Sunday, December 23, 2012


Glória in excélsis Deo et in terra pax homínibus bonae voluntátis.

Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.

The words spoken by the angels to the shepherds announcing the  birth of Christ. In their expanded form, they are one of my favorite sections of the traditional liturgy. For this Christmas eve, here are several of my favorite settings of this text.

John Rutter's modern Classical setting. I love the jagged and shifting rhythms, edgy dissonances, and effective use of the unison voice.

U2 appropriates a portion of the lyrics, and manages to capture the way we approach God's throne with nothing of our own to offer. At its core, Christmas is about the Divine reaching down to earth, offering peace and reconciliation with Himself.

The classic carol, based on a French text of unknown authorship, has become one of the best known and loved carols of all time. It is my eldest daughter's favorite - and I must confess, one of mine as well. Robert Shaw's arrangement is still exceptional.

Poulenc's Gloria is notable for its amorphous tonality and time signatures, but also for a mood that is more subtle than merely happy. I discover something new each time I listen.

The gold standard for the Gloria is, in my opinion, the Vivaldi version. I had the opportunity to play this a few years back, completing the trifecta of magnificent Christmas choral works I dreamed of playing. (Messiah, Bach’s Magnificat, and this Gloria.)

Merry Christmas to all, and may the peace of God be with you.

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