Advent…

colorful-christmas-balls-decoration

I always liked that word.  I think it’s because that, while it necessarily harkens back to the Nativity, its very meaning suggests looking forward to a (future) arrival.  It therefore embodies both remembrance and anticipation.  And that’s kind of a pleasant thought on a cold, snowy winter day (like this one).

Over the past several years, I’ve tried to find a “seasonally appropriate” song to play.  Back in 2010, I was reminiscing about Silent Night.  In 2011 I got a little sentimental with The Christmas Song.  Last year (2012) I put my own music to the traditional Catalan carol, Song of the Birds.  For 2013, given our recent Italian journey,  I thought I’d step way back with this year’s selection.  The lyrics of the carol, Of the Father’s Love (alt. Heart) Begotten, date back to the Roman poet Aurelius Prudentius whose life spanned the 4th and 5th century A.D.  The English words we sing today are translated from his Latin poem, Corde Natus.  I’ve printed the Latin of the first verse below and, below that, have ressurected my rusty high school Latin (with a little help) to provide a more or less literal translation.

Corde natus ex parentis
Ante mundi exordium
A et O cognominatus,
ipse fons et clausula
Omnium quae sunt, fuerunt,
quaeque post futura sunt.
Saeculorum saeculis.

Of the Father’s Love Begotten

Begotten of the heart of the parent

Before the beginning of the world

Named Alpha and Omega

He is both Source and End

Of all things which are

Which were

And which shall be

Of the ages to the ages.

The version which most of you might have encountered was translated in the 19th century.  I’ve included only four of the original nine verses below.  If interested, the remainder (in Latin and English) can be found in the song’s Wikipedia entry.

Of the Father’s love begotten,
Ere the worlds began to be,
He is Alpha and Omega,
He the source, the ending He,
Of the things that are, that have been,
And that future years shall see,
Evermore and evermore!

O that birth forever blessèd,
When the virgin, full of grace,
By the Holy Ghost conceiving,
Bare the Saviour of our race;
And the Babe, the world’s Redeemer,
First revealed His sacred face,
evermore and evermore!

O ye heights of heaven adore Him;
Angel hosts, His praises sing;
Powers, dominions, bow before Him,
and extol our God and King!
Let no tongue on earth be silent,
Every voice in concert sing,
Evermore and evermore!

This is He Whom seers in old time
Chanted of with one accord;
Whom the voices of the prophets
Promised in their faithful word;
Now He shines, the long expected,
Let creation praise its Lord,
Evermore and evermore!

The music, although “newer”, is derived from a plainsong melody (Divinum Mysterium) which dates from about the 10th century.

Divinum Mysterium with Latin text.
Divinum Mysterium with Latin text.

Eventually the Corde Natus text was married to the Divinum Mysterium melody to form the carol we know today.

Like my four-verse English lyric exerpt above, I’ve played the melody over four times over in this arrangement…

So that is my musical Yuletide submission for 2013.  I’m also adding a little bonus this year… I’ve always appreciated O Come, O Come Emmanuel (Veni, Veni Emmanuel) as another song of advent with impressive lineage.  A few years ago  Mannheim Steamroller recorded an arrangement of this carol which both honours its traditional setting and adds some contemporary nuances.  Have a listen…

All that remains is for me to wish you and yours the best in the holiday season.

Detail from the Nativity in Grunewald's Isenheim Altarpiece.
Detail from the Nativity in Grunewald’s Isenheim Altarpiece.
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