Outlook 24
News and Views from St. Mary's Woodbridge
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Music for Christmas
There is some Christmas music without which Christmas just wouldn’t be Christmas – and, for me, Finzi’s In Terra Pax is one of those pieces. Subtitled ‘A Christmas Scene’, Finzi recalls the experience of hearing bells ring out on a frosty Christmas Eve, and a bell-like motif permeates the score. Using text by Robert Bridges and from St Luke’s Gospel, the appearance of the angels to the shepherds is moved to an English pastoral scene. Refreshingly, though, Finzi approaches the scene from an agnostic, rationalist point of view, and the result is some visionary music. After the mystical serenity of the opening section, the moment at which the angel appears to the shepherds is truly thrilling. My recording comes from an anthology of Christmas music available on Naxos, which includes some less known music by Holst, Howells, Leighton and Vaughan Williams. Another choral gem is Morten Lauridsen’s O Magnum Mysterium. Many recordings are available, but the one by the Chamber Choir of Europe is outstanding. If you don’t know Lauridsen’s choral music, you can buy this one track from various digital platforms to sample, or buy it in CD format. Hauntingly beautiful A more recent discovery for me is Will Todd’s hauntingly beautiful ‘My Lord Has Come’ from a recording called The Call of Wisdom by Tenebrae – wonderfully poised singing and clearly focused sound. Todd is perhaps best known for his jazz- inspired compositions, such as his terrific Mass in Blue, but here he demonstrates another facet of his considerable compositional skill, creating in this setting a sense of rapt wonder and awe. Again, buy the whole recording in CD or MP3 format – or just buy the track. Early music choices for me have to include Christus Natus Est – Early English Christmas music performed with freshness, commitment and enthusiasm by The Sixteen Choir and available on their own label, Coro. Last, but by no means least, Charpentier’s Messe de Minuit pour Noël, thought to have been written for Christmas 1694, draws on popular French carol melodies, as well as standard liturgical elements. Our Christmas music choices are as individual as we are, so mine may not be yours – and that’s fine of course. Whatever you happen to choose this Christmas, happy listening and happy Christmas! Andrew Clarke