Saturday, February 17, 2007

Beethoven, Mass in C: Sanctus

My college choir sang this Mass with the local Symphony Orchestra. Of its many beauty spots, one particularly stuck in my mind: the hushed opening of the Sanctus ("Holy, holy, holy").

I remember our choir director remarking that it was a hard passage for today's singers to do "in character" because our culture has lost its knowledge of the holy, its sense of reverence. My mission in writing this was to express what that man was talking about. Here's to you, Doc:

O ancient vision of the emerald throne,
Of distant chorus prostrate on the wing
And veiled from glory of the Living One
To Whom the censers waft and seraphs sing:

“Holy, and holy, holy is the Lord,
Of armies God!” Though bright as suns,
Invisible and mighty, to the Word
They hide their feet and faces, every one.

Nigh mute with worship, stunned by glory, poor
In spirit under Him their rites adore:
So we in coming ages shall unite
In fear and praise beneath the throne of Light.

IMAGE: Tetramorph or seraph. Location: Duomo, Anagni (Lazio), Italy. Photo Credit: Scala / Art Resource, NY

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