All the cool kids are doing Advent Calendars, and since I’ve been raving to everyone in sight about how wonderful Advent music is, perhaps I should demonstrate.
So, for December 1 (a mere two days late), we will start with my absolute favourite piece of Advent music, which is of course The Record of John, by Orlando Gibbons. I absolutely love Gibbons’ work – he has an absolute gift for writing musical lines that mimic the intonations of speech, and this is part of what makes him such a joy to sing. He makes it so easy to convey meaning, because his inflections are so natural, and he is one of those composers who makes you believe the words when you sing them.
When he writes for duets or trios or even quartets in his verse anthems, he is unparalleled. I am hoping to find a recording of ‘Behold, I bring you glad tidings’, which is his other Advent piece, but haven’t had any luck so far. Gibbons also has the charming habit of giving the altos all the best solos, which would make me feel kindly towards him even if he wasn’t such a magnificent writer – really, I have sung any number of his works, and every one has been glorious.
This is the best recording of The Record of John I could find on YouTube. The countertenor is so beautiful I can even forgive him for not being an alto…