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See How Bright Her Beams Decline

The work year of the professional choir at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception (of which I am a member) is about to conclude, because today is the feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The choir is given an annual hiatus from August 16 until the Sunday after Labor Day. If you want to hear some good choral music, here is what we will be singing today at the Noon Mass at the National Shrine:

  • J. F. Doppelbauer (1918–1989), Kleine Messe in F
  • Heitor Villa-Lobos (1881–1959), Ave Maria (1938)
  • Giovanni da Palestrina (c. 1525–1594), Assumpta est Maria (à 6)
  • John Tavener, Hymn to the Mother of God (1985)
The Palestrina motet is one of the classics written for this feast (based on the famous Gregorian antiphon, usually sung at the Magnificat in Vespers), from which he derived his own Missa Assumpta est Maria. This is my first time singing the Villa-Lobos piece, and it has confirmed my admiration of his music, although it is only a decadent miniature. If you don't know it already, have a look at Sir John Beaumont's beautiful 17th-century text for this feast, Who Is She Ascends So High? (one line is quoted as the title of this post). He would probably be a much better-known poet of that era, except that he left his major collection of work in a manuscript, which is now lost. Here's his heartbreaking poem Of His Dear Son, Gervase, and some of his other poems can be found in the Humanities Digital Information Service.

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