Musically, Advent moving into Christmas has been a rich experience, beginning with the Advent Carol Service at Christ the Cornerstone in Milton Keynes and concluding with Christmas Eve Holy Communion, also at Cornerstone. Back in the distant summer, a high point was hearing Stile Antico sing as part of the 2010 Proms Season, and so I purchased their new release, Puer Natus Est, a performance of Advent and Christmas music from the Tudor period by Byrd, Sheppard, Tallis and Taverner. This is exquisitely beautiful, sung with precision and purity.
Another new experience has been listening to Vingt Regards sur l'Enfant - Jesus, by Olivier Messiaen. A work of twenty movements lasting nearly two hours, it's demanding stuff, and I confess to not having listened to it in one stretch. But there is a transcendent quality to this music, expressed through a sound world which is unique. Messiaen experienced synesthesia, whereby he couldn't help but associate particular colours with musical sounds, so his music is extraordinarily colourful. Two years after completing this work consisting of twenty 'watches' over the infant Jesus, Messiaen said with characteristic modesty, 'I have tried to be a Christian musician and proclaim my faith through song, but without ever succeeding.'
Again this year I've been caught up in a sense of eternity in the hugely popular Lauridsen, O Magnum Mysterium.
The Messiaen, played by Pierre-Laurent Aimard, and the Lauridsen are available on Spotify, though sadly the latter isn't sung by Polyphony, whose performance is sublime.