Veni, Redemptor gentium

  I suppose that Veni, redemptor gentium which was composed by St. Ambrose of Milan (340-397) was the original Christmas hit. Its text is beautifully wrought poetry that is  known and loved both in its original Latin but also in translation. Luther admired it greatly and gave us Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland while in…

Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina (±1525-1594): Exsultate Deo

This is one of my favourites amongst Palestrina’s motets. It’s a five-part setting (SAATB) of the first three verses of Psalm 81. It’s  a bright celebratory piece of music full of word-painting to depict the musical instruments mentioned in the text. Whenever people try to tell me that Palestrina’s music is dull, cold, and lifeless,…

William Byrd (±1539-1623): O magnum misterium

O magnum misterium is Byrd’s SATB setting of this much-loved text. He published it in the 1607 Gradualia, it’s a lovely piece of music in which he conveys his sense of awe and wonder at The Nativity. In the performance below the Cambridge Singers have included Beata Virgo, which although it’s a separate motet, followed…

William Byrd (±1539-1623): Plorans Plorabit

Byrd’s five part (SAATB) setting of verses seventeen and eighteen from Jeremiah 13 was published in the 1605 Gradualia. It’s a bit unusual in that unlike most of the content of the 1605 gradualia  it’s not a liturgical motet. Further more its text was manifestly chosen as a reference to  the situation of the English…

Herbert Howells (1892–1983): Regina caeli

This is the third four ‘Anthems of the Blessed Virgin Mary’ that Howells composed for the choir of Westminster Cathedral in 1916. For  some strange reason they were never published during his lifetime and only came to light in 1988 when the manusicript copy was rediscovered. I’ve not yet managed to hear it sung in…

Heinrich Schütz (1585 – 1672): Selig sind die Toten

This is one of the few of Schütz’s motets that is both well-known and to have attained lasting popularity. It was first published in 1648 in the collection of twenty-nine of Schütz’s motets called ‘Geistliche Chormusik‘ and is scored for  SSATTB, with continuo. These motets are important not only for their beauty but because they…

William Byrd (±1539-1623): Gaudeamus omnes

Byrd’s setting of the Introit Gaudeamus omnes was published in the 1605 Gradualia it’s a joyful and witty piece of music that celebrates the Feast of All Saints (November 1st) I particularly enjoy how he portrays the Angels letting their hair down and enjoying themselves at ‘gaudent Angeli, et collaudant Filium Dei‘ (the Angels rejoice,…

John Rutter (Born 1945) As the bridegroom to his chosen

The Tewkesbury Abbey Schola Cantorum, conducted by Benjamin Nicholas performing John Rutter’s setting of John Tauler’s anthem ‘As the bridegroom to his chosen’. I like this anthem a lot, it’s got a very nice melody which can be easily mastered by most choirs, it’s deceptively plain – as you listen you can hear how Rutter…

John Rutter (b. 1945): A crown of glory

Rutter’s choral music has its roots firmly in the English choral tradition, of Holst, Vaughan Williams, Howells, Britten and Tippett, ‘spiced with the harmonic and melodic language of Fauré and Duruflé’. He composed A crown of glory in response to a commission by the Worshipful Company of Feltmakers of London for the 62nd Annual United…