Henry Purcell (1659-1695): Hear me, O Lord, the great support

Purcell Closterman Small During the 1680s Purcell set no less than nine of the psalms  paraphrases written by John Patrick to music. Hear me, O Lord, the great support (Z133) is based upon Psalm 4’s nine verses. Its opening is set for all three voices but  Purcell creates a rich four-part text by having the bass digress from the continuo line. The  rich textured smoothness of the opening is in stark contrast to the defiance of the question posed by each of the singers  in turn at ‘How long will ye pursue vain hopes?’  The middle voice’s solo section that follows ‘Know that the Lord does righteous men…’ is interrupted by bass who commands us not to sin and the higher tenor who admonishes us to fear God. I’ve always enjoyed the next two lines:

Join a pure heart with trust in God
As the best sacrifice.

but it’s the optimism of the tenor solo at ‘Thy love more cheers my heart…’ that makes this piece special for me. Purcell ends the piece with great serenity taking us down the musical scale at  ‘Down will I lie in peace, and sleep’ to conclude that:

No fears disturb me, whilst I know
In God my safety lies.

It’s sung below by the tenors Charles Daniels and Paul Agnew with the bass being sung by Michael George. Enjoy :-).

markfromireland


Text: Hear me, O Lord, the great support Z133

Hear me, O Lord, the great support
Of my integrity;
Thou hast my former troubles eas’d,
Now to my pray’rs draw nigh.
Fond men! that would my glory stain,
My government despise;
How long will ye pursue vain hopes,
And please yourselves with lies?
Know that the Lord does righteous men
With special favour own:
Though you despise me, he ne’er will
On my petitions frown.
Sin not, but fear; let quiet thoughts
Instruct and make you wise;
Join a pure heart with trust in God
As the best sacrifice.

Though others in distrust of thee
To other succours fly,
Thou art our hope; Lord, cast on us
A favourable eye.
Thy love more cheers my heart than when
Their corn has wish’d increase;
Or when a happy vintage makes
Their wine o’erflow the press.

Down will I lie in peace, and sleep
Shall close my wearied eyes;
No fears disturb me, whilst I know
In God my safety lies.

John Patrick (fl1678-1678)

Performers:

Charles Daniels (tenor), Paul Agnew (tenor), Michael George (bass)