O Magnum Mysterium
O Magnum Mysterium – A wonderfully expressive a cappella setting of the traditional Christmas text. Carefully prepared dissonances and use of close harmonies thoughtfully paint the text as a sense of awe and wonder permeate the setting. The work concludes with the opening material sung on “Alleluia” with a soaring soprano descant. May be performed in English or Latin.
O magnum mysterium
Et admirabile sacramentum
Ut animalia viderent Dominum natum
Jacentem in praesepio!
Beata Virgo, cujus viscera
Translation in English
O great mystery,
and wonderful sacrament,
that animals should see the newborn Lord,
lying in a manger!
Blessed is the virgin whose womb
was worthy to bear
the Lord, Jesus Christ.
From Venite Adoremus
The text from the Holy Matins of Christmas describes the wonderment of the animals as they gaze on Christ: “O great mystery and wonderful sacrament, that animals should see the newborn Lord, lying in a manger!”
Famous settings of the text today include those of Spanish composer Tomás Luis de Victoria (1548-1611), French composer Francis Poulenc (1899-1963) and English, Shakespearean age composer William Byrd (1540-1623). But perhaps the best known today is the haunting motet for a cappella choir by the American composer, Morten Lauridsen (1943-).