Sicut cervus – Unterseher

SATB, organ

Images of water and soul-searching in this setting of the Latin version of Psalm 42. Score sample and recording by the Mid-Columbia Mastersingers, Justin Raffa, conducting, below.

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The desire for connection to whatever we perceive as Divine connects every human culture. This ancient text, from Psalm 42, expresses that idea simply and powerfully by comparing that desire to the thirst of a beautiful creature pursued by a predator. In this setting, listen for the flowing water figures in the organ. Each line of text is repeated three times, first in its most simple form, then as a duet, then with all parts. The final chant, “desiderat ad te, Deus” repeats as a mantra.
Premiered by The Princeton Singers, Stephen Sametz, conductor, at the 2003 Oxford Summer Institute at Lehigh University.


Play the running 16th note passages in a rather legato fashion, a little overlap increases the flowing wave effect. This goes for all those wave patterns, whether they are 8th notes or 16th notes, throughout the piece.

In bars 28 and 29, parts cross. It is a bit confusing to sight read, but the stem directions tell you which pitches go in which parts.

Pay particular attention to the dynamic shapes as indicated by the crescendo-decrescendo markings, even in the “ad fontes aquarum” section, where the tendency is to have the dynamic follow the rising and falling of the notes.

In bar 44, it is quite effective to stretch that 4th beat a bit.

In the repeated chant of “desiderat ad te, Deus,” again be sure to make a single arching dynamic. It should also be sung very legato, but still rhythmically exact. I mean for the final “s” on “Deus” to be placed on the following eighth rest, no matter how long the “-us” note is.


p. 12, organ bass clef, the top note on the first beat of the first bar (bar 71) should be an A natural, and is not tied over from the previous page.



Sicut cervus desiderat ad fontes:
ita desiderat anima mea ad te, Deus.


As the deer longs for running waters,
so my soul longs for you, my God.


The panting deer, parched and exhausted from a narrow escape, desires only the bliss of a secluded pool of cool water. Just like that deer, my own arid and anxious soul desires to be immersed in your being, O Master of the Universe.

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About Reginald Unterseher

Reginald Unterseher is Music Director and Composer-in-Residence at Shalom United Church of Christ, Richland, Washington. His works are published by Oxford University Press, Walton Music, and through NW Choral Publishing at He is the Washington State Music Teacher’s Association’s “Composer of the Year” for 2013. Mr. Unterseher’s compositions are regularly performed throughout the world and have been featured at ACDA and MENC conventions in the US as well as at Carnegie Hall in New York City. He currently serves as Repertoire & Standards Chair for Men’s Choirs for the Northwest Division of the American Choral Director’s Association, and is in demand as a choral and vocal adjudicator and clinician. Mr. Untereseher is a past Artistic Director of Consort Columbia (now Mid-Columbia Mastersingers), founder and past Chorus Master of Washington East Opera, and an active member of Male Ensemble Northwest.