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Sheep May Safely Graze Program Notes

Sheep May Safely Graze" (Schafe können sicher weiden, in Italian "Sheep May Safely Graze") is an aria for soprano by Johann Sebastian Bach based on words by Salomon Franck. The piece was written in 1713 and is part of the cantata "Was mir behagt, is nur die muntre Jagd", BWV 208. The title of the cantata translates as "What cheers me up is only the lively hunt" and is also known as the "Hunting Cantata".
Like "Jesus bleibet meine Freude" (from the cantata "Herz und Mund und Tat und Leben" BWV 147) by the same composer, it is often played at weddings. However it was originally written for a birthday celebration, that of Christian Duke of Saxe-Weissenfels. Bach was based at the nearby Weimar court, and musicians from both courts appear to have united in the first performance at Weißenfels. Bach is known to have used the music again for other celebrations, but the piece remained unpublished until his death.
For this number (movement 9 of the complete work), the singer is accompanied not by the full Baroque instrumental ensemble used elsewhere in the cantata, but by two recorders and continuo. Since the revival of Bach's music in the 19th century, Schafe können sicher weiden has been arranged for other instruments.

The piece is also known in English translation (Sheep may safely graze) and is mentioned in discussions of how European culture depicts domestic animals and sheep in particular.
Franck's words are given to mythological characters, in this case Pale, a deity of shepherds, flocks and cattle. Pale compares the peaceful life of sheep under a watchful shepherd with the inhabitants of a state with a wise ruler.
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