This evening, at a Thanksgiving Eve service at our little chapel in the wildwood, we heard a beautiful performance of a piece called Dank sei Dirr, Herr, sung by a mezzo-soprano accompanied by only piano. I was not familiar with the tune, but it was credited to Siegfried Ochs (1858-1929) in the service guide, and a little checking suggests that this is the widely-accepted accreditation these days, although it used to be believed that Handel had composed it.
Anyway, I was quite struck by it, both the beauty of the performance and the composition, and also its moving aptness in a Thanksgiving service. I’m embedding a version via YouTube at the bottom of this post, a grand performance with a singer named Gundula Hintz. The lyric is in German (which I’ll put below the video) but the translation is as follows:
Thanks be to Thee,
Lord God of Hosts:
Thou broughtest forth Your people
with Your mighty hand
Israel safe through the sea.
Lord, like a shepherd
Thou hast led us;
Lord, Thy hand protected us
in Thy goodness tenderly as in ages past.
The words sound reminiscent of any number of songs of praise and psalms from the Bible, but I don’t know a precise source, if there is one. The last few verses of Psalm 77 could be one.
Yet, the message is beautifully historic and specific and at the same time up-to-the-minute, relevant and universal. You might paraphrase it: Thank You, Lord God, for protecting Your people in the past, and thank You for protecting Your people now, every moment of every hour.
Some of us might just add a prayer that we indeed count among God’s people.
Dank sei Dir, Herr
Dank sei Dir, Herr,
Du hast Dein Volk
Mit Dir gefürhrt,
Israel hin durch das Meer.
Wie eine Herde
zog es hindurch,
Herr, Deine Hand schütze es,
in Deiner Güte gabst Du ihm Heil.