One of the works we will be singing at our Service of Remembrance (6pm Sunday 30 October) is the setting of Da pacem Domine by Arvo Pärt (1935-).
Pärt wrote this work in 2004 for a peace concert organised by Jordi Savall in memory of the victims of the Madrid terrorist bombings of 11 March 2004.
In response to Savall’s request – and unusually for Pärt – the piece is based on the plainchant setting of the text (https://gregobase.selapa.net/chant.php?id=5603). The cantus firmus is in the alto line, elaborated by Renaissance cadential formulae.
The words are familiar to us from their use in the evensong responses:
‘Give peace in our time, O Lord: because there is none other that fighteth for us, but only thou, O God.’
Despite the context in which it was written, the piece is not dedicated specifically to the victims of the Madrid bombings, rather, according to Pärt’s website:
‘Da pacem Domine is in fact a universal prayer for peace about the pain and suffering of all of humankind, expressing a firm belief that God is our only true protection, especially during restless times.’
The composition appears perfectly simple and yet is utterly beautiful – an extraordinary example of modern meaning-making using a one-thousand-year-old plainchant.
Source: Kristina Kõrver, 2017, https://www.arvopart.ee/en/arvo-part/work/182/