How could men do such a thing?

by Kevin Birnbaum

Palestrina’s Sicut cervus is, for my money, one of the most beautiful pieces of music ever composed. That just four voices can combine to weave such a glorious tapestry of sound seems, to me, near miraculous.

The piece is a setting of the first verse of Psalm 42:

Sicut cervus desiderat ad fontes aquarum, ita desiderat anima mea ad te, Deus.
As a deer longs for flowing streams, so longs my soul for you, O God.

A friend of mine, a fine musician and student of liturgy, says this piece taps into the very pulse of the world. And as someone who believes that everyone, whether they know it or not, is ultimately searching for God, I’d tend to agree.

P.S. The best recording of Sicut cervus I know is this one by the Cambridge Singers. Best 99 cents you could spend today.

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