I was going to do Ne Timeas Maria for today’s carol, since I’m in a bit of an Annunciation frame of mind this week, but then I finished the novel I was reading and felt moved to go on an extended rant about sexist assumptions and lazy authorial choices which I *could not do* because Andrew hasn’t finished the series yet, and after all that, I decided I wanted an Annunciation text in which Mary got a bit more agency.
And I mean, yes, she is saying ‘Here I am, the servant of the Lord, be it with me as you have said’, but at least she is speaking for herself and consenting, rather than just having things told to her by the Angel Gabriel (who is, I’m sure, a perfectly good Angel with modern views on gender equity, but today he is also the patriarchy, so I’m afraid he is out of luck).
I have no idea where I am going with this. If I’m honest, I’ll admit that the Victoria is a better piece of music. But the Hassler is cheery and surprisingly challenging to sing, and most of all it doesn’t make me cranky, and some days, that’s just the best you can do.
I first sang this piece in 1994 with the Flinders University Choral Society. Like many university choirs, FUCS practiced everything *interminably*, so the soprano line is in my memory for good. I sang it again last Sunday as an alto, and completely bollocksed the line up. So I’m not sure whether it is comforting or saddening that I had real trouble finding a recording of this piece in which the choir didn’t go out of tune or out of time . And I’ve never watched so many YouTube videos in a row in which it was so self-evident that nobody was watching the conductor.
(And then there are all the versions of this piece which have been set to the same melody but in blocks of harmony. Why would you do this? Why?)
Anyway, this is, very simply, a beautiful piece of music (note that I do not call it a very simple piece of music). It’s another Mary song (‘Mary said to the angel “Here I am, the servant of the lord”‘, or possibly ‘behold the handmaiden of the Lord’, if you are in a King Jamesy mood), and deserves better treatment than it got from me on Sunday. In this recording, I love in particular the hushed way the choir sings the repeat of ‘Ecce ancilla domine’.
(but the true moral of this story is that one should always watch the conductor)