I recently blogged about songwriting in conjunction with the song Gentle Shepherd. As a songwriter, I have an enduring fondness for great songs, no matter the style. That’s one of the reasons I was so happy to find this song as I was searching for wedding music that I wasn’t familiar with. I’m thrilled to uncover gems I didn’t know existed that have endured for decades, even centuries, and are still loved and performed.
When I recorded our Panis Angelicus instrumental version, I patterned the arrangment, especially the introduction, after a paraticular vocal version of the song, but replaced the vocal melody with piano. I certainly had plenty of versions to choose from – the list of vocalists who have recorded it is extensive and varied: Placido Domingo, Richard Crooks, Pavarotti, Magda Oliviero, Renato Scotto, Sting(!) who actually joined Luciano Pavarotti for a joint effort, Gloria Martin, Josh Groban, Celtic Woman (Chloe Agnew sang it), Charlotte Church, and Donald Braswel, to name just a few.
Thomas Aquinas composed the poetry for several hymns, incluing Panis, and I find it a compelling connection to the past that we still sing this 13th century lyric from his pen. Originally written for harp, organ, double bass, cello, and tenor voice, it has received many musical settings over the centuries; the most recognizable, and possibly only music heard today for this lyric is that of César Franck, who wrote many large scale choral compostions, and many others like Panis for liturgical or occasional use. On a side note, he is considered by many to be the foremost composer for the organ after Johann Sebastian Bach.