Category Archives: Music

“O Come, O Come, Emmanuel”

This is the hymn of the day for the Fourth Sunday in Advent across numerous Christian traditions. Written by the Rev. John Mason Neale, published in his and Thomas Helmore Hymnal Noted, Part II (1854), and revised by Neale in subsequent hymnals until his death, “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” was based on the series of ‘O” antiphons sung at Vespers from December 17-23.  In the original Latin, the second letters of the seven antiphons spell out the reverse acrostic “ERO CRAS” — “I shall be [with you] tomorrow”, as the Church prepares to celebrate Christ’s birth.

The tune of this hymn has an especially intriguing provenance.  According to the magisterial New Oxford Book of Carols:

In an article of 1881, Helmore revealed that the source was in face a French missal [in the National Library at Lisbon, Portugal], and that Neale himself, now dead, had copied the tune … Searches failed to locate the hymn in the Lisbon library, and doubts about the authenticity of the tune were only laid to rest in 1966, when Mary Berry (then Mother Thomas More) discovered the tune in another French source, a fifteenth-century Franciscan processional, which was probably copied for a nunnery … Each verse is set out in binatim style on two pages, with the familiar melody on the left and a simple countermelody on the right.

Which (as transcribed and collated with the Latin hymnic version of the antiphons in the NOBC) sounds like this — recorded by the Taverner Consort in the style of a Franciscan procession:

And so — 1300 years on from the origin of the antiphons, 600 years after French nuns sang the hymn in procession, more than 150 years past Neale and Helmore’s translation and transcription — we watch for Christ’s coming with the Church of all ages, and sing:

O come, O come, Emmanuel,
And ransom captive Israel,
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear.

Refrain

Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel!

O come, Thou Wisdom from on high,
Who ord’rest all things mightily;
To us the path of knowledge show,
And teach us in her ways to go. Refrain

O come, O come, Thou Lord of might,
Who to Thy tribes on Sinai’s height
In ancient times didst give the Law
In cloud and majesty and awe. Refrain

O come, Thou Branch of Jesse’s tree,
Free them from Satan’s tyranny
That trust Thy mighty pow’r to save,
And give them vict’ry o’er the grave. Refrain

O come, Thou Key of David, come,
And open wide our heav’nly home;
Make safe the way that leads on high,
And close the path to misery. Refrain

O come, Thou Dayspring from on high,
And cheer us by Thy drawing nigh;
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night,
And death’s dark shadows put to flight. Refrain

O come, Desire of nations, bind
In one the hearts of all mankind;
Bid Thou our sad divisions cease,
And be Thyself our King of Peace. Refrain

 

— Rick Krueger

 

 

The O Antiphons: O Key of David

The O Antiphon for Magnificat at Vespers on December 20:

O Key of David and scepter of the house of Israel, you open and no one can close, you close and no one can open: come and rescue the prisoners who are in darkness and the shadow of death.

For their 2016 debut recording Drop Down, Ye Heavens, the London-based student-formed choir Siglo de Oro commissioned a new set of O Antiphons from various British composers, sung in English and set for choir and saxophone.  Here is Francis Pott’s rich setting of “O Key of David”:

O come, Thou Key of David, come,
And open wide our heav’nly home;
Make safe the way that leads on high,
And close the path to misery.

Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel!

— Rick Krueger

(Image: O Clavis David by Linda Henke, Te Deum Designs.)

The O Antiphons: O Root of Jesse

The O Antiphon for the Magnificat at Vespers on December 19:

O Root of Jesse, standing as an ensign before the peoples, before whom all kings are mute, to whom the nations will do homage: come quickly to deliver us.

Healey Willan (1880-1968), professor at the Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto and organist at St. Mary Magdalene Church in the same city, composed a setting of The Great O Antiphons of Advent for the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod’s Concordia Publishing House in 1957.  Here’s Willan’s setting of “O Root of Jesse,” as sung by the choir of Christ Church Cathedral in Vancouver, British Columbia:

O come, Thou Branch of Jesse’s tree,
Free them from Satan’s tyranny
That trust Thy mighty pow’r to save,
And give them vict’ry o’er the grave.

Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel!

— Rick Krueger

(Image: O Radix Jesse by Linda Witte Henke, Te Deum Designs.)

Geddy Lee: Neil Peart ‘Hasn’t Just Retired From Rush; He’s Retired From Drumming’ – Blabbermouth.net

“I’ve been working on this book for just over two years now, and it’s been great fun — it’s been passion project for me. And it’s been very good for my head. And, in a way, it was really a good break from everything that was going down with RUSH and from the end of that [last] tour, and it threw me into another obsession, which was educational, in terms of learning about my instrument, but also in terms of learning about making a book and what’s involved. So I enjoyed that. Now I will start thinking about what I’m gonna do next and I’ll start playing all those beauties” — referring to his bass guitars — “that are staring at me when I go into my studio.”
— Read on www.blabbermouth.net/news/geddy-lee-neil-peart-hasnt-just-retired-from-rush-hes-retired-from-drumming.html

The O Antiphons: O Adonai

The O Antiphon for the Magnificat at Vespers on December 18:

O Adonai and ruler of the house of Israel, who appeared to Moses in the burning bush and gave him the Law on Sinai: come with an outstretched arm and redeem us.

Healey Willan (1880-1968), professor at the Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto and organist at St. Mary Magdalene Church in the same city, composed a setting of The Great O Antiphons of Advent for the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod’s Concordia Publishing House in 1957.  Here’s Willan’s setting of “O Adonai,” as sung by the choir of Christ Church Cathedral in Vancouver, British Columbia:

O come, O come, Thou Lord of might,
Who to Thy tribes on Sinai’s height
In ancient times didst give the Law
In cloud and majesty and awe.

Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel!

-Rick Krueger

(Image: O Adonai by Linda Witte Henke, Te Deum Designs.)

 

The O Antiphons: O Wisdom

From Kevin Hildebrand, kantor at Concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne, Indiana:

An antiphon is a term we see in worship regularly. An antiphon is a refrain that is sung before (and sometimes after and during) a Psalm or other song, and it’s typically is a Bible verse or a historic liturgical text.

The origin of the O Antiphons is around the eighth century. In larger cities and monasteries, it was customary to have services daily (or several times a day), and in the seven days before Christmas Eve, it became a regular practice to sing the assigned O Antiphon before and after the Magnificat ( “My soul magnifies the Lord.”) at the evening Vespers service.

In the twelfth or thirteenth century, these antiphons were paraphrased into metrical, poetic verses which became the hymn, “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel.”

The initial O Antiphon, for Vespers on December 17:

O Wisdom, proceeding from the mouth of the Most High, pervading and permeating all creation, mightily ordering all things: come and teach us the way of prudence.

For their 2016 debut recording Drop Down, Ye Heavens, the London-based student-formed choir Siglo de Oro commissioned a new set of O Antiphons from various British composers, sung in English and set for choir and saxophone.  Here is Will Todd’s thrilling setting of “O Wisdom”:

O come, Thou Wisdom from on high,
Who ord’rest all things mightily;
To us the path of knowledge show,
And teach us in her ways to go.

Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel!

— Rick Krueger

(Image: O Sapentia by Linda Witte Henke, Te Deum Designs)

 

 

 

Best prog rock of 2018

Top albums of 2018

Well, stunningly, it’s that time of year—the time we begin to assess the best of that which came throughout the year.  At age 51, these years fly by, faster and faster.  Time devours, but individuals innovate.  2018 has been a rather spectacular year, at least on a personal level.  In very large part, the creative soundtrack behind the year’s events proved equally spectacular.

Here are my favorite albums of 2018.

10. Galahad, Seas of Change. Stu and company nail it with this album. At once deeply progressive musically and timely politically, Galahad strike the perfect balance of art and message on this wondrous 43-minute long album (and song!). The message never becomes oppressively preachy, itself being fully integrated with the music. 

9. Bjorn Riis, Coming Home. This is the only EP to make it to my top 10 of 2018. Only 27 minutes long, Riis’s Coming Home offers more depth in music and thought than most albums can at 50 to 70 minutes. A perfectionist and a minimalist, Riis offers just enough to keep us eager for me.  As with his work on Airbag, Riis provides a lush soundscape of tundra, doted here and there with evergreens.

8. Shineback, Dial. I don’t think it’s constitutionally possible for any of the Godfrey musicians to be uninteresting. Despite having moved from the U.K. to the Philadelphia, Simon Godfrey retains all of the romantic best of the motherland. Electronic flourishes, Thomas Dolby rhythms, pop melodies, progressive and extended passages, and Godfrey’s always anxious and surreal lyrics pull the listener in, from the opening minute to the closing minute—92 minutes later!  A feast of creepiness and introspection.  Every time I listen, I realize I’m only getting about 70% of what’s going on.  This is music for headphones, to be sure.

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