O magnum mysterium (Morten Lauridsen)
Twentieth Century Masters Vol. 3: Choir of New College Oxford/Edward Higginbottom [Buy]
Personent hodie (from Piae Cantiones, 15th Century)
Let Voices Resound: Oxford Camerata/Jeremy Summerly [Buy] [emusic]
Cloisters, New College
OK, choral music geek time.
Sunday was the last day of Michaelmas Term at the university, and somehow I wangled myself a ticket to the service of lessons and carols for Christmas at New College. Tickets to the New College service are often hard to obtain if you’re not a member of the college, so I was pretty chuffed.
The music, was of course, magnificent – right from the organ opening up with the spiky Les Bergers by Messiaen. Malcolm Hayes’ Mirabile misterium was sung by the choir from the antechapel – an absolutely stunning arrangement (a new commission?) with solo themes weaving in and out of the ensemble – unseen voices rising ethereal to the wooden angels carved in the ceiling.
There were motets and carols by Rachmaninov, JCF Bach and Holst‘s arrangement of Personent Hodie. A few of the usual suspects cropped up in appealing guises (In dulci jubilo enunciated in impeccable German and David Wilcock’s arrangement of Sussex carol). They even let the congregation sing a few…
One of the highlights was O magnum mysterium, by American composer Morten Lauridsen, serene and expansive like a Rothko canvas. It was recorded just a couple of years ago by the choir on a disc of 20th Century American composers.
Ah, what a gift music is. I probably go on too much about the New College Choir in this blog. But in their best moments this choir do (to my ears at least) represent something close to perfection in musical achievement, and to share a Christmas service with them is an experience I will never, ever forget.
O magnum mysterium et admirabile sacramentum, ut animalia viderunt Dominum natum, jacentem in praesipio!
O great mystery, and wondrous sacrament, that animals should see the new-born Lord, lying in their manger!