Monday, January 30, 2012

A solis ortus cardine, the hymn for Lauds in Christmastide

Here's a really lovely version of A solis ortus cardine, the Lauds hymn for Christmastide. The hymn has 7 verses, each beginning with a different letter of the alphabet (in sequence).

The text comes from a 23-verse alphabetic poem, Paean Alphabeticus de Christo, written by Caelius Sedulius (died c. 450); the poem is the story of Christ's life, birth to resurrection. The first seven verses - the ones in this video - make up the Christmastide Lauds hymn; verses 8, 9, 11 and 13 of the poem are used for Hostis Herodes impie, the Epiphany Vespers hymn.

Here's the Latin text of the entire poem.   Below is the section used for this hymn, with an English translation by John Ellerton below the Latin.
A solis ortus cardine
Adusque terre limitem
Christum canamus principem
Natum Maria virgine.

Beatus auctor seculi
Servile corpus induit,
Ut carne carnem liberans
Non perderet, quos condidit.

Caste parentis viscera
Celestis intrat gratia,
Venter puelle baiulat
Secreta, que non noverat.

Domus pudici pectoris
Templum repente fit Dei,
Intacta nesciens virum
Verbo creavit filium

Enixa est puerpera,
Quem Gabriel predixerat ,
Quem matris alvo gestiens
Clausus Johannes senserat.

Feno iacere pertulit,
Presepe non abhorruit
Parvoque lacte pastus est,
Per quem nec ales esurit.

Gaudet chorus celestium,
Et angeli canunt Deum,
Palamque fit pastoribus
Pastor creator omnium.

From east to west, from shore to shore,
let every heart awake and sing
the holy child whom Mary bore,
the Christ, the everlasting King.

Behold, the world's Creator wears
the form and fashion of a slave;
our very flesh our Maker shares,
his fallen creature, man, to save.

For this how wondrously he wrought!
A maiden, in her lowly place,
became, in ways beyond all thought,
the chosen vessel of his grace.

She bowed her to the angel's word
declaring what the Father willed,
and suddenly the promised Lord
that pure and hallowed temple filled.

He shrank not from the oxen's stall,
he lay within the manger-bed,
and he, whose bounty feedeth all,
at Mary's breast himself was fed.

And while the angels in the sky
sang praise above the silent field,
to shepherds poor the Lord Most High,
the one great Shepherd, was revealed.

All glory for this blessed morn
to God the Father ever be;
all praise to thee, O Virgin-born,
all praise, O Holy Ghost, to thee.

From the YouTube page, describing the video:

EN: Schola Gregoriana Monostorinensis performing in the Calvary Church from Cluj (RO) HU: a Schola Gregoriana Monostorinensis előadásában, a kolozsmonostori Nagyboldogasszony (Kálvária) templomban
Here's Guillaume Dufay's 15th-century version of the hymn; he uses chant and polyphony in an alternatim style.  [EDIT:   Raven notes in the comments that this may be a Binchois composition instead - which would mean the video is mislabeled.  I'll see what I can find out - but mainly I'm interested in showing off the chant as used in a polyphonic piece!]

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Kings College Choir: "Evening Hymn"

This is Balfour Gardiner's version of the Compline hymn Te Lucis Ante Terminum. It's irresistible to me: all that Victorian drama! And very fun to sing. Latin and English words below.

Te lucis ante terminum,
rerum Creator, poscimus,
ut solita clementia,
sis praesul ad custodiam.

Procul recedant somnia,
et noctium phantasmata:
hostemque nostrum comprime,
ne polluantur corpora.

Praesta, Pater omnipotens,
per Iesum Christum Dominum,
qui tecum in perpetuum
regnat cum Sancto Spiritu.


To thee before the close of day,
Creator of the world, we pray
That, with thy wonted favour, thou
Wouldst be our guard and keeper now.

From all ill dreams defend our sight,
From fears and terrors of the night;
Withhold from us our ghostly foe,
That spot of sin we may not know.

O Father, that we ask be done,
Through Jesus Christ, thine only Son,
Who, with the Holy Ghost and thee,
Doth live and reign eternally.


Monday, January 16, 2012

For Epiphany: O balow, balow la lay


From the YouTube page:
The Choir of Wells Cathedral, Somerset, under the direction of Matthew Owens, perform Jonathan Dove's setting of Dorothy L. Sayers' poem 'The Three Kings.' Commissioned by King's College, Cambridge for the Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols on Christmas Eve 2000. Treble solos by Folasade-Nelleke Ladipo and Sophie Gallagher.

"Sayers portrays her three kings in the three ages of man—young, in the prime of life, and very old. With perhaps an unexpected twist and a departure from received imagery Sayers portrays the young king as doleful and bringing myrrh; the prime-of-life king is a solemn priest who brings incense, 'sad and sweet', and it is the very old king who brings the handfuls of gold which are not money but gaud, baubles and glittering toys for a baby boy."


The first king was very young,

O balow, balow la lay,
With doleful ballads on his tongue,
O balow, balow la lay,
He came bearing a branch of myrrh

Than which no gall is bitterer,
O balow, balow la lay,
Gifts for a baby King, O.

The second king was a man in prime,
O balow, balow la lay,

The solemn priest of a solemn time,
O balow, balow la lay,
With eyes downcast and reverent feet
He brought his incense sad and sweet,

O balow, balow la lay,
Gifts for a baby King, O.

The third king was very old,
O balow, balow la lay,
Both his hands were full of gold,
O balow, balow la lay,
Many a gaud and glittering toy,

Baubles brave for a baby boy,

O balow, balow la lay,

Gifts for a baby King, O.

Monday, January 09, 2012

"Burning Incense Is Psychoactive: New Class Of Antidepressants Might Be Right Under Our Noses"

From Science Daily (HT the Society of Catholic Priests): Burning Incense Is Psychoactive: New Class Of Antidepressants Might Be Right Under Our Noses

ScienceDaily (May 20, 2008) — Religious leaders have contended for millennia that burning incense is good for the soul. Now, biologists have learned that it is good for our brains too. An international team of scientists, including researchers from Johns Hopkins University and the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, describe how burning frankincense (resin from the Boswellia plant) activates poorly understood ion channels in the brain to alleviate anxiety or depression. This suggests that an entirely new class of depression and anxiety drugs might be right under our noses.

"In spite of information stemming from ancient texts, constituents of Bosweilla had not been investigated for psychoactivity," said Raphael Mechoulam, one of the research study's co-authors. "We found that incensole acetate, a Boswellia resin constituent, when tested in mice lowers anxiety and causes antidepressive-like behavior. Apparently, most present day worshipers assume that incense burning has only a symbolic meaning."

To determine incense's psychoactive effects, the researchers administered incensole acetate to mice. They found that the compound significantly affected areas in brain areas known to be involved in emotions as well as in nerve circuits that are affected by current anxiety and depression drugs. Specifically, incensole acetate activated a protein called TRPV3, which is present in mammalian brains and also known to play a role in the perception of warmth of the skin. When mice bred without this protein were exposed to incensole acetate, the compound had no effect on their brains.

"Perhaps Marx wasn't too wrong when he called religion the opium of the people: morphine comes from poppies, cannabinoids from marijuana, and LSD from mushrooms; each of these has been used in one or another religious ceremony." said Gerald Weissmann, M.D., Editor-in-Chief of The FASEB Journal. "Studies of how those psychoactive drugs work have helped us understand modern neurobiology. The discovery of how incensole acetate, purified from frankincense, works on specific targets in the brain should also help us understand diseases of the nervous system. This study also provides a biological explanation for millennia-old spiritual practices that have persisted across time, distance, culture, language, and religion--burning incense really does make you feel warm and tingly all over!"

According to the National Institutes of Health, major depressive disorder is the leading cause of disability in the United States for people ages 15--44, affecting approximately 14.8 million American adults. A less severe form of depression, dysthymic disorder, affects approximately 3.3 million American adults. Anxiety disorders affect 40 million American adults, and frequently co-occur with depressive disorders.

Not exactly news to us, of course....!

Saturday, January 07, 2012

Anglican Chant XVII: Psalm 98, Hanforth

A lovely version of Psalm 98 sung to Hanforth's chant setting.

The Schola Cantorum sings Psalm 98, "Cantate Domino," at Choral Evensong on 15 May 2011 at St. Andrew's Episcopal Church, Highland Park, Pittsburgh, PA. Chant: Jones. Alastair Stout, organ; Peter J. Luley, choirmaster.

From the Coverdale Psalter:

Psalm 98: Cantate Domino

1. O SING unto the Lord a new song : for he hath done marvellous things.
2. With his own right hand, and with his holy arm : hath he gotten himself the victory.
3. The Lord declared his salvation : his righteousness hath he openly shewed in the sight of the heathen.
4. He hath remembered his mercy and truth toward the house of Israel : and all the ends of the world have seen the salvation of our God.
5. Shew yourselves joyful unto the Lord, all ye lands : sing, rejoice, and give thanks.
6. Praise the Lord upon the harp : sing to the harp with a psalm of thanksgiving.
7. With trumpets also and shawms : O shew yourselves joyful before the Lord the King.
8. Let the sea make a noise, and all that therein is : the round world, and they that dwell therein.
9. Let the floods clap their hands, and let the hills be joyful together before the Lord : for he is come to judge the earth.
10. With righteousness shall he judge the world : and the people with equity.

Thursday, January 05, 2012

The Alleluia for the Feast of the Epiphany: Vidimus stellam ("We have seen the star")

Vidimus stellam - "We have seen his star" - is the Alleluia for January 6, the Feast of the Epiphany; this version is sung by the Schola Cantorum Coloniensis:

Here's the chant score, with the English translation below.

We have seen his star in the East, and we have come with our gifts, to worship the Lord.

The text comes from Matthew 2:
1 After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem 2 and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.”

3 When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. 4 When he had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Messiah was to be born. 5 “In Bethlehem in Judea,” they replied, “for this is what the prophet has written:

6 “‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for out of you will come a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel.’”

7 Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. 8 He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.”

9 After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. 10 When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. 11 On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. 12 And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route.

The modern form of today's propers is exactly like the historical (1962 Missal/Tridentine) form; all of the chants have been retained.  These are the chant propers for this feast; the sound files were recorded at St. Benedict's Monastery in São Paulo (Brazil):
In Epiphania Domini
Introitus: Cf. Mal. 3, 1; I Chron. 29, 12; Ps. 71, 1.10.11 Ecce advenit (4m21.1s - 1786 kb) score
Graduale: Is. 6, 60. V. 1 Omnes de Saba venient (2m31.0s - 1033 kb) score
Alleluia: Cf. Mt. 2, 2 Vidimus stellam (2m17.2s - 939 kb) score
Offertorium: Ps. 71, 10.11 Reges Tharsis (1m59.0s - 814 kb) score
Communio: Cf. Mt. 2, 2 Vidimus stellam (39.6s - 272 kb) score

Other posts on Chantblog for the propers on this feast day are:

Here's Mikołaj Zieleński's polyphonic setting of Vidimus Stellam, sung by Camerata Silesia with Concerto Polacco. Zieleński is a somewhat obscure Polish composer (birth and death dates unknown!) who lived during the 16th and 17th centuries.

Here's a terrific painting of the Adoration of the Magi that I haven't seen before; wow! According to, it's painted by Pieter Aertsen, and is the "Middle panel of a triptych, The Adoration of the Magi; c. 1560; Oil (?) on panel, 167.5 x 179 cm; Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam." Gorgeous and interesting, too.

Ibiblio says this about the painting:

The baby Jesus is sitting on the lap of his mother, the Virgin Mary. He is holding his hand up in a blessing. Before him kneels a king offering a gift of gold. This is Melchior, the oldest of the three kings who came to pay homage to the infant Christ. Behind Mary, in a red gown is her husband Joseph. According to tradition, Jesus was born in a stable. The donkey, the ox and the shabby straw roof remind us of this. The scene takes place against the background of a ruined palace with marble columns and steps. This refers to King David, a distant ancestor of Jesus. The ruin is symbolic and represents the old world: Jesus represents the new, Christian world.

Pieter Aertsen painted this large, colourful panel in around 1560. It is a varied scene with many attractive details such as the rather homely basket of clothes beside Mary and the king's entourage with camels on the left of the background.

Only one of the three kings is pictured on this panel. In fact, the painting is no longer complete. It was originally the centre panel of an altarpiece. The other two kings were pictured on the side panels. The right-hand panel has been lost. The left-hand panel, depicting the Moorish King Caspar and his entourage, has been preserved. This king is offering a vase of myrrh, a fragrant resin which was employed in the ancient world in perfume. It was used in preparing myrrh balsam, for embalming corpses. According to tradition, this was what Caspar, the African king, gave to Christ. It is viewed as a reference to Christ's subsequent death.

Here's a beautiful (and copyrighted) "Adoration of the Magi" page from the St. Alban's Psalter. Wish I could post it here, but they've cut it up into about 50 pieces to protect the copyright! Go see, though - gorgeous.


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