It’s December, which means it’s musical Advent Calendar time (and possibly also, oh look, I have a music blog, maybe I should stop ignoring it time)!
I’m starting Advent this year with a recording of The King’s Singers, singing Veni, Veni Emmanuel, a Christmas Carol – or, really, an Advent Carol – with medieval origins.
It is well known, I think, that I adore The King’s Singers. They are, in my view, the best vocal group currently performing, and their harmony and clarity is so perfect that when you hear them in concert, their music often develops extra harmonics from the resonances. Their work is, quite simply, sublime.
I’m particularly fond of Veni Veni Emmanuel, because of all the ways it has developed over the years. In its purest form, it’s simply Gregorian chant (and one thing I like about the King’s Singers version of it is that they do start in unison, befitting the music’s origins, before developing the harmonies in later verses); it can also be sung as a big Christmas Carol with organ and descant à la Willcocks. And in between you get thoughtful, countermelody versions by the Medieval Baebes, or solo versions by Celtic musicians like Enya. And then there’s the version by Nox Arcana… All different, and all gorgeous – very few people do this hymn badly, I find.
The text is a paraphrase of Isaiah, and properly belongs in the third week of Advent, but I like it as a starting point, since it is an invitation, after all. And that is the start of any journey.