William Byrd (±1539-1623): Quem terra, pontus, aethera

This is a setting by Byrd of a greatly loved hymn by Venantius Fortunatus for the Little Office of the Virgin it’s for three voices and is some of the warmest and most intimate chamber music he ever wrote. The Little Office of the Virgin was a popular devotion in honour of the Blessed Virgin Mary which, like the Divine Office, organised the day into seven parts each of which had service specific to it consisting of  Psalms and Antiphons, readings and prayers all in honour of The Virgin. Pius V suppressed by the Bull "Quod a nobis" in 1568 but it remained very popular both amongst the clergy and the laity not least because it had been so widely disseminated through the primers, books of devotion, and books of hours so beloved of the laity. In England the Little Office was so popular that there were two versions of it in widespread use one according to the Sarum rite and the other according the usage of York. Enjoy :-)

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Photo: Our Lady of Westminster (detail). Our Lady of Westminster is a late medieval English stature of the Virgin and Child enthroned. It depicts the Virgin Mary enthroned with the Christ child on her right knee. Mary is crowned and holds a sceptre (now broken) in her left hand, the Christ child looks up at her and holds a globe with one hand, whilst with the other he blesses it. The consensus amongst art historians seems to be that it was was carved in the Nottingham area in about 1450 from Chellaston alabaster and exported to France as part of the flourishing trade in English alabaster altarpieces and statues. But what its exact history is between the time it was carved and its discovery and purchase in 1954 by the art dealer S. W. Wolsey, is unknown. It now sits in Westminster Cathedral under the thirteenth Station of The Cross.

Photo: Our Lady of Westminster (detail). Our Lady of Westminster is a late medieval English stature of the Virgin and Child enthroned. It depicts the Virgin Mary enthroned with the Christ child on her right knee. Mary is crowned and holds a sceptre (now broken) in her left hand, the Christ child looks up at her and holds a globe with one hand, whilst with the other he blesses it. The consensus amongst art historians seems to be that it was was carved in the Nottingham area in about 1450 from Chellaston alabaster and exported to France as part of the flourishing trade in English alabaster altarpieces and statues. But what its exact history is between the time it was carved and its discovery and purchase in 1954 by the art dealer S. W. Wolsey, is unknown. It now sits in Westminster Cathedral under the thirteenth Station of The Cross.

William Byrd (±1539-1623): Quem terra, pontus, aethera

Quem terra, pontus, aethera
Colunt, adorant, predicant,
Trinam regentem machinam,
Claustrum Mariae baiulat.

Cui luna, Sol, et omnia
Deserviunt per tempora,
Perfusa caeli gratia,
Gestant puellae viscera.

Beata mater munera,
Cuius supernus artifex,
Mundum pugillo continens,
Ventris sub arca clausus est.

Beata caeli nuncio,
Fecunda Sancto Spiritu,
Desideratus gentibus,
Cuius per alvum fusus est.

Gloria tibi Domine,
Qui natus es de virgine,
Cum Patre et Sancto Spiritu,
In sempiterna saecula. Amen.

Hymn at Matins in the Common of the Blessed Virgin Mary

The one whom earth, sea, sky
cherish, adore, proclaim,
the thrice-ruling frame,
the womb of Mary bore him.

The one whom moon, Sun, and all things
serve through the ages,
suffused with the grace of heaven,
the limbs of a girl gave him birth.

The blessed mother’s burden—
the high creator
holding the world in his grip—
was sealed in the vault of her belly.

Blessed by heaven’s messenger,
fruitful by the Holy Spirit,
the one desired by the nations
was delivered from her womb.

Glory to you, Lord,
who were born of a virgin,
with the Father and the Holy Spirit,
for everlasting ages. Amen.

Performers: The Cardinall’s Musick conducted by Andrew Carwood

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