Choral Music

Have mercy upon me, O God

Peter penitent - listen

A choral arrangement of Psalm 51: This is probably my favourite choral piece, period. If you’ve never heard Allegri’s “Miserere,” then prepare for something exquisite. The piece is a choral setting of Psalm 51, a psalm that was penned by King David, expressing deep remorse for his sin. It is traditionally sung during the penitential season of Lent, a beautiful meditation that invites us to confess our own sins to God. The text appears below the video in both EnglishRead more

Lo! He comes with clouds descending

Mist and clouds at daybreak - listen

During the season of Advent, we think not only about the first coming of Christ, but about his second coming. This moving hymn calls us to anticipate that glorious day. (Text by John Cennick, Charles Wesley). Lo! He comes with clouds descending Lo! He comes with clouds descending, Once for favoured sinners slain; Thousand thousand saints attending Swell the triumph of his train: Alleluia! God appears, on earth to reign. Every eye shall now behold him Robed in dreadful majesty;Read more

The Song of Simeon

A depiction of baby Jesus presented at the temple by William Brassey Hole (detail)

The first two chapters of Luke’s Gospel include four hymns of praise that connect the New Testament with the Old Testament. They are: the song of Mary, the song of Zechariah, the song of the angel choir, and the song of Simeon. Each of these songs is an expression of praise to God that he has fulfilled the promises of the Old Testament by sending Jesus. The Song of Simeon, also called “Nunc Dimittis” (from the Latin for “Now youRead more

Be still, my soul

A tranquil lake - listen

“Be still, and know that I am God.” – Psalm 46:10 (KJV) “Be still, my soul” by Katharina von Schlegel (1752), trans. Jane Laurie Borthwick (1855): Be still, my soul, the Lord is on thy side; Bear patiently the cross of grief or pain. Leave to thy God to order and provide; In every change He, faithful, will remain. Be still, my soul, thy best, thy heavenly friend Through thorny ways leads to a joyful end. Be still, my soul:Read more

August 15: The Assumption of Mary

"The Assumption of the Virgin," Bartolome Esteban Murillo, 1670 - listen

Curiosity and wonder: This is one of the feast days in the Christian calendar that it’s worth knowing about, but not – in my opinion – being dogmatic about. There is a belief, based on tradition and shared by both Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Christians, that Mary was taken up into heaven like Enoch and Elijah, rather than dying as most of us do. Protestant believers generally do not embrace this teaching because it is not explicitly stated inRead more

Experiencing Psalm 107

Rembrandt's Sea of Galilee

Sumsion’s “They that go down to the sea in ships” sung by the Hereford Cathedral Choir This is a six minute choral piece. If choral music is unfamiliar territory for you, take the time to sit quietly and look a the text below while listening to the piece. You’ll notice how the composer has used every tool at his disposal to meditate on the meaning and emotion of the text (Psalm 107: 23-30). They that go down to the seaRead more

Lessons & Carols for Christmas Eve

Boys choir - watch

The traditional Anglican service of lessons and carols is beautiful and meaningful. It interweaves readings, hymns, and anthems. The readings and the music walk through the promise of salvation in the Old Testament in preparation for the coming of Messiah. If you don’t happen to be in a position to take in a service like this one – as it is done at King’s College, Cambridge – then set aside 80 minutes or so to enjoy this version. This isRead more

Rejoice, mortals! (Advent is coming)

Detail of painting depicting the Triumph of Christ (by Dore) - listen

“Albricias Mortales” – Rejoice, mortals! This is a baroque piece by 18th century Mexican composer Manuel de Sumaya (sometimes spelled “Zumaya”). They were certainly making some very beautiful choral music in Mexico in the 1700s. This particular piece is dedicated to Mary, and combines orchestra and choir, giving us a taste of celebration. It fits in beautifully with the season of Advent because it points to the coming of Christ – not just his first coming, but also his secondRead more