"O Sanctissima" (O most holy) is a Roman Catholic hymn
in Latin, seeking the prayers of the Blessed Virgin
Mary, and often sung in various languages on her feast
days. The earliest known publication was from London in
1792, presenting it as a traditional song from Sicily;
but no original source or date has been confirmed for
the simple melody or the poetic text. The tune is often
called "Sicilian Mariners Hymn" or similar titles,
referring to the seafarers' nightly invocation of Mary
as their maternal protector: Our Lady, Star of the
Sea. The tune has been notably reused for the German
Christmas carol "O du fröhliche" (O, how joyful), the
English recessional hymn "Lord, Dismiss Us With Thy
Blessing", and the first half of the American civil
rights anthem "We Shall Overcome".
Similar Latin lyrics have been set to entirely
different tunes since the 1500s, by notable composers
and arrangers including Leonhard Kleber (probably
editing another composer), Louis-Nicolas Clérambault,
E.T.A. Hoffmann, Antonín Dvořák, and Fritz
Kreisler (using a melody of Arcangelo Corelli).
Although originally written for accompanied voice, I
created this arrangement for English Handbells and Pipe
Organ (2 Manuals & Pedals).