Christmas Music Matters: Carols at the Symphony: Messe de Minuit

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Dear Readers and Listeners,

Happy New Year!

New Year’s Day is the 7th Day of Christmas, in Western Liturgical terms, the Octave of Christmas. In the Christian West nowadays, it is celebrated as the Solemnity of Mary, the Mother of God among Roman Catholics, and among Anglicans, the Feast of the Holy Name of Jesus. On the Jesuit calendar, it is the name day of the Society of Jesus.

In the Byzantine East, January 1 is the Feast of the Circumcision of Christ (and His naming day), as well as the Feast of St. Basil the Great.

Today, while we are still in the 12 Days of Christmas, but a bit removed from the Feast itself, I thought we’d listen to a symphonic piece connected to Christmas.

Around 1694, Marc-Antoine Charpentier, the “maître de musique (music master) to the Jesuits in Paris, working first for their collège of Louis-le-Grand and then for the church of Saint-Louis adjacent to the order’s professed house on the rue Saint-Antoine,” wrote a Midnight Mass for Christmas, based on carols.

The task is quintessentially Jesuit: to use things that are beautiful and familiar to speak to the common people about the Sacred.

In this excellent recording, we first hear the original French Carol, and then how Charpentier uses it in his Mass:

In this more traditional recording, we have the Mass itself without the original carols:

Enjoy, and have a blessed 2016!

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Steven A. Armstrong
Tutor, Editor, Consultant

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