Last Friday my mind was in an odd place, given that the liturgical season is well away from the nativity. Today is the Feast of the Assumption, or Dormition*, when according to tradition the Virgin Mary was assumed into heaven. Yes, she died, but, eh, it’s complicated. There are some doctrines of the Roman Catholic and Orthodox churches that even I hesitate to comment on because of the depths of my ignorance, despite having read a great deal about them. But anyway…
So. On Friday I was writing the opening of a new fantasy novel, the one set in an Asian-inspired world. I’d begun by listening to some Morten Lauridsen and fast-forwarding through one or two compositions that fell a bit flat for me. And then his setting of the “Magnum Mysterium” came up, sung with all the depth and warmth a professional chorus with mature voices can reach. I’ve written before that although it is not the best known setting of the text, Lauridsen’s version sounds like how I imagine the manger scene – dark, and warm, animal-scented but not too bad, and safe. Safe, protected, dim, sheltering and full of the mystery of birth and new life.
Which led me to Russian versions on the theme, including this one, which I have also done. I can’t seem to find a good recording of mature voices. It needs a little more bass fullness.
I don’t care for Whitaker as much as I do other composers, but this one is growing on me. It’s fiendishly hard to get the pitches to stay locked, but it shimmers, which is the title: Light and Gold.
And a little more Lauridsen to close. He is taking a well-known Gregorian chant and weaving around it. The sound is so warm and rich. His pieces sound easy, and they are, almost. If you work very hard, and pay attention. But they remind me of a really good sweater, or one of those moments when someone holds you close, and all is right in the world for a few heartbeats. There is a depth, and a darkness, but a good darkness, the warmth of a night when you know that love really exists.
*And WP, Dormition is indeed a word. It is not a misspelling of “soliton” or “Domitian.”