Thursday, January 1, 2015

It's Still Christmas! Byrd and Tallis Edition

My husband and I have indeed been fortunate to work for a large aviation manufacturing company that shuts down at Christmas time. While some people have to work over the long holiday break from Christmas Eve to New Year's (which this year has been extended to January 2 so the offices don't open until January 5) most of us are off. Since we're Catholic and we're off work, we have been celebrating Christmas every day. Our decorations are still up, the manger scene on the lawn lit up every night (we put it out Christmas Eve), and with prayer and song, we are still rejoicing at this wondrous season.

One CD in particular has been playing often during these cold winter days--we had snow here on Tuesday--Stile Antico's Puer natus est: Tudor Music for Advent & Christmas:

Stile Antico’s fifth recording, winner of the Edison Klassiek Award 2011, the Diapason d’or and the Preis der deutschen Schallplattenkritik, focuses on the wonderful music written by the English Tudor composers for the seasons of Advent and Christmas. At its heart is Thomas Tallis’ magnificent seven-part ‘Christmas’ Mass, based on the festive plainchant Puer natus est (‘A boy is born’). The mass is interspersed with William Byrd’s exquisite propers for the fourth Sunday of Advent, and framed by responsories by Taverner and Sheppard, Robert White’s exuberant setting of the Magnificat, and Tallis’ own sublimeVidete miraculum.

There is some debate upon when Tallis' Puer Natus Est was first used at Mass: some say it was during Advent when Mary and Philip attended and Mary was thought to be pregnant. But that's not likely since this is obviously a Mass for Christmas and as the liner notes comment, Tallis--and Mary, and Philip, and the celebrating priest and deacons, and the choir, etc--would have known the difference between Advent and Christmas! (And cared, the notes add.)  While the recording does juxtapose Tallis and Byrd (like their earlier recording Heavenly Harmonies which countered every Protestant hymn by Tallis with a Catholic motet by Byrd) these selections are thoroughly Catholic settings of the propers and ordinary of the Mass:

Tallis: Videte miraculum
Taverner: Audivi vocem de caelo
Byrd: Rorate caeli desuper
Tallis: Gloria (Missa Puer natus est)
Byrd: Tollite portas
Tallis: Sanctus & Benedictus (Missa Puer natus est)
Byrd: Ave Maria
Tallis: Agnus Dei (Missa Puer natus est)
Byrd: Ecce virgo concipiet
White: Magnificat
Plainchant: Puer natus est
Sheppard: Verbum caro

Besides Tallis and Byrd, the Magnificat by While is magnificent and Sheppard's Verbum caro is, as the notes indicate, radiant and sensuous.

Merry Christmas!

And, as a bonus today after Mass for the Solemnity of Mary, the Holy Mother of God, we will witness the Baptism of our godson's baby sister!

What a way to start the New Year: attending Holy Mass and then seeing a little baby being born again in the Paschal Mystery of Jesus's Resurrection, becoming a daughter of God!

Happy New Year!

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