William Byrd (±1539-1623): Ecce quam bonum

Ecce quam bonum was published in the 1605 Gradualia. It’s the gradual for Pentecost XXII – the Twenty-second Sunday after Pentecost and is a bit unusual amongst Byrd’s Psalm settings in that it’s a setting of the entire text of the Psalm. The text of Ecce quam bonum (Psalm 132 in The Vulgate) starts by proclaiming how ‘good and joyful’ it is for brothers to live as one and goes on by way of analogy to liken this love to God’s promise to his people. Byrd sets it for four voices ( AATT, or ATTB) and depicts the brothers’ closeness by placing the voices very close together (there’s just two octaves between the lowest and the highest voices). The writing is very dense and intimate giving a great sense of warmth and happiness. It’s one of my favourites amongst Byrd’s compositions and a lovely way to start the week. Enjoy :-)


William Byrd (±1539-1623): Ecce quam bonum

Ecce quam bonum et quam iucundum,
Habitare fratres in unum!
Sicut unguentum in capite,
Quod descendit in barbam, barbam Aaron,
Quod descendit in oram vestimenti eius;
Sicut ros Hermon,
Qui descendit in montem Sion.
Quoniam illic mandavit Dominus benedictionem,
Et vitam usque in saeculum.

Psalm 132 (133)

Behold what a good and what a joyful thing it is,
brothers, to live as one!
It is like the precious ointment upon the head,
which ran down the beard, even Aaron’s beard,
which ran down to the skirts of his clothing;
like the dew of Hermon
which dropped on mount Sion.
For there the Lord promised his blessing,
and life for evermore.

Performers: The Cardinall’s Musick. Superius Rebecca Outram, medius Caroline Trevor, tenor Julian Stocker, bassus Robert Evans.

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