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VOCES8 isn’t ready for Christmas to end and neither are we

J-P Mauro - published on 01/13/23

The world's premier sacred choir has continued to release hymns appropriate for Christmas after Epiphany.

The modern day masters of sacred choral music, VOCES8, are not ready to let go of the spirit of Christmas, as they continue to produce hymns appropriate for the season after Epiphany. Today, we’re listening to one of their most recent releases, “O Nata Lux,” written by the esteemed 16th-century English composer Thomas Tallis

The text of this hymn was actually drawn from a hymn for the Feast of the Transfiguration, but it is often performed for the Christmas season as well. It’s easy to see why this hymn could resonate with Christmas, as the first line “O nata lux de lumine,” translates to “O light born of light,” which many listeners can’t help but associate with the Nativity. It is so popular as a Christmas hymn that Pacific Lutheran University has titled their annual Christmas concert O Nata Lux; the tune is a staple feature.

While Tallis is the first composer to set this text to music, the original author of the text is unknown. The Latin prayer is believed to have originated in the 10th century, but it did not appear in print until the publishing of the Cantiones Sacrae, a collection of 40 sacred choral hymns, in 1625. 

VOCES8 gives this medieval song a fantastic treatment that is marked by their attention to dynamics. The volume of the singers swells and shrinks, but even when they sing barely above a whisper, the song demands the attention of the listener. The group was aided by the excellent acoustics of St. Bartholomäus-Kirche, Pegnitz, the German church in which they made the recording. Here, the church almost acts like a 9th member of the choir, lifting their voices to ring through the high-rafted ceiling. 

The choir has continued to release Christmas themed recordings in the weeks since the holiday, including “In the Stillness” by Sally Beamish; a 19th-century version of “We Three Kings” titled “Die Könige,” by Peter Cornelius; and “Bethlehem Down” by Peter Warlock. Visit VOCES8’s YouTube channel to hear them all. 

Catholic MusicChristmasHymnMedievalSacred Music
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