Advent Calendar Day 18: Dixit Maria (Hassler)

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.


Advent Calendar Day 12 – Alma Redemptoris Mater (Victoria)

A little polyphony to start your week… and yes, it’s more Mary stuff. I don’t have much to say about this piece of music except that I find it beautiful. I can tell you that Victoria was a late 16th – early 17th century Spanish composer, and that the text is that of a hymn for Mary that is generally used in Advent (see what I did there?), but really, I chose this because I loved listening to it.

And, actually, that’s at least somewhat appropriate for this style of music. The thing with polyphony is that even if you are fluent in the language it is being sung in, it’s not generally easy to pick out meaning from the words when everyone is singing different things at different times, and composers of this era, being smart cookies, were well aware of this. Add to this an era when, perhaps, relatively few of the people listening to church music could understand Latin anyway and you get a whole lot of church music which is intended to aid contemplation and prayer rather than teach or provide meaning. (Tomorrow, we shall see some of the other things that happen, musically speaking, when the the congregation cannot, on the whole, understand the language of the church…)