Golden Light for the New Year

St Mark's New YearHappy New Year from the underground!

Last Sunday was January 5, the last of the twelve days of the Christmas liturgical season. Our service of Compline fell on this night —  “Twelfth Night,” which was also the Eve of the Epiphany. Both of the themes of the birth of Christ and Divine Light were captured by one of the anthems we sang at Compline: Lux Aurumque. It was a most meditative moment, with the dark space of the cathedral punctuated by the Christmas lights, which you can see in the picture taken on New Year’s Eve. By January 5, the Labyrinth was no longer there, and the only lights were those on the trees and suspended on the walls — but it still gives one an impression of what it was like.

Lux Aurumque was written in 2009 by the composer Eric Whitacre, to words by the poet Edward Esch which were translated into Latin by Charles Anthony Silvestri. The use of Latin gives a kind of ancient, evocative quality to the words, and enhances the mystical effect of the music. Whitacre composed a version for mixed voices at first, but then did a version for men’s voices, which is what we sang.

Esch’s poem:

warm and heavy
as pure gold,
and the angels sing softly
to the newborn babe.

Silvestri’s words:

pura velut aurum,
et canunt angeli,
canunt moliter natum,
modo natum.

(Click to play)

If you want to learn more about Eric Whitacre and see the YouTube Virtual Choir singing the original version, click here.

I wish you many blessings in 2014.

  1. #1 by Laura G on January 11, 2014 - 7:18 pm

    Thanks, Ken! Beautiful piece, beautifully done. My Dad and I sang some Whitacre with the PLU Choral Union – I believe we did this one in the mixed voices version.

  2. #2 by Ken Peterson on January 13, 2014 - 9:43 am

    Thanks Laura! Listening to the mixed voices version really brought home to me how the sounds of Latin are rich, and easy to pronounce, and yet not being a conversational language provides a vehicle for singers from all over the world to share a common, mystical space. Anyone want to comment on this?

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