For mainstream Christian worship, is today about picking Christmas carols that happen to mention the Magi? “The First Nowell” –decent. “W3K” and “What Child Is This” leave me wanting, but the people seem to expect to sing them. Lots of my colleagues like “What Star Is This” set to the tune Puer Nobis. Usually I like the music of Praetorius, but this tune doesn’t thrill me. While I appreciate the shape of the melody to rise in the middle, those five high notes out of six in the center of the hymn don’t always get the robust sound of a congregation behind them.
As for texts, Psalm 72 is pretty majestic. I adapted the preliminary ICEL version to a jazz harmonization twenty years ago. Haven’t used it since; I think the words need a little teasing out for a good contemporary setting. The Benedictine hymnwriter Genevieve Glen has a nice text, “The Star of Morning.” Her third verse (of five) is good:
Grant us the faith no darkness daunts
And guide us to the dawn that haunts
Our longing for salvation’s day,
However near or far away.
This image of dawn being haunting for us: this is an unusual twist. The text, by the way, is copyright 2002 by the Benedictine Nuns of the Abbey of St. Wallburga, and published by OCP Publications. You can catch many of the good sister’s hymn texts in the publication Magnificat.
As for the audio above, it’s the Sixteen, directed by Harry Christophers, Orlando di Lasso’s setting of “Omnes de Saba” (All from Sheba). The text is from Isaiah 60:6 and Psalm 72:10. I like the Anonymous 4 singing an anonymous setting on their masterful disc On Yoolis Night, which is still on the Christmas rotation in the family car’s cd player.
Anybody with Epiphany recommendations, loves, things like that?