Mary, Star of the Sea

Please see the ***starred and underlined pieces below to read program notes for the Flagstaff’s “Spotless Rose: Our Lady at Christmastide” concert.

Sacreds Concert 2018 Flyer v.2.1

Mary, Star of the Sea

Program Notes

An Advent concert by Solis Camerata, sponsored by Catholic Phoenix

(Copy write, Kira Zeeman Rugen November 2018)

December 2, 2018

Veritas Preparatory Academy – Lund Center for the Arts


The Hebrew name of the Mother of Jesus was Miriam of Nazareth. Mary is, however, honored with many symbolic titles. Some are dogmatic and official while others have sprung from popular piety or local custom. The principal sources of these names for Mary are early Christian tradition and writings, the Litany of Loreto (a prayer of supplication approved by Rome in the 16th century), Marian depiction in sacred art, and Marian apparitions—miraculous visitations of Mary such as Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico (1531) and Our Lady of Fatima in Portugal (1917).

The title Star of the Sea (Latin Stella maris) dates to Medieval times. The concept of Mary as a star guiding her children toward God actually sums up the significance of her role in salvation history. Mary’s resplendence does not come from herself and is not for herself. She is not a goddess or deity, but the human mother of the Son of God, honored and venerated for her supreme obedience to the Father and receptivity to the breath of the Holy Spirit. This obedience and receptivity are what make her full of grace and a model of Christian discipleship. In the Magnificat, Mary’s own canticle of praise—set by many a composer—she exclaims, “My soul magnifies the Lord…for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his handmaiden” (Luke 1:46-48).

Over the centuries, devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary has prompted some of the most inspiring compositions in sacred literature. Often with Scriptural texts, such works span numerous cultures and languages from both the Eastern and Western Christian traditions. They range from immensely spectacular to tenderly simple, as is fitting for a figure who encompasses both. Mary is a humble Jewish maiden who became the most influential woman in history. As matriarch of the Church, she is mother to king and peasant alike. And as the mother of Jesus, Son of God and long-awaited Savior, she experienced the most profound heights of joy and depths of sorrow.

This paradoxical mingling of joy and sorrow is reflected in many a Christmas carol. We marvel at the beauty and fragility of the babe in Bethlehem, the exaltation of the shepherds, the reverence of the magi, and especially the love between mother and child. One stanza later, the same carol may call to mind the reason this child was born: to redeem the world through suffering. The mother of Jesus, at his side from manger to tomb, embodies for us the true spirit of Advent. With her, let us enter into expectant contemplation of this season and all it holds.

Written by Claire Halbur

Director of Sacred Music

Saint Mary Magdalene Roman Catholic Church

Part I – Advent Chants and Motets through the Ages

***I- Ave Maria

The Ave Maria liturgical text originates from the Bible with the initial words of salutation from Gabriel to Mary announcing the birth of Christ. The first portion of the text can be found in Luke 1:28, with Gabriel saying: “Ave Maria, Gratiae plena, Dominus Tecum (Hail Mary, Full of Grace. The Lord is with Thee). Later in Luke 1:42, Elizabeth says to Mary, Benedicta tu in mulieribus, et benedictus fructus ventris tui, Jesus (Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.) Around the eleventh century, those two verses joined together in the form of a prayer. The last portion of the prayer became finalized by the Council of Trent in the Roman Breviary, 1568. However, its roots can be traced back to the Council of Ephesus in 341 which is accredited for the phrase Sancta Maria, Mater Dei, ora pro nobs peccatoribus, nun et in hora mortis. Amen (Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and in the hour of our death. Amen). The full version of the prayer, including the third section, became finalized by the Council of Trent in the Roman Breviary, 1568. Of the Marian texts so often set to music, Ave Maria is the most frequently employed, and many settings are the most recognizable and memorable as a central pillar for Catholic devotion.

***Ave Maria – Josquin Des Prez

Tonight’s program includes three versions of Ave Maria in chronological order. Josquin Des Prez’s version is counted among the first polyphonic settings of Ave Maria. It includes iconic features of fifteenth century compositional methods. We hear overlapping imitative counterpoint with imitation appearing in all equal voices, compared against sections of homophony. Few composers have had higher renown or greater influence during their life than Josquin Des Prez (ca. 1450-1521). This is partially due to Ottaviano Petrucci, the first printer of polyphonic music who published three books of Josquin’s Masses to meet public demand. Additionally, Josquin’s influence stems from the praise of his contemporaries, who thought he was the best composer of their time. Even Martin Luther said “Josquin is the master of notes. They must do as he wills; as for the other composers, they have to do as the notes will.” For over a century after his death, many praised and compared Josquin to Virgil and Michelangelo as peers in artistic majesty.

***Ave Maria – Bach/Gounod

In 1853, Charles Gounod (1818-1893) improvised a new melody over J.S. Bach’s (1685-1750) Well Tempered Clavier Prelude No.1 in C Major from 1722. Gounod originally published this new melody for violin or cello with piano, but in 1859 he added a version for voice, set to the Ave Maria prayer. This, along with the Schubert melody, are among of the most famous melodies set to Ave Maria.

Ave Maria – Morten Lauridsen

Finally, Morten Lauridsen’s (b. 1943) version of Ave Maria holds similarities in construction to that of Josquin Des Prez. Both settings utilize overlapping imitation and fugal phrases that are set equally between voices. However, Lauridsen’s approach uses a language which includes the lush modern harmony, broad ranges, deep resonant chords and a brushing of dissonance. A self-proclaimed enthusiast of Josquin’s music, Lauridsen’s setting compliments the techniques found in Josquin, nicely rounding out this sampling of Ave Maria musical settings.

II -Ave Maris Stella and Ave Verum Corpus

Ave Maris Stella may be the earliest of the sung Marian chants. It originated in the eighth century, or possibly earlier, from an oral tradition. By the tenth century, worshipers sang Ave Maris Stella as a prominent hymn to honor the Virgin. Originally printed in Notker’s sequence De nativitate, the words Maris Stella refer to “Mary, Star of the Sea”, the name of tonight’s program. It is a prayer of humble devotion for peace, light, protection and the glory of Mary’s son, Christ.

***Ave Maris Stella – Gioachino Rossini

Ave Maris Stella – Carlo Rossini

Gioachino Rossini’s (1792-1868) version of Ave Maris Stella comes from a series of sacred arrangements and compositions by Carlo Rossini, a priest/organist/composer/conductor. He penned this antiphon during his twenty-seven years as the choirmaster at St. Paul’s Catholic Cathedral in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. A nearly unknown twentieth-century gem, this tranquil piece fits nicely alongside a Palestrina or Byrd motet. After each refrain, a haunting melody accompanied by compelling harmonies alternates with the original Ave Maris Stella chant.

***Ave Verum Corpus – Wolfgang Mozart

During the year 1791, when Wolfgang Mozart (1756-1791) composed Ave Verum Corpus, the church in Austria set down new compositional rules which favored a conservative approach to music, leaning toward shorter pieces with textural clarity and simplicity. Mozart, aware of the Imperial ban on elaborate church music, composed this Eucharistic hymn with that in mind. Written for and performed on the Feast of Corpus Christi, the piece has since been revered for its ethereal colors and simple yet soaring melodies. However, the motet is sung throughout the year, as the text addresses Jesus’ birth to a virgin and His sacrifice on the cross for all mankind. The sotto voce (subdued voice) motet shows restraint in its brevity and unpretentious ease, creating an atmosphere of peace.

Ave Maris Stella – Edvard Grieg

Edvard Grieg (1843-1907) wrote his version of Ave Maris Stella in Copenhagen, Norway in 1893. He originally set the piece for voice and piano and later created this version for SSAATTBB choir. He wrote the motet during a compositional period of intense exploration of Norwegian folk music. Grieg’s folk-like melody and Romantic chromaticism come through the texture in this serene and angelic setting. The history and culture of Norway is at one with the sea, mirroring the poignant text.

III – Ave Generosa and Alma Redemptoris Mater

Ave Generosa – Hildegard Von Bingen

Hildegard Von Bingen’s (1098-1179) music does not resemble other twelfth century chant because she never received a formal musical education. Instead, we see monophonic writing with extraordinarily wide ranges, ascending intervals of a fifth, soaring melodies, highly melismatic melodies and alternating soloists and choir. Her text pairs with the melodic action in the music, implying drama and narrative, which was a rarity in twelfth century compositions. Much of Hildegard von Bingen’s repertoire honors the mysticism and reverence for the Virgin Mary, such as the piece on tonight’s program, Ave Generosa.

Ave Generosa – Ola Gjielo

Ola Gjielo (B. 1971) borrows some traits found in Hildegard’s music in his version of Ave Generosa such as soaring melodies, melismas within the voices, and textual pairing with melodic action which pays homage to the mysterious story of Mary. We also hear in his joyful version a juxtaposition of sustained and moving moments that are contrasted by a modal middle section of haunting harmonic structures.

***Alma Redemptoris Mater – Giovanni Pierluigi Palestrina

Tonight’s concert wouldn’t be complete without including Giovanni Pierluigi Palestrina’s (1525-1594) best known Marian motet, Alma Redemptoris Mater. The original text of this work is a prayer to the Virgin Mary, to the “open gateway to heaven and star of the sea.” The original chant stems from a manuscript dating from the twelfth century and is mentioned in Chaucer’s Prioress’s Tale. It comes from the Liturgy of the Hours and is one of four seasonal antiphons sung to honor the Blessed Virgin Mary. Alma Redemptoris Mater is the Advent Marian antiphon in that set.

IV- Magnificat

Magnificat -Claudio Monteverdi and

***Magnificat – Kira Zeeman Rugen

The Canticle of Mary, or Magnificat, comes from the Gospel of Luke 1:46-55. It is sung as a portion of daily Vespers in the Liturgy of the Hours. The prayer is Mary’s praise to the Lord, where she proclaims the Lord’s greatness with humility and grace as she tells Elizabeth of her joy in him. We begin this set with the triumphant opening of Monteverdi’s Magnificat.

Kira Z. Rugen composed St. Brieuc Magnificat on a commission by Goulven Airault, for the Petits Chanteurs de Saint-Brieuc Cathédrale in Brittany, France. The premiere occurred in St. Brieuc, France for the Petits Chanteurs de Saint-Brieuc Cathédrale on their annual St. Cecilia’s Day celebration on November 26, 2017. Additionally, the choir performed the piece in église Saint-Malo de Dinan, église Sainte-Croix de Saint Malo, and église Saint-Martin de Janze, Sanctuaire de Rocamadour, France, and Castell de Calonge, église Saint Sauveur La Rochelle, Spain. Finally, they performed the work in Barcelona for the Congrès de Barcelone – Pueri Cantores in July 2018.

Goulven Airault asked Kira Rugen to write a piece for his children and youth choir that could both speak to the love and adoration they feel toward Mother Mary and her love for Christ. But also, Airault desired a chronicle of music that could bring the choir closer together as friends and an ensemble through their collective memories while performing a meaningful work at this juncture of their lives. To bridge the gap between the culture of America and the culture of Brittany, Dr. Rugen borrowed from the European cathedral choir sound, and then blended it with colors frequently heard closer to home. She found inspiration from multiple sources including ancient South American Catholic music, such as the Peruvian Catholic motet Hanacpachap Cusicuinin, the American film music industry, Latin rhythms such as Rumba and Bosa Nova, seductive harmony and mixed modes found in Spanish romantic ballads, and the great masters such as Bach, Beethoven and Tchaikovsky. The version tonight has been altered to fit SATB voicing instead of the original voicing for a youth choir of SAB.

Part II – Mary at Christmastide

I – Medieval Marian Carols

***Nowell Sing We – 15th Century, English, Anonymous

Medieval dance carols are often enthusiastic in their jubilation, shown through syncopated and cheerful tunes and rhythms. Nowell Sing We is a carol which mixes middle English with Latin while demonstrating dance-like rhythms and catchy melodies. It invites ‘all and sum’ (everyone) to sing in the joyful celebration.

***There is No Rose of Such Virtue – 15th century, and Benjamin Britten

Medieval Christmas tunes remind listeners of an older age as many pieces held haunting melodies and modal counterpoint. The original fifteenth century Ther is no Rose of Swych Vertu resides in that ancient sound of modal harmony. The translation of the ancient text imagines the Virgin as a healer and expresses the Virgin’s goodness and purity as rose having divine power or divine light. The text gently reveals Mary’s purity and holiness with her newborn son through the scope of a lullaby. Tonight, we’ll hear the medieval example, followed by Benjamin Britten’s famous penning of the ancient text from his A Ceremony of Carols (1942). Britten wrote the work while aboard a vessel traveling from the United States to his home in England during WWII. With the constant threat of U-boat attacks during the long journey, the ship took a stop in Halifax, where Britten came across a copy of The English Galaxy of Shorter Poems. He found several poems that shape an overarching musical telling of the Nativity.

***Angelus ad Virginem – 13th Century, English Anonymous

A mention in Chaucer’s Miller’s Tale attests to the popularity of this festive medieval Christmas carol. It likely came to Britain with the French in the thirteenth century, and is found in the Dubliner Troper of 1361. The original arrangement has the melody buried in the middle voice, surrounded by awkward Medieval counterpoint which obscured the original tune. We chose a later version of the carol to demonstrate the beauty of the famous melody.

II – Celtic and British Marian Carols

***The Angel Gabriel Came Down – 14th century Basque anonymous

This medieval tune may be based on the carol Angelus ad Virginum. The text is about the Annunciation, when the angel Gabriel tells Mary that she will give birth to the son of God, and comes from a portion of theMagnificat found in Luke 1:26-38. The tunes and words were written on a fourteenth century minstrel manuscript from the Basque region of Spain, an area founded by Celtic tribes. This Basque carol, known in the native language as Birjina gaztettobat zegoen, was collected by the French teacher and composer, Charles Bordes in Archives de la tradition Basque (1895). Then later, the English Reverend Sabine Baring-Gould (the composer of Onward Christian Soldiers) penned the English text.

***Once in Royal David’s City – 19th century by Henry Gauntlett/Cecil Alexander

This carol became famous due to Dr. Arthur Henry Mann’s arrangement being sung every year as a part of the annual Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols at King’s Chapel in Cambridge, England. However, its origin is Irish in nature. Mrs. Cecil Frances Alexander, An Irish Anglican bishop’s wife, wrote a collection of poems and hymns in 1848 entitled Hymns for Little Children. Later, English organist Henry Gauntlett wrote the now recognizable melody for ‘Once in Royal David’s City,’ in which the lyrics in the second verse state: “Mary was that mother mild, Jesus Christ her little child.” Sing with us on this timeless carol!

***What Child is This (Greensleeves – England 15th Century) Arranged by Kira Z. Rugen

Originally printed in a 1580 broadsheet under the name A New Northern dittye, Greensleeves (a Romanesca) became an unofficial anthem of England due to its popularity and distinctive folk song modalities. Contrary to popular stories, King Henry VIII did not compose this ‘dittye.’ In the Nineteenth Century, however, this famous tune received the now familiar Christmas words, What Child is This. Over the centuries, the melody has stayed largely the same with only small variations of a raised or lowered leading tone. Sing with us on this timeless carol!

***Lully, Lulla- (Coventry Carol)

The Coventry Carol is an English Christmas carol which dates from the sixteenth century. It came from a play performed in the 1530s on the steps of the cathedral in Coventry, England called The Pageant of the Shearmen and Tailors. It depicts the slaughter of the innocents at Herod’s command. The song describes Jesus with all the other infants who are threatened by Herod and the sadness of Mary with other mothers who mourned the potential loss of their children. The text “Lully, Lulla” is meant to portray what Mary and other mothers sang to their babies during King Herod’s reign of terror. This original version has only three voices, but exhibits a cross relation, or the simultaneous sounding of both the F and F-sharp, drawing attention to dissonance before the final cadence.

***Suantraí ár Slánaitheora (The Savior’s Lullaby) – Traditional Scottish Carol, arr. F. O’Carroll

Originally from Wexford and Waterford, Ireland, Fiontán Ó Cearbhaill worked as a railway clerk in Ireland for 27 years before earning his degree in music through evening courses at Trinity College Dublin. Most of his compositions encompassed sacred music for the Roman Catholic Church. He took this Scottish carol, a lullaby from Mary to her child, and created a haunting arrangement for unaccompanied choir and soprano solo. In the gentle Gaelic lyrics, Mary sings:

III – German Marian Carols

In Dulci Jubilo (Good Christian Men, Rejoice) – Heironymus Praetorius 1560-1629

This age-old German tune (also known with the text Good Christian Men, Rejoice) first appeared in a manuscript in Leipzig University Library (Codex 1305) around 1400, although some versions of the song may have existed as a folk-dance tune prior to the 1320s. The melody could be found in manuscript scores for both Protestants and Catholics. In the Lutheran tradition, it is called “a very ancient song (uraltes Lied) for Christmas-eve.” Some speculate that it is one of the Roman Catholic melodies that Luther retained due to its beauty and familiarity, often sung for Christmas Eve processions. It is a macaronic song (i.e., mixed-text German-Latin carol) and the text speaks of the nativity and Mary’s care and concern for her new born child lying in the manger. This version is by Hieronymus Praetorius. Born in 1560 in Hamburg, he served as the organist at Jacobikirche and the associated chapel of St Gertrud. His 1622 eight-voice version of In Dulce Jubilo is indicative of the polychoral school which several composers utilized in the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries.

***Es is ein Rose Ensprungen (Lo, How a Rose E’er Blooming) – Michael Praetorius 1571-1621

Although we don’t know the identity of the composer and poet for Es ist ein Ros entsprungen, we do know the original tune had its first publication in the Speyer Hymnal from Cologne in 1599. Ten years later in 1609, Michael Praetorius wrote his now familiar harmonization to the two original verses which were known mainly in Catholic circles at that time. In 1844, Pastor Friedrich Layriz published 3-5 additional verses that are regularly sung today. The text comes from Old Testament prophecies found in Isaiah, foretelling the coming of Jesus through lineage of the Tree of Jesse. The rose symbolically references the Virgin Mary through the words ‘ein Ros’ (rose) which in Old German is ‘ein reis’ (a shoot or sprig). The text could both refer to a spotless rose, but also symbolizing the lineage of Jesus through the line of Jesse. We hear this carol during the Christmas season due to the foretelling of Jesus’ birth.

***Resonet in Laudibus (Let the Voice of Praise Resound) – Orlando de Lasso 1532-1594

This familiar carol has been arranged, translated and discussed since the year 1360, when the oldest known form of Resonet in Laudibus (called Resonet cum laudibus) was published in the Mosburg Gradual. It quotes an older German carol by the name of Joseph, liber neve myn (Joseph, lieber Joseph mein) from the Leipzig manuscript of 1305. The tune began in the Mixo-Lydian mode at first, shifting then to Lydian and finally settling in an Ionian mode that is the melody we are familiar with now. Popular as a carol in both the Catholic and Lutheran communities, the text joyfully narrates the Immaculate Conception of Mary, and the birth of her son, Jesus. A contemporary of Martin Luther, Georg Wicel, said in 1550 that the carol is “one of the chief Christmas songs of joy.” Considered one of the Renaissance’s great composers, Lasso (or Lassus) authoritatively wrote in all genres and techniques. His music explores more chromatic and intrepid harmonies than most of his contemporaries, save perhaps Don Carlo Gesualdo.

Silent Night, Stille Nacht – Arranged by Dr. Kira Z. Rugen

Kira Zeeman Rugen roots her adaptation of Silent Night on the earliest version of the famous carol. The composition honors the original melody and harmony in the upper voices, paired against figures in the lower voices which are meant to mimic the pluck of a guitar. As the text alternates between German and English, we hear the poetry about Mary in the words, “round yon virgin, mother and child.” Each verse demonstrates familiar versions of the melody which are then answered by a haunting soprano melody. Throughout the piece, Kira Rugen’s musical expression conveys a sense of longing and nostalgia, closing with a simple soprano duet. Silent Night, Stille Nacht was composed for the Phoenix Chorale, Charles Bruffy conductor, and premiered on their 2016 program “A Chorale Christmas: Silent Night.”

***Flagstaff audiences will hear the original version of Silent Night, composed by Franz Gruber for guitar and voices in 1816 after the organ at his church broke down.

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