And was the holy Lamb of God,
On Englands pleasant pastures seen!
- And did those feet, William Blake

lørdag 31. desember 2016

In the Bleak Midwinter

As the year draws to its long-awaited close, it is time for one final blogpost in 2016. This month has been one of very short posts, and the present one will be no exception. As a soundtrack by which to conclude this year, I therefore present to you the Christmas carol In the Bleak Midwinter, as performed by the Choir of King's College, Cambridge. The carol is based on a poem by Christina Rosetti, and I have included the poem below the video.

In the Bleak Midwinter

In the bleak midwinter, frosty wind made moan,
Earth stood hard as iron, water like a stone;
Snow had fallen, snow on snow, snow on snow,
In the bleak midwinter, long ago.

Our God, Heaven cannot hold Him, nor earth sustain;
Heaven and earth shall flee away when He comes to reign.
In the bleak midwinter a stable place sufficed
The Lord God Almighty, Jesus Christ.

Enough for Him, whom cherubim, worship night and day,
Breastful of milk, and a mangerful of hay;
Enough for Him, whom angels fall before,
The ox and ass and camel which adore.

Angels and archangels may have gathered there,
Cherubim and seraphim thronged the air;
But His mother only, in her maiden bliss,
Worshipped the beloved with a kiss.

What can I give Him, poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd, I would bring a lamb;
If I were a Wise Man, I would do my part;
Yet what I can I give Him: give my heart.

mandag 26. desember 2016

A rose from the root of Jesse - a Christmas song in Norwegian and German

One of my favourite Christmas songs is the German song Es ist ein Ros entsprungen, a text of an unknown author. The music is a traditional German composition, and it was arranged for choral use by Michael Praetorius (1571-1621). The song is regularly performed during the Advent and Christmas season in my village, but then of course in its Norwegian rendition, "Det hev ei rose sprunge", which was translated by Peter Hognestad in the period 1919-21. The text of the song is a meditation on the birth of Christ as a fulfillment of Isaiah 11:1, where it says that a shoot will spring up from the root of Jesse, i.e. Christ. Jesse is the father of King David, and since the Gospel of Luke emphasizes that Joseph was of the house of David, Christ is seen as belonging to the branch of Jesse and thus fulfilling Isaiah's prophecy.

Below are two renditions, one in Norwegian and one in German.

tirsdag 20. desember 2016

Folkefrelsar til oss kom, the Norwegian translation of Veni Redemptor Gentium

Like my previous blogpost, this one will be short and focus on a piece of music for the Advent season. In this post, I present to you the Norwegian translation of the Ambrosian hymn Veni Redemptor Gentium, "come, redeemer of the people", Folkefrelsar til oss kom.. The authorship of this hymn has been attributed to Bishop Ambrose of Milan (d.397). We do know that Ambrose did write a number of hymns, but we also know that many hymns attributed to him and labelled with the term "Ambrosian chant" - most famously Te Lucis Ante Terminum - were composed at a later date.

The present rendition is from a concert on the feast of St. Lucia in Aker church near Oslo, given by Kvindelige Studenters Sangforening (The Singer Union of Female Students) in 2009. The present arrangement deviates somewhat from the more typical version sung in church by added elaborations which draw on Norwegian folk music for its sound. The text is the translation into Nynorsk by Bernt Støylen in 1906, and it is included in the Norwegian hymnal and the second hymn.

For an English translation of the Latin hymn, see here.

For a blogpost by Clerk of Oxford on various English translations, see here.

For further blogposts concerning Ambrose:

Ambrose and the cult of SS Gervasius and Protasius

Ambrose and the cult of SS Nazarius and Celsus

A different rendition of Folkefrelsar til oss kom

mandag 12. desember 2016

Veni Veni Emmanuel

Advent is progressing rapidly and Christmas is just a few days away. For a last-year PhD candidate, this means to be shoulder-deep in writing and in sundry preparations that are required before leaving for home and the Christmas holiday (and more writing, but hopefully on a different text than at present). As usual at the end of term, my work means that I have less energy left for blogging. So, in order to keep up some activity here, I will give you this brief blogpost featuring three versions of one of my all-time favourite songs for Advent, Veni veni Emmanuel.

I first heard this song in elementary school, probably in connection with the marking of Advent which the classes performed for each other towards the end of term. Or it might have been for the school's Christmas feast, or simply our teacher's attempt to provide us with some culture. In any case, the lyrics - sung in Norwegian - and the music stuck with me and returns to me each Advent, even though I have not yet learned the complete text.

The song is a famous one, and is often - even in the Norwegian hymnal - marked as a text written by an anonymous author in the twelfth century. This is a popular claim, but the earliest evidence of the text comes from early eighteenth-century Germany. The song is a synthesis of the seven O antiphons, a name given to seven antiphons for Magnificat (i.e. performed during the office of Vesper), which address Christ in different titles drawn from the prophecies of Isaiah, which are believed to have foretold the coming of Christ.

Below are three versions of the song, two with the Latin text, one with an English translation. I had hoped to provide a Norwegian version instead, but could find none to my liking.

Enjoy, and have a happy Advent.