Christmas Eve and Christmas Day…two of my favorite days of the year! For me, both days are steeped in memories—memories of festive gatherings with friends, zany adventures with out-of-town family, beautiful church services that stayed with me throughout the year…
…and most of all, music.
Music has always been a part of the holiday. At parties, either I or my brother would plunk ourselves down at the piano and accompany the guests in rousing renditions of Christmas songs. A group of us from church would carol door to door, particularly reaching out to elders who didn’t get out as much. We had school concerts, and would try to sneak in a showing of Nutcracker or Messiah as schedules allowed.
It didn’t matter if we were performers or audience members; music was a shared activity that brought us together; it was a way to tell the Christmas story, share lessons, or simply to connect.
I can’t imagine Christmas without music.
With that thought in mind, let me share a pair of Christmas songs that get into the spirit. Although they were written centuries apart, they pair together exceptionally well; they are both for a cappella voices, and they are both serenely gorgeous. Plus, they use the same text:
O magnum mysterium
et admirabile sacramentum,
ut animalia viderent Dominum natum,
jacentem in praesepio.
O beata Virgo, cujus viscera meruerunt
portare Dominum Jesum Christum.
O great mystery
and wondrous sacrament,
that animals should see the Lord newborn
lying in a manger.
O blessed Virgin, whose womb was worthy
to bear the Lord Christ Jesus.
The first is a Renaissance work by Tomás Luis de Victoria, that captures the mystical spirit of the age.
The second is by American Morten Lauridsen, which reverently looks on the traditions of the past, but brings them forward with a modern approach to harmony and chord clusters.
Merry Christmas to all who celebrate, and may your days be filled with joy!