Opening Voluntary: 4 Movements from a Partita on “Adoro Te Devote” – Flor Peeters (1903-1986)
At the Offertory: Adagio on “Adoro Te Devote” – Flor Peeters
Closing Voluntary: Andante Maestoso on “Adoro Te Devote” – Flor Peeters
A chorale partita composed by Belgian organist, Flor Peeters (1903-1986), on the Gregorian hymn, Adoro Te Devote, is the basis for all of the incidental organ music for this Sunday. This composition, the first in his Opus 76, comes from one of three separate collections of Chorale Preludes on Gregorian Tunes, each consisting of 10 such works. The Partita on Adoro Te Devote is from 1955 and was dedicated to his friend, Albert De Klerk, organist in Haarlem, Netherlands. Each of its six sections is an independent variation on the hymn tune. For the Opening Voluntary we will hear four of the sections, nos. 1-3 and 5. At the Offertory we will hear the brief, no. 4, and for the Closing Voluntary, no. 6. All prominently feature the hymntune melody which we sing as our first hymn during Benediction today as #314 from The Hymnal, 1982.
Florent Peeters (1903-1986) was born in the village of Telen, east of Antwerp, Belgium in 1903 as the youngest of 11 children, most of whom played musical instruments. By the age of only 8 years, he deputized for his eldest brother at the local church. He studied formally at the Lemmens Institute in Mechelen and was appointed assistant to his teacher, Oscar Depuydt , at the St. Rombouts Cathedral in Mechelen at the age of 20. Peeters later succeeded to his teacher’s position and remained as the principal organist there for 63 years. He taught at several musical institutions and also performed widely as a recitalist, including 10 separate tours through the United States. Peeters wrote widely in many fields, but mostly for the organ, for which he composed over 550 works.
The Gregorian hymn, Adoro Te Devote, is a Eucharistic hymn attributed to St. Thomas Aquinas (1225-1275). Honored as one of the 33 Doctors of the Church, St. Thomas is known best for his Summa Theologica, an unfinished but still monumental work written as a compendium of the theology of the Western Church. Although commonly attributed to St. Thomas, the hymn Adoro Te Devote is not conclusively known to be his work, although he is believed to have composed other Eucharistic hymns for the daily office on a commission from Pope Urban IV following the latter’s institution of the Feast of Corpus Christi in the year 1264.
The Latin Hymn, Adoro Te Devote, is in seven stanzas, although only four are included in the translation published in The Hymnal, 1982. The sixth stanza is of particular interest, as it contains the metaphorical characterization of Jesus as the “Pie Pelicane” or merciful pelican based on the pious ancient belief that the mother pelican would feed her chicks with blood that she obtained by wounding her own breast, a legendary with obvious eucharistic overtones.