Sunday, December 20, 2015

O Magnum Mysterium : Westminster Cathedral Choir

     "O Magnum Mysterium" is an ancient responsorial expressing our wonder that the Savior of the Universe should come into our world in a stable, with animals as his witnesses.   For a long time it was part of the Christmas Office of Matins, today more often a hymn at Midnight Mass (as in the clip below).  It has been set to music many time over the centuries, from Byrd and Palestrina through modern day composers such as Lauridsen and Gjielo.
     As it happens, a couple nights ago I heard Lauridsen's lovely version of  "O Magnum Mysterium" (published a mere 21 years ago) sung by a vocal group from a local public high school.  They did a beautiful job.  Here is the same piece, recorded at Westminster Cathedral's 2009 Christmas celebration.

Latin text
O magnum mysterium,
et admirabile sacramentum,
ut animalia viderent Dominum natum,
jacentem in praesepio!
Beata Virgo, cujus viscera
meruerunt portare
Dominum Christum.
English translation
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.

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