Advent Calendar Day 1: Rorate Caeli – Zebrowski

The classic text for Advent 1 is Rorate Coeli Desuper – Let the heavens open and rain down righteousness. The oldest setting for this is this Gregorian chant, which still gets sung today (literally today, actually – I’ll be singing it this evening), but just about every church composer of note has had a crack at it. I’ve sung a fair number of versions, and cast envious eyes over more (shout out to the setting by Heinrich Schütz, which I passionately adore and annually badger my various choirmasters to let me sing, so far to no avail).

What these settings all have in common is that they tend to be reflective and a bit mysterious.  The Schütz is, admittedly, fairly chirpy, but the overall theme is one of sweetness and stillness.

And then we have this one.

Which is… not. Apparently, this is what happens when you give a Polish Baroque composer the Rorate text.  I’ve never encountered Marcin Zebrowski before, but apparently he was born in 1702 and died in 1770, which puts him in the later baroque period – he’s younger than Bach and Handel, but older than Mozart, and would have overlapped at least a little with all three.

I’m honestly not at all sure what I think of this as a setting for rorate coeli – it sounds almost military to me, which is an odd thing to do with those lyrics – but it certainly starts Advent off with a bang!

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