Last night, I went with my dear friend Michelle to the Wheaton College Christmas Festival, featuring the Women’s Chorale, the Men’s Glee Club, the Concert Choir, Symphonic Band, and soloist Denise Gamez. Michelle is looking so beautiful and expecting her first baby, a Christmas baby, very soon. (I always think it is a very special thing when mothers, like Mary, are awaiting the arrival of a baby at Christmastime.) The music, like my friend, was beautiful, too!
Among my favorite songs performed was “There is No Rose of Such Virtue,” a Christmas Carol written in the very late Middle Ages, c. 1420, and set to music by contemporary composer Melinda Bargreen. It’s a macaronic song, meaning it’s written in two languages: Middle English and Latin.
There Is No Rose Of Such Virtue
There is no rose of such vertu
As is the rose that bare Jesu;
For in this rose contained was
Heaven and earth in lytle space;
By that rose we may well see
That he is God in persons three,
The angels sungen the shepherds to:
Gloria in excelsis deo:
Leave we all this wearldly mirth,
And follow we this joyful birth;
Alleluia, res miranda,
Pares forma, gaudeamus,
I love how the song meditates on the “little space” of Mary’s womb, where heaven and earth meet, and how it interweaves the Latin of the Church with the English of the common people — as if interweaving spiritual and secular themes, symbolically, through the use of two languages. The last stanza could be translated like this: “Hallelujah! We must praise God for this wondrous marvel, [for the three persons of the Holy Trinity are] equal in nature … yes, we rejoice! Let us go!” Gloria in excelsis Deo!
My favorite famous singer in the world, Sting (aka Gordon Sumner), has sung this song, too. To listen to his version, check out: “There is No Rose of Such Virtue.” I love the use of percussion in Sting’s rendition!
Last night, I heard another beautiful poem set to music — this one modern, rather than medieval: e.e. cummings “little tree.” Eric Whitacre created the arrangement performed so lyrically by the Concert Choir under the direction of Paul Wiens. Here it is performed in New York, “Little Tree.”
Other songs from last night that I particularly enjoyed include: Riu, Riu, Chiu (so lively!), O Come, O Come Emmanuel (arranged by Kathleen Kastner for a percussion ensemble, but last night, performed with the addition of a beautiful oboe), and the Men’s Glee Club’s rendition of Healey Willan’s “Magnificat” (so wonderful to hear men singing Mary’s song! For it is a song for all souls).
I hope you enjoy these songs and carols, too.
p.s. To listen to more beautiful music, check out the Wheaton College WETN Conservatory Archive, which features past concerts and performances!