Advent Calendar Day 24: Magnificat (Arvo Pärt)

Those of you who know me in real life are probably scratching their heads right now and wondering how on earth a piece of classical music written in 1989 found its way onto my music blog, and above all onto my music blog for Christmas Eve of all times.

The thing is, for me Christmas Eve is all about Midnight Mass – about the waiting in candlelight late at night, singing words that were written hundreds of years ago and have been sung every year since they were written, about the sense of mystery and immanence that comes before the rejoicing.  And I wanted a piece of music that reflected that – a piece with archaic words and melody – plainchant, for preference, and the Magnificat, or an Alleluia, or something of that nature.

This is, of course, not plainchant, but there is something about this sort of music that reminds me of it – it has the stillness, the sense of music being sung in the rhythms of speech rather than in simple or compound time, and the slightly atonal feel that early music often has (I hadn’t realised until recently that, actually, some of the weirder bits of 20th century music have, at least to my mind, more in common melodically with music written before the 16th century than they have with any music written more recently.

Because I tend to avoid 20th century music like the plague, I can’t actually think of much to say about Arvo Pärt.  I’ve definitely sung music of his in the past, but I have no idea what.  I do know that he is of the Minimalist school, but that really isn’t a very exciting statement.

Perhaps it’s best just to accept the music on its own terms, and embrace the mystery and the rejoicing of Christmas Eve, as embodied in Mary’s words and Pärt’s music.

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