Advent is a season observed in many Western Christian churches as a time of expectant waiting and preparation for the celebration of Christmas. The term advent is a version of the Latin word meaning "coming". The four weeks are often characterized by the symbols of Hope, Love, Peace, and Joy. Tonight’s program uses these symbols as inspiration, exploring music and readings for the season. Through these symbols we explore themes associated with the season: through hope we explore the season of coming and waiting; through love we explore the Virgin Mother; through Peace we explore the Christ child; and through Joy we explore the celebration of Christmas day.
Our program begins with a Latin chant, in the style of the earliest notated Western music. The chant begins with one melodic line, and later adds a second line in a style known as organum. Some version of this antiphon has been sung in the church during the season of Advent since the ninth century. Lo, How a Rose relates the foretelling of the coming through Isaiah. The O Magnum Mysterium text has served as inspiration for composers for centuries. Tonight we explore two distinct settings from Renaissance Spain and Twentieth century Paris.
O magnum mysterium,
et admirabile sacramentum,
ut animalia viderent Dominum natum,
jacentem in praesepio!
Beata Virgo, cujus viscera
Dominum Christum. Alleluia.
O great mystery,
and wonderful sacrament,
that animals should see the new-born Lord,
lying in a manger!
Blessed is the Virgin whose womb
was worthy to bear
Christ the Lord. Alleluia!
The Virgin Mary serves as inspiration for our second set. Mary has been venerated since Early Christianity and is considered by many to be the most important saint. The image of the Virgin Mother as the spotless rose or as the rose of the highest virtue has inspired Christian art and music for centuries. Tonight we offer two settings of these texts from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries followed by two settings from the late medieval, early Renaissance periods.
Texts dealing specifically with the birth of Jesus are often directly connected to the crucifixion. We hear this in the opening image of I Wonder as I Wander, “…how Jesus, the Savior, did come for to die for poor ornery people like you and I…” and in the lullaby The Infant King, “Soon comes the cross, the nails, the piercing, then in the grave at last reposing.” The image of the peace Christ brings into a pained world is portrayed throughThe Coventry Carol, “Herod, the king, in his raging, Charged he hath this day His men of might, In his own sight, All young children to slay”. The peace of Christ is expressed in more hopeful terms in Jesus Christ the Apple Tree, “This fruit doth make my soul to thrive, it keeps my dying faith alive which makes my soul in haste to be with Jesus Christ, the apple tree.”
Finally, our program comes to the joy of the Christmas season through carols. The imagery of bells ringing, glorias being sung, and the snowy winter cold have no true Biblical basis, but rather conjure up images of nineteenth century Dickensian visions of the season. This can be in seen in a reading from A Child's Christmas in Wales, a prose work by the Welsh poet Dylan Thomas. Originally emerging from a piece written for radio, it was recorded by Thomas in 1952. The story is an anecdotal retelling of a Christmas from the view of a young child and is a romanticized version of Christmases past, portraying a nostalgic and simpler time. It is one of Thomas's most popular works. We hope our program will bring hope, love, peace, and joy to you this holiday season.