Jubilate Deo universa terra – Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina (1525-1594)
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(Note: this selection and description appeared previously in January 2021)
In 1593 Palestrina published his Offertoria totius anni secundum Sanctae Romanae Ecclesiae consuetudinem for five voices, containing settings of the proper Offertories for all Sundays and major feasts of the church year, 68 in total. Jubilate Deo universa terra is number 14 in this collection, the Offertory for the Second Sunday after Epiphany and the Fifth Sunday of Easter. These polyphonic masterpieces, written just one year before the composer’s death, are among his most refined and focused. It is perhaps telling that Palestrina spend his last days not in composing extended works displaying his artistic prowess, but rather a useful and timeless collection of liturgical music, setting to music the Propers of the Mass, an essential part of the fabric of the liturgy.
Jubilate Deo universa terra,
psalmum dicite nomini eius.
Venite et audite, et narrabo vobis omnis qui timetis Deum quanta fecit Dominus animae meae.
O be joyful in God, all ye lands:
sing praises unto the honour of his Name:
O come hither, and hearken, all ye that fear God: and I will tell you what he hath done for my soul.
(Psalm 66:1, 2a, 16)
Thou art the vine – Andrew Carter (b. 1939)
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Composer, conductor, and arranger Andrew Carter was born in Leicester in the English Midlands; he studied music at Leeds University before settling in York. Andrew Carter’s music is performed worldwide. A twenty-five-year association with Oxford University Press has established his reputation as a writer of both choral miniatures and larger scale concert works for chorus and orchestra.
A particular honour in the field of church music was the invitation to write Missa Sancti Pauli for the 1997 tercentenary celebrations of Wren’s St Paul’s Cathedral. Over the years several of Andrew’s carols have been included in the renowned Christmas Eve broadcast from King’s College Chapel, Cambridge. Andrew’s lifelong love of the organ is reflected in the festive Organ Concerto (MorningStar 2008) and an album of organ pieces (Oxford) which includes the much-acclaimed Toccata on Veni Emmanuel.
Thou art the vine is the fifth movement of Carter’s larger work Great Is the Lord, with an original text by the composer, based on John 15:5, from our Gospel lesson for this Sunday. A lyrical melody on the hymn tune NORTHRIDGE winds throughout the piece, with Easter Alleluias concluding each stanza.
Thou art the vine,
We are the branches and are thine;
Thou art the vine and we a part in your design; Alleluia!
Thou art the root, and we the tendrils and the shoot;
Thou art the root, and we the tenders of the fruit; Alleluia!
God give us grace within this place
To grow anew in all things true; Alleluia!
Our voices raise in endless praise: Alleluia!
Thou art the vine, thou art the living bread and wine;
Thou art the vine, to sing your praise our hearts combine; Alleluia!
Thou art the life of ev’ry tree;
Come, Holy Lord, and spring in me; Alleluia!
May nature’s voice with us rejoice; Alleluia!
Regina caeli, Laetare a 8 – Tomás Luis de Victoria (1548-1611)
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The four great seasonal Marian antiphons come from the Divine Office, office of Compline, the last of the sung hours of the day. At the close of Compline, one of the four seasonal Marian prayers is sung: Alma Redemptoris Mater (First Sunday of Advent until Candlemas), Ave Regina Caelorum (Candlemas until Easter Vigil), Regina Caeli (Easter Vigil through Pentecost Sunday), or Salve Regina (Trinity Sunday until the First Sunday of Advent). Traditionally, at Compline, the antiphon is followed by seasonal declamations and a prayer. When sung at the conclusion of Mass, only the antiphon is sung.
Regina caeli is the Marian antiphon for Paschaltide, the Easter season. Note the joyous Easter Alleluias that are so generously interspersed with the praises of the Blessed Virgin, the good news of the resurrection, and the penitent plea for intercession. Its author and composer are unknown, but its earliest appearance is as the Magnificat antiphon for the octave of Easter in a manuscript of the local Roman chant tradition dating from c. 1200.
The text of this and the other three Marian antiphons has been set to music for choirs by many composers over the ages, including Tomás Luis de Victoria, the most famous composer in 16th-century Spain, and one of the most important composers of the Counter-Reformation, along with Palestrina and Orlando di Lasso; di Lasso wrote no fewer than seven different settings. Victoria wrote two settings of Regina caeli, one for five voices and one for eight voices, the latter sung here by the splendid British choral ensemble VOCES8.
Regina caeli, laetare, alleluia;
Quia quem meruisti portare, alleluia,
Resurrexit, sicut dixit, alleluia:
Ora pro nobis Deum, alleluia.
Queen of heaven, rejoice, alleluia.
For he whom you were worthy to bear, alleluia,
Has risen as he said, alleluia.
Pray to God for us, alleluia.