Posts Tagged ‘ Feast of the Holy Innocents ’

Jacobus Clemens non Papa (±1510 – ±1555): Vox in Rama

December 28, 2013

Massacre of the Innocents (detail) Pieter Brueghel the Elder captioned 300x400

Vox in Rama audita est, ploratus et ululatus:

Rachel plorans filios suos:

noluit consolari, quia non sunt.

Matthew 2:18, citing Jeremiah 31:15

(A voice is heard in Ramah, weeping and wailing:

Rachel lamenting her sons:

she will not be consoled, for they are no more.)

Matthew 2:18 cites Jeremiah 31:15:

Thus says the Lord: A voice was heard on high of lamentation, of mourning, and weeping, of Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted for them, because they are not.

Of all the penitential texts this is surely one of the most harrowing Clemens non Papa's four-part setting of it was published in Antwerp in 1553 in 'Liber secundus ecclesiasticarum cantionum quatuor vocum'. Clemens composed it  'In Festo SS. Innocentium' – (for the Feast of The Holy Innocents) which is celebrated on December 28th. This feast which commemorates the children murdered by Herod's soldiers in his attempt to find and kill the new-born Christ child is largely overlooked in our prosperous and ultra-materialistic societies  but in Clemens' time it was an important part of Christmas.  His setting is short (only seventy two breves), spare and bleak, with a sense of musical desolation that matches Rachel's despair as she mourns her children who 'are no more'. It's also very very beautiful. You'll find it below sung by the Brabant Ensemble conducted by Stephen Rice.


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Feature: Libera: Coventry Carol

December 28, 2012

Massacre of the innocents Cogniet 600x581

I remember very clearly the first time I saw Cogniet's "Massacre of the innocents".  Cogniet's paintings can be a bit mannerly but there's nothing polite or bland about terror and Cogniet's depiction of a terrified mother desperately trying to keep her child quiet lest they be discovered by Herod's soldiers as they massacre all the male children under the age of two in Bethlehem captures some of the essence of terror. Who can doubt looking at that poor woman's face that she is out of options and out of luck and that she knows in her heart of hearts that she and her son are next. In all the years since I first saw it Cogniet's painting has stayed with me as a referent for the words "terror" and "atrocity". Luther famously remarked that Christmas takes place 'in the shadow of the Cross' what he was getting at was that while the story of the Nativity celebrates the joy of Jesus' birth it also tells of terror, flight, and the horror of infanticide. 

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