The Deer's Cry (Pärt)

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The Deer's Cry
Sacred motet by Arvo Pärt
Arvo Pärt.jpg
The composer in 2008
StyleContemporary music
Textfrom Saint Patrick's Breastplate
PerformedFebruary 2008
Published2007 (2007)
ScoringSATB choir

The Deer's Cry is a sacred motet by Arvo Pärt, set to text from a traditional Irish lorica for a four-part choir a cappella. He composed the piece on a commission from the Irish Louth Contemporary Music Society. It was published by Universal Edition in 2007 and first performed in Louth, Ireland, in February 2008.


The work was commissioned by the Louth Contemporary Music Society.[1][2] The text is the final part of a traditional prayer for protection, Saint Patrick's Breastplate, attributed to St. Patrick, the primary patron saint of Ireland.[1] The text is known as "The Deer's Cry",[1] "The Breastplate of St Patrick", or "Lorica"[3] and is often attributed to the saint. Pärt wrote his setting in modern English, beginning with "Christ with me", composed for a four-part choir a cappella.[4] It was published by Universal Edition in 2007,[2] and was first performed by the State Choir Latvija, conducted by Fergus Sheil, in Louth on 13 February 2008.[2] The Deer's Cry is in one movement and takes about five minutes to perform.[4]


Pärt set an excerpt of the prayer, its conclusion, and repeating the first line of that section ("Christ with me") in the end:[2]

Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me,
Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ on my right, Christ on my left,
Christ when I lie down, Christ when I sit down,
Christ in me, Christ when I arise,
Christ in the heart of everyone who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me,
Christ in every eye that sees me,
Christ in every ear that hears me.
Christ with me.


The music is in A minor,[1] consisting of slow, marked quarter notes as 72 per minute. The measures contain different even numbers of them, from two, often used for general rests, to eight. The lower voices begin with divided altos and basses, rendering "Christ is with me" four times in homophony with long rests in between.[2][5] While they keep that pattern, the sopranos enter in the seventh measure to deliver the following text.[2][5] From measure 17, the lower voices also take part in the text, singing "Christ in me". They are often juxtaposed to the sopranos, such as with "arise" vs. "sit down". A climax is reached in measure 33 when all the voices sing in homophony, and every one divided: "Christ in the heart ...". After the text is completed, followed by a general rest, all voices sing, similar to the beginning: "Christ with me", once softly, finally very soft and diminishing.[1][2]

Performance and recording[edit]

In 2016, the Sixteen choir named a program of music by William Byrd and Pärt The Deer's Cry, which they performed in several venues.[6] A collection of choral music by Pärt by the Estonian vocal group Vox Clamantis, conducted by Jaan-Eik Tulve, was performed under the same name.[7] A reviewer notes the pure intonation required for the spiritual purity of the music.[5]


  1. ^ a b c d e Bowen, Meurig (2014). "The deer's cry". Hyperion Records. Retrieved 22 February 2019.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g Arvo Pärt: The Deer's Cry. Universal Edition. 2007.
  3. ^ Hill, Thomas. "Invocation of the Trinity and the Tradition of the Lorica in Old English Poetry". Speculum, volume 56, No. 2, April 1981. pp. 259–267
  4. ^ a b "Arvo Pärt: The Deer's Cry for mixed choir (SATB) a cappella". Universal Edition. Retrieved 22 February 2019.
  5. ^ a b c Preuß, Thorsten (27 September 2016). "CD – Arvo Pärt / "The Deer's Cry" – Geistliche Chorwerke" (in German). BR. Retrieved 22 February 2019.
  6. ^ Maddocks, Fiona (31 January 2016). "Pärt, Byrd: The Deer's Cry CD review – irresistible choral works". The Guardian. Retrieved 22 February 2019.
  7. ^ "Arvo Pärt: The Deer's Cry / Vox Clamantis". EMC Records. 2016. Retrieved 22 February 2019.