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A Gaelic Blessing

A Gaelic Blessing
by John Rutter
Text Gaelic rune
Published 1978 (1978): Hinshaw
Scoring SATB choir and organ

A Gaelic Blessing is choral composition by John Rutter, who set the text of an adapted ancient Gaelic rune for four vocal parts (SATB) and organ or orchestra. It is also known by the beginning of the text, "Deep peace". The work was commissioned by the Chancel Choir of First United Methodist Church, Omaha, Nebraska, for their conductor Mel Olson. It was published first in 1978 by Hinshaw Music, by Oxford University Press and by the Royal School of Church Music, and has become a popular for baptisms, weddings and funerals.

History, text and music

The piece was commissioned by the Chancel Choir of First United Methodist Church in Omaha, Nebraska, for their conductor Mel Olson[1] in 1978. While Rutter set many biblical texts for Christian services, this text was originally not Christian but an ancient Gaelic rune, referring to elements of nature. Rutter added a line mentioning Jesus and the word Amen, to make it also a Christian anthem.[2] It is also known by the beginning of the text, "Deep peace".[2] These words begin almost every line of the poem, referring in the Gaelic part to "running wave", "flowing air", "quiet earth", "shining stars", "gentle night", "healing light", and to "Christ, light of the world" in the last line.[1]

Rutter scored the piece for four vocal parts (SATB) and organ, or orchestra.[2] Marked "Flowing and tranquil", the music is in E major and 3/4 time.[1] The organ accompaniment rests on a pattern of chords held often for a full measure in the left hand, and broken chords in eighth-notes in the right hand. The choir voices enter together, with the lower voices also moving slowly like the left hand (a full measure for "Deep", another one for "peace"), while the soprano pronounces "peace" sooner and moves up in eighth-notes on "running wave". The pattern is kept for most of the piece. Dynamically, the music begins softly (p), growing slightly (to mp) for the "shining stars", and again later for "moon and stars". A climax is "Christ", marked crescendo to a strong (f) "light of the world" (with all voices holding the word "light" for more than a measure), but diminuendo to a very soft ending, with all voices and the accompaniment calming to slow movement.[1]

Performances and recordings

Due to the gentle nature of both text and melody,[3] A Gaelic Blessing has become a popular choice at christenings, weddings and funerals. It was used for example at the Commendation at the Funeral Mass for Tip O'Neill. The piece became a hit in 2003 when a recording of it by Aled Jones was released. It was published first in 1987 by Hinshaw Music,[4] but then, like other music by John Rutter, by Oxford University Press (also in versions with harp or with string orchestra)[5] and by the Royal School of Church Music.[6]

It was frequently recorded, for example in a collection of Rutter's choral works performed under his direction by the Cambridge Singers and the City of London Sinfonia.[7] It was recorded together with the composer's Requiem in 2010 by the choir Polyphony and the Bournemouth Sinfonietta, conducted by Stephen Layton.[8]


  1. ^ a b c d "A Gaelic Blessing" (PDF). Warriner Choral Society. Retrieved 3 July 2016. 
  2. ^ a b c Dickey, Timothy. "John Rutter / A Gaelic Blessing ("Deep Peace"), for chorus & orchestra". AllMusic. Retrieved 3 July 2016. 
  3. ^ "Anthem Notes for June 7, 2015 / A Gaelic Blessing" (PDF). NPC Tucson. 7 June 2015. Archived from the original (PDF) on 28 March 2016. Retrieved 3 July 2016. 
  4. ^ "A Gaelic Blessing". Retrieved 3 July 2016. 
  5. ^ "John Rutter / A Gaelic Blessing". Oxford University Press. Retrieved 6 July 2016. [permanent dead link]
  6. ^ "Rutter: A Gaelic blessing (SATB compatible with A0288)". Royal School of Church Music. Retrieved 3 July 2016. 
  7. ^ "Gloria / The sacred music of John Rutter". Retrieved 11 January 2014. 
  8. ^ "A Gaelic blessing". Hyperion. Retrieved 3 July 2016. 

External links