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  • 2015 January 4: Lo, How a Rose E'er Blooming

    January 04, 2015 10:30

    There have been various approaches to Advent/Christmas down through the ages: in our culture we more or less start Christmas on Black Friday (if not much earlier) — a month plus of too many gifts and too much food (I’m reminded of William Blake’s aphorism "You never know what’s enough until you know what’s more than enough!"), and then on December 26 it's OVER. In Bach's day, however, Advent was a mini-'Lent' — a time of prayer and fasting, and no music in church! Then, on Christmas Day all heaven broke loose, and they celebrated Christmas for Twelve Days. Thus, after the 'darkness' of Advent, Christmas would be big and dramatic — something rather like somber Lent leading up to glorious Easter. This also worked out for church composers like Bach as they had the four weeks of Advent to prepare the massive amount of music performed over the Twelve Days. And the Twelve days of Christmas takes you to the next holy-day in the Church year: Epiphany — the day when the Christ was manifested to the Gentiles as represented by the Magi. (more )

  • 2016 December 18: "Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence"

    December 18, 2014 10:30

    A few of the hymns in our hymnal have texts of truly ancient origin, and "Let All Mortal Flesh" is one of them. It is an ancient chant of Eucharistic [Communion] devotion based on words from Habakkuk 2:20, "Let all the earth keep silence before him". The original was composed in Greek as a Cherubic Hymn for the Offertory of the Divine Liturgy of St James; the "Let All Mortal Flesh" text is probably older than the rest of the liturgy and goes back at least to 275 AD, with local churches adopting arrangements in Syriac. The identity of the original author is long lost in the misty shadows of Time. (more )

  • 2014 December 14: "Of the Father's Love Begotten"

    December 14, 2014 15:38

    The theme for this Advent season is 'wonder', so I thought a series of preludes based on ancient Christmas hymns might be a worthy contribution: these older hymns tend to emphasize the Mystery of Christmas more than modern ones (in my humble opinion), and there's something wonder-full about a Christmas song that is millennia old — what other music from the 10th century do we still sing on a regular basis? (more )

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