GENEVAN 51

Composer: Louis Bourgeois

Louis Bourgeois (b. Paris, France, c. 1510; d. Paris, 1561). In both his early and later years Bourgeois wrote French songs to entertain the rich, but in the history of church music he is known especially for his contribution to the Genevan Psalter. Apparently moving to Geneva in 1541, the same year John Calvin returned to Geneva from Strasbourg, Bourgeois served as cantor and master of the choristers at both St. Pierre and St. Gervais, which is to say he was music director there under the pastoral leadership of Calvin. Bourgeois used the choristers to teach the new psalm tunes to the congregation. The extent of Bourgeois's involvement in the Genevan Psalter is a matter of scholar­ly debate. Calvin had published several partial psalter… Go to person page >

Harmonizer: Claude Goudimel

The music of Claude Goudimel (b. Besançon, France, c. 1505; d. Lyons, France, 1572) was first published in Paris, and by 1551 he was composing harmonizations for some Genevan psalm tunes-initially for use by both Roman Catholics and Protestants. He became a Calvinist in 1557 while living in the Huguenot community in Metz. When the complete Genevan Psalter with its unison melodies was published in 1562, Goudimel began to compose various polyphonic settings of all the Genevan tunes. He actually composed three complete harmonizations of the Genevan Psalter, usually with the tune in the tenor part: simple hymn-style settings (1564), slightly more complicated harmonizations (1565), and quite elaborate, motet-like settings (1565-1566). The vario… Go to person page >

Tune Information

Title: GENEVAN 51
Composer: Louis Bourgeois (1551)
Harmonizer: Claude Goudimel (1564)
Meter: 10.11.11.10.10.11.10.11
Incipit: 57715 77465 55435
Key: a minor
Copyright: Public Domain

Texts

Be Merciful, Be Merciful, O God

A Congregational Lament

Why, Lord, must evil seem to get its way?
We do confess our sin is deeply shameful;
but now the wicked openly are scornful
they mock your name and laugh at our dismay.
We know your providential love holds true:
nothing can curse us endlessly with sorrow.
Transform, dear Lord, this damage into good;
show us your glory, hidden by this evil.

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Be Merciful, Be Merciful to Me

Notes

GENEVAN 51 first appeared in the 1551 edition of the Genevan Psalter and is attributed to Louis Bourgeois (PHH 3). Claude Goudimel (PHH 6) composed the harmonization in 1564; the melody was originally in the tenor. One of the longer and more difficult Genevan tunes in the Psalter Hymnal, this Phrygian melody is one of the most hauntingly suitable tunes for a penitential psalm. Though the initial stanzas of this psalm are subdued, it should not be sung too slowly, and the final stanzas have many phrases that abound in confidence and joy. Sing harmony on stanzas 3, 4, and/ or 5.

Psalter Hymnal Handbook, 1988

Media

Psalter Hymnal (Gray) #51
Text: Be Merciful, Be Merciful, O God
  • Bulletin Score (melody only) (PDF)
  • Full Score (PDF, XML)
  • Bulletin Score (PDF)

Instances

Instances (1 - 4 of 4)

Psalms for All Seasons #51B

Text InfoTune InfoScoreAudio

Psalter Hymnal (Gray) #51

Text InfoTune InfoAudio

Psalter Hymnal (Gray) #576

Page Scan

Trinity Psalter Hymnal #51A

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