The Baptism of the Lord (Year C, 2013)

Sunday, 13 January 2013

Entrance On Jordan’s Bank
Sprinkling Rite Springs of Water (Marty Haugen)
Gloria Gloria de Noël (Thomas Niel)
Psalm Ps 103 (Laurence Bévenot)
Gospel Acclamation St Agatha Alleluia (mcb)
Preparation of the Gifts Songs of thankfulness and praise
Sanctus, Acclamation, Amen Missa Ubi Caritas (Bob Hurd)
Agnus Dei Lamb of God II (mcb)
Communion Here is my Servant (Psallite)
Postcommunion Beatus Auctor Saeculi (Tarik O’Regan, 1978-)
Recessional Come down, O love divine

Tarik O’Regan’s haunting Christmas motet sets a fifth-century Latin text (the second and third stanzas of the abecedarian poem A solis ortus cardine, attributed to Caelius Sedulius) found in the eleventh-century liturgical almanac the Portiforium of St Wulstan. The music alternates moments of sparse discord with richer chordal writing, but always infused with serenity. (In rehearsal I told the choir not to wake the baby.) In the composer’s own explanation, the particular verses set were chosen apparently for the vagueness of their religious allusions:

I specifically chose to set only two of the eight extant stanzas in the manuscript as I was aware that these were the most ecumenical (sic) in their reading, referring in metaphor only to a ‘blest author’.

but the text itself (given here in the translation by J.M. Neale) looks unambiguously Christian to me:

Blest Author of this earthly frame,
To take a servant’s form he came,
That liberating flesh by flesh,
Whom he had made might live afresh.

In that chaste parent’s holy womb,
Celestial grace hath found its home;
And she, as earthly bride unknown,
Yet calls that Offspring blest her own.

I’m guessing, then, that the composer came at the work from a fairly non-religious perspective. But for all that, it makes for a beautiful reflection on the mystery of the incarnation.

There’s a sumptuous recording of the piece on this web page (and also – a little more complex to link to – on the composer’s own web site). I think it’s the choir of Clare College, Cambridge, for whom the piece was commissioned. Click the second link down on the right hand side of the page. And enjoy.

1 comment:

  1. I've just listened to the Tarik O'Regan piece. It's really beautiful. I wish I'd been there to hear the cathedral choir sing it.