Pärt Da pacem Domine

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/  

The photo of doves in the Iberian sky is by Motoki Tonn on Unsplash

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