Music for Easter 2 — April 16, 2023
O sons and daughters let us sing – Text: Latin; attrib. Jean Tisserand (15th cent.); tr. John Mason Neale (1818-1866) / Music: Melody Airs sur les hymnes sacrez, odes et noels, Paris 1623
The Latin original text of this morning’s offertory hymn in church – O sons and daughters let us sing – is usually attributed to a French Franciscan monk named Jean Tisserand in the fifteenth century, though some scholars think it may have been a French Dominican bishop named Jehan Tisserand in the early sixteenth century. The first known publication of the text was in an untitled booklet in Paris between 1518 and 1536. Other Latin stanzas were also added later. John Mason Neale translated the hymn into English in 1851.
This text appears in nine or ten stanzas in most hymnals. Some divide these stanzas into two separate hymns with the same tune, but most include all the stanzas in one entry. The reason some hymnals divide the text is that the first part of the hymn tells the story of the scene at the tomb on resurrection day, while the second part, which we sing this morning in church, tells the story of the disciples’ subsequent response to the news from John 20:19-29, this Sunday’s Gospel reading. A refrain of jubilant alleluias opens and closes the hymn.
The tune O Filii et Filiae takes its name from the first words of the Latin text. It may have originated as a chant tune or as a French folk melody, but there is no scholarly consensus on the issue. Either source of the tune would suggest unison singing is more appropriate to the original style than the four-part setting of the earliest publication in 1623 in Paris, a style repeated in some modern hymnals. The linked recording by the Choir of King’s College, Cambridge features an alternation of unison and four-part settings, and includes primarily verses from the first part of the hymn.
O sons and daughters, let us sing!
The King of heaven, the glorious King,
o’er death today rose triumphing.
That Easter morn, at break of day,
the faithful women went their way
to seek the tomb where Jesus lay:
An angel clad in white they see,
who sat, and spake unto the three,
“Your Lord goes on to Galilee.”
That night the apostles met in fear;
amidst them came their Lord most dear,
and said, “My peace be on all here.”
How blest are they who have not seen,
and yet whose faith has constant been,
for they eternal life shall win.
On this most holy day of days,
to God your hearts and voices raise
in laud and jubilee and praise.