifically for the Orlando Consort with very particular attention to the tessitura of each voice and to the perceived ways of combining voices in different registers. One of the pleasures of working with early music performers is the intelligence and invention which they bring to the performance of music which has laid dormant or has never been heard before and which often involves decision making of a very high order.  This investigative approach is also something which they bring to the performance of completely new music which, until their intervention, can only remain on the manuscript paper like faint scratches on fading parchment.  

Gavin Bryars

Text of Super Flumina

Text                                                                        Translation

 

Ave, Salve, Ave                                                         Hail, Hail, Hail

Salve radix, salve porta,                                            Hail root, hail gate

Salve radix sancta                                                     Hail holy root

 

Super flumina Babilonis                                             By the waters of Babylon

ibi sedimus et flevimus                                              there we sat down and wept

(salve)                                                                     (Hail)

 

Super salices in medio eius                                       We hanged our harps on the willows

suspendimus citharas nostra                                     in the midst thereof

 

Quomodo cantabimus                                               How shall we sing

canticum Domini                                                      the Lord's songs

in terra aliena                                                          in a strange land

 

Super flumina Eboracis                                            By the waters of York

ibi sedimus et flevimus                                            there we sat down and wept

 

Super omnes speciosa                                            More beautiful than all others

salve radix, salve porta                                           Hail root, hail gate

salve radix sancta                                                   Hail holy root

 

Ave regina Caelorum                                               Hail queen of heaven

Ave domina angelorum                                            Hail mistress of the angels

Gaude virgo gloriosa                                                Rejoice, glorious virgin

super omnes speciosa                                              more beautiful than all the others

Vale, O valde decora                                                Fairwell, most fair one

 

Ave regina Caelorum                                               Hail queen of heaven

Ave domina angelorum                                            Hail mistress of the angels

Salve radix sancta                                                   Hail, holy root

Ex qua mundo lux est orta                                       from whom light sprang over the world

 

Gaude virgo gloriosa                                               Rejoice, glorious virgin

Super omnes speciosa                                            more beautiful than all others

Vale valde decora                                                   Fairwell, most fair one,

Et pro nobis semper Christum exora.                        and entreat Christ for ever on our behalf.

 

Amen                                                                    Amen