Advent Calendar Day 24 part 2: O Magnum Mysterium (Lauridsen)

A bonus carol for your Christmas Vigil!  I love the lyrics to this piece of music – they are perfect for Christmas night, translating “O great mystery and wonderful sacrament, that the animals see the Lord born, lying in a manger.  Blessed virgin whose womb was worthy to bear Lord Christ. Alleluia!”

The hard part is choosing a setting, because everyone has done one.  There’s this gorgeous one by Victoria, or you could try Byrd, straight or with jazz piano, or you could have some spooky Poulenc, or then there’s this one, by contemporary American composer Morten Lauridsen.

I love the reflectiveness of this setting and its stillness, and the way the alleluias come out of the darkness at the end.  For all its modernity, it would be a beautiful thing to hear in an old Roman or Gothic church, with only a brazier for light, as we await the coming of midnight and the lighting of candles to celebrate the holy birth.

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