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  • Writer's picturepeter-relph

New Composition Announcement: "O Virgo virginum"

Updated: Jan 23, 2023

In December 2022 I was delighted to be asked to help with Will Hall’s Service of Lessons and Carols; a collaboration between Wills Hall Chapel Choir, and vocal quartet Anchorae. As part of this, I was invited to write a new carol which could bring both vocal ensembles together to perform. This carol was written and premiered as part of that service.

The text of O Virgo virginum is an interesting one, being an addition to the traditional seven advent ‘O’ antiphons performed in the week leading up to Christmas. With its inclusion, the first letters of each of the antiphons create an acrostic (Virgo, Emmanuel, Rex, Oriens, Clavis, Radix, Adonai, Sapientia), spelling out ‘Vero cras’ or ‘truly, tomorrow’: an extremely important idea in the season of Advent. In this setting O Virgo virginum, I have written the music to mirror my setting of O Sapientia, the first of the O Antiphons.[1] Lines of chant and melody gradually increase in intensity to the line beginning “Filiae Jerusalem” (Maidens of Jerusalem why do you wonder in me?), before gradually drifting away to open fifths.

SCORING: Choir (SATB), Semichorus (SATB)


COVER IMAGE: Don Silvestro dei Gherarducci - Gradual from Santa Maria degli Angeli

TEXT: O Virgo virginum quomodo fiet istud? Quia nec primam similem visa es nec habere sequentem. Filiae Ierusalem, quid me admiramini? Divinum est mysterium hoc quod cernitis.

TEXT TRANSLATION: O Virgin of virgins, how shall this be? For neither before thee was any like thee, nor shall there be after. Daughters of Jerusalem, why marvel ye at me? The thing which ye behold is a divine mystery.

[1]GIA Publications have published my two other settings of “O” antiphons. O Sapientia (2016). Chicago: GIA Publications. O Rex Gentium (2017). Chicago: GIA Publications.

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