Monday Music: Factum Est Silentium (Richard Dering)

It’s the Monday after a choir Sunday, which means it’s time for church music again – and this church music has dragons in it!

I’m tempted not to even bother providing further commentary – it’s got DRAGONS, what more do you want?  Well, one dragon, anyway.  Here, have some lyrics

Factum est silentium in caelo,
Dum commiteret bellum draco,
Cum Michaele archangelo.
Audita est vox milia milium dicentium
Salus, honor et virtus
omnipotenti Deo.

There was silence in heaven
When the dragon fought
With the Archangel Michael.
The voice of a thousand thousand was heard saying:
Salvation, honour and power be
to almighty God.

What I love about this music is the way Dering uses the music to illustrate the words.  When the heavens are silent at the start, the choir is quiet, becoming louder and more marked and militant in tone when war breaks out, and the Dragon (presumably Satan, but feel free to visualise the dragon of your choice) sounds fiery and impressive and you can just hear him glide on one wing and then the other in the music.  And of course the choir comes together for hearing, and then splits apart for the the thousand thousand voices, sounding like far more than six parts.

This piece reminds me very strongly of some of the more amusing secular madrigals by Janequin, in which singers imitated anything from birdcalls to battlefields (I’m afraid the second one is definitely more fun if you can read French somewhat) – it’s gorgeous, and just plain fun.

Sometimes, that’s all you want from a piece of music…

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