This is not, perhaps, entirely an Advent, or even Christmas piece, but I can never resist including it despite that, because it is just so very lovely. I think this close to Christmas, it’s easy to get caught up in the stress of all the things you need to get done at the last minute and completely lose track of any sense of Christmas at all. I find that I feel very Christmassy for the first two weeks of December, and then pretty much get consumed by Christmas Admin until Christmas Eve, at which point, if I’m lucky, I get a good midnight Mass and it’s all OK again… (and if I’m particularly sleep-deprived and stressed and exhausted I start having mild sort of out of body experiences and hallucinating angelic choirs, which was certainly interesting that one time, and certainly in the correct Christmas spirit, but once was definitely enough for that experience).
All of which was a long way of saying that I’m including this peace largely for its peacefulness. I love the illustrations from the Très Riches Heures du Duc du Berry, too, but one of the loveliest things about this music is the bell-like chimes made by one of the sopranos, which to me are the aural equivalent of drops of clear water – this piece is strangely cooling.
Speaking of hallucinations, I could have sworn that I read somewhere that I have now established that despite being called Magnificat (which is Mary’s song at the Annunciation, and thus very appropriate for Advent), this piece actually uses a text by Francis of Assisi called the Canticle of the Sun – or parts of it, anyway. I have no idea where I found this, but when I went back and listened very closely, I was able to identify some (though not all) of the lyrics from this canticle. This song praises God through all his creatures, and the verses I was definitely able to identify are as follows:
Be praised, my Lord, through all Your creatures,
especially through my lord Brother Sun,
who brings the day; and You give light through him.
And he is beautiful and radiant in all his splendor!
Of You, Most High, he bears the likeness.
Be praised, my Lord, through Sister Moon and the stars;
in the heavens You have made them bright, precious and beautiful.
Happy those who endure in peace,
for by You, Most High, they will be crowned.
Perhaps not Advent material, but not a bad choice for the summer solstice, or for a time of year when patience and peace are in short supply…