Searching for William Armiger - 4 results.
Of all the seasons in the church year, the period of Advent, with its powerful combination of hope, anticipation and yearning, carries for me, as a cathedral musician, an indefinable yet indelible spectrum of memory ranging from early childhood to the present day. Who cannot but be moved and even spiritually shaken by the impact of Palestrina's glorious Advent Responsory, or the strength of those hymns?
But at its apex come the magnificent texts and plainsong chant of The Great O's
— those antiphons which bring to a climax in the few days before Christmas Eve all that this penitential season encapsulates. O Oriens, that wonderful text set for December 21st, offers up, from the depths of darkness and despair, a plea for some bright gleam of hope.
In this setting, the two choirs can be set as far apart as is practicable for the building, so that the antiphonal properties of the choral forces sound against each other, beginning with an almost wistful and misty introduction which, gathering strength from the text, increases in vigour and power to the fortissimo tutti of "Splendor lucis aeterna". The choral volume then gradually fades away to almost nothing in a quiet repeat of the opening, and draws to a gentle conclusion in the bare, open 5th of two upper voices, in a re-statement of the slow, plaintive O Oriens.
This simple little setting was composed for the small rural parish church choir at Kempsford, in Gloucestershire just down the road from Down Ampney of RVW fame. The church has a small but very nice Nicholson 2-manual tracker organ and a small keen choir devotedly led by Diana Lee-Browne.
The piece is a lullaby with quiet accompaniment, and should swing gently along without any great contrasts of dynamic or tempo, taking great care not to wake the baby!
This, until recently the last of the Great O sequence of Advent Antiphons in Church of England liturgy, reflects the awe and wonder that such a momentous event could happen to someone who otherwise might have been seen as just another ordinary Jewish girl.
Following the traditional plainsong introduction, the two choirs gently exchange these expressions of wonder and incredulity but, as the motet moves to its climax, that quiet wonder is transformed into a jubilant expression of joy which then returns to a quiet almost introspective contemplation, underpinned by a gentle "Ave Maria".
The traditional text expresses an intense entreaty, seeking a sure sign of the Lord's coming to the succour of an oppressed people. In this short Advent motet, the quiet opening gradually rises in a crescendo of three brief but increasingly powerful fanfares of anticipation, each exclamation punctuated by a moment of silence. This dramatic urgency then gives way to a child-like plea - a prayer for a long-awaited liberation.