Hal Leonard-Britten
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Ivor Davies, Prayers from the Ark

Prayers From The Ark Ivor Davies

These songs are the result of the incredible talents of three people.
Carmen Bernos De Gasztold, who wrote the poems, Rumer Godden who, with
DeGasztold's assistance, translated them from the original French into
English, and Ivor Davies who set the translations to music.

The poems were written in the 1940's during the German occupation of France.
Having lost her mother and suffered both a physical and mental breakdown,
DeGasztold was accepted into the Abbaye of Saint Louis du Temple at
Limon-par-Igny, just south of Paris, where she was encouraged to refine her
poetry by the nuns who cared for her on their farm. Their encouragement over
the course of four years resulted in "Prayers from the Ark", a series of 27
prayers to God from the inhabitants of the Ark.

Rumer Godden, a British woman largely raised in India, stumbled upon the
"Prayers" in the early 1950's quite by accident. She immediately sought out
De Gasztold to request her permission to translate them. After quite a bit
of work, first to locate , and then to win her confidence - and that of her
nun advisers - Godden set about her task with the assistance of De Gasztold,
helped from behind the Abbaye grille by two of the nuns. Godden writes:
"Nor were these easy poems; their very simplicity makes them difficult. The
economy of words, the subtle play on the double meaning on some of them, the
integral rhythm, have been almost impossible to catch, and there is in each
prayer some phrase or word that is utterly elusive". Her work was rewarded
as the initial American printing was sold out in five days.

Born in 1901 and of Welsh descent, Ivor Davies spent all his life in North
London. Having been somewhat physically handicapped for a long time he died
suddenly on May 12, 1971, a few days after returning from Switzerland, where
he had been on a recital tour with the boys of Highgate Parish Church, of
which he was organist for 24 years. Mr. Davies was not only a unusually
versatile musician, he was also a successful organ builder. An organ pupil
of G.D. Cunningham, he trained at the Royal Academy of Music where he was at
one time a sub-professor. His published compositions covered a wide range
and numbered close on 70; these included well-known anthems written in the
1930's and the partsong cycle "Prayers from the Ark" which enjoyed
considerable success, and which we perform tonight.

Noah's Prayer Sheila McCaffrey, Soprano

Lord,
What a menagerie!
Between Your downpour and these animal cries
one cannot hear oneself think!
The days are long,
Lord.
All this water makes my heart sink.
When will the ground cease to rock under my feet?
The days are long.
Master Raven has not come back.
Here is your dove.
Will she find us a twig of hope?
The days are long,
Lord.
Guide your Ark to safety,
some zenith of rest,
where we can escape at last
from this brute slavery.
The days are long,
Lord.
Lead me until I reach the shore of Your covenant.
Amen.

The Prayer of the Little Bird

Dear God,
I don't know how to pray by myself
very well,
But will You please
protect my little nest from wind and rain?
Put a great deal of dew on the flowers, many
seeds in my way.
Make Your blue very high,
Your branches lissome;
let Your kind light stay late in the sky
and set my heart brimming
with such music that I must sing, sing, sing. . .
Please Lord.
Amen.


The Prayer of the Cat

Lord,
I am the cat.
It is not exactly that I have something to ask of You!
No--
I ask nothing of anyone--
but,
if You have by some chance in some celestial barn,
a little white mouse,
or a saucer of milk,
I know someone who would relish them.
Wouldn't you like someday
to put a curse on the whole race of dogs?
If so I should say,
Amen.

The Prayer of the Mouse

I am so little and grey,
dear God,
how can you keep me in mind?
Always spied upon,
always chased.
Nobody ever gives me anything,
and I nibble meagerly at life.
Why do they reproach me with being a mouse?
Who made me but You?
I can only ask to stay hidden.
Give me my hunger's pittance
safe from the claws of that devil with green eyes.
Amen.

The Prayer of the Raven

I believe,
Lord,
I believe!
It is faith that saves us, You have said it!
I believe the world was made for me,
because as it dies --
I thrive on it.
My undertaker's black
is in keeping with my cynical old heart.
Raven land is between You and that life down there,
for whose end I wait to gratify myself.
"Aha!" I cry. "Avant moi le d
on June 2, 2008 10:00pm
My high school's mixed chorus did "The Prayer Of The Cat" about...3 years ago and we giggled every time we rehearsed it, because it is quite silly. But when we did it at our state festival, it was a hit, the audience laughed and we managed to get through it without laughing. Mr. Miller our director couldn't help but crack a smile though. It was hard to get all the dnamics and things the way they wer meant to be but once we did it sounded AWESOME. I wish we had done some of the other pieces.
on June 3, 2008 10:00pm
I sing in the ARS VOCALIS Chamber Choir, from Porto Alegre (Brazil) and we have the six prayers included in our repertory since 2006. It is always a hit in our concerts and we as well as the listeners really enjoy it. We are constantly trying to improve interpretation proposed by the composer. It is impressing to know more about the history and the environment in which the lirics where written. Maybe a composer could have the good idea of putting into music the missing 21 Prayers from 27 in total.