Ave Verum Corpus is a Eucharistic hymn* that is believed to have been written in the 14th century. There are numerous settings of the text, ranging from Byrd, Carissimi, and Josquin to Elgar, Fauré, and Gounod. (There is also a version called Jesus, Savior in The Choirbook.)
By far the most popular and famous setting today is that of Mozart. There are numerous English translations that make it—despite its Latin and Catholic origins—quite appropriate for use in Sacrament Meeting, especially on Palm Sunday or leading up to Easter. John Rutter’s edition (published by Oxford University Press) uses his own translation, which is quite effective. Below is a metrical† translation (not Rutter’s, unfortunately, due to copyright):
Jesu, Lamb of God, Redeemer,
born the virgin Mary’s Son,
who upon the cross a victim
hast man’s salvation won.
From whose side, which man had pierced
flow’d the water and the blood,
by thy sacred body broken,
Be in life and death our food.
O Jesu, be in life and death our food
It is, of course, very beautiful. But it is also skillfully written and very singable—well within the abilities of an amateur / ward choir. The part-writing is such that there are no awkward leaps, and only a couple unexpected chromatic moments that might catch the less experienced choir member off guard. The trickiest section will likely be the entries at “esto nobis” in the original Latin, but once the tenors and basses are able to find their starting pitches, the rest should be fairly straightforward.
*Eucharist = Lord’s Supper, Communion, or what Latter-day Saints would refer to as The Sacrament
† Metrical translations honor the metre and syllabic structure of the original language (making it singable), and thus can be more poetic than more literal translations
Reviewer: Bradley Burgess