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Britten: Deo Gracias

I've sung the Deo Gracias from Ceremony of Carols on several occasions with different directors, often with varying pronunciations.  I'm now approaching it with my HS chorus and am wondering if anyone knows of a "definitive" pronuciation guide.  Could anyone steer me in a direction?  A contemporary English paraphrase would help, too!  Thank you.
Replies (3): Threaded | Chronological
on August 26, 2010 4:16am
My all treble boys choir has performed this piece (and the entire work) numerous times and I used recommendations from Britten himself on his CD recording of this work with a boys choir.  Google it and get it as it is a great way to hear what he preferred and used.  Not definitive perhaps, but it's what he chose to do with the boys he wrote 'Ceremony' for.
Good luck ~
Bill Adams
Fort Bend Boys Choir of Texas
on August 26, 2010 5:51am
Considering the original phrase is itself Latin, and not English, the Latin was originally written "gratias" and the sound sought would be closer to a "ts-" sound, which in modern usage is softened to an "s-" sibillant - which is what is most often done.  I think all that Britten was doing was taking the old text as used in England and as written in the old text, but wasn't particularly thinking of a different pronunciation than what is normally used, which is the "-s" sibillant.  In all the performances and recordings I have heard of this work, I cannot recall EVER hearing "-chee-".  While there is a value in piquing the audience's interest, I'm not sure what the ultimate value is in mispronouncing something.  It has a jarring effect, as did a recording of the Jean Gilles "Requiem" (an early 18th century French composer), where they pronounced "requiem" with the final syllable a nasal, as it would have been had it ended in "-ian" or "-ien."  I have never heard any French speaker pronounce that word that way - and French is my first language.  This is an example of seeking effect for no particularly good reason.  If you must, go back to some recordings (I'm sure there are several, either on YouTube or on disc) with Britten conducting - that's a good way of resolving the issue.  If the man himself wanted it pronounced in a different way than is usual, you'll hear it.
Ron Duquette
Director of Music
Catholic Community of Ft. Belvoir, VA
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