Boston Early Music Festival

Long, Long Night


And the night shall be filled with music,
And the cares, that infest the day,
Shall fold their tents, like the Arabs,
And as silently steal away.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

This season is dedicated to night. In particular, to four nights in which music plays an important part in remembrance, healing and reconciliation. These four nights celebrate the contemporary human condition with music that runs the gamut of emotions, and invites you to reconsider death, birth, and poverty, along with music that transcends the mundane.  Click here to see other concerts in this series.



The theme of our final cycle is the long, long night, not just in a literal understanding, but also in a metaphysical one that relates it to the span of human life. We celebrate precious life and the journey we travel, but we link to the themes of resurrection and rebirth from our other concerts and reflect that our journeys have meaning and truth. The music we sing includes Taverner’s five-voice motet Dum transisset Sabbatum (1575), which celebrates the resurrection of Jesus and, to bring our season full circle, we sing his famous setting of Audivi vocem, which we heard in a setting by Thomas Tallis in our first cycle. John Taverner (1490-1545) was widely regarded as one of the most important composers of his era. A former organist of Christ Church Cathedral in Oxford, he composed mostly vocal music and was both innovative and creative in his use of harmony and counterpoint. We juxtapose the music of the renaissance Taverner with the modern one, celebrating the life and work of John Tavener (1944-2013), who claims lineage to his illustrious predecessor. Tavener’s haunting and spare music has touched many with its beauty and grace. We will sing his Song for Athene (sung at the funeral of Diana, Princess of Wales), and we include music from his extraordinary cycle Ex Maria Virgine for choir and organ. The concert will also include the world premiere of a work by Balint Karosi, written for the Boston Choral Ensemble.

We will repeat this concert as part of the 2015 Boston Early Music Festival Fringe.

1. Balint Karosi (b. 1979): Song of the Wandering Aengus 

(World Premiere. Dedicated to the Boston Choral Ensemble)

2. John Tavener: Audivi vocem de caelo venientem 

3. John Taverner:  Dum transisset Sabbatum 

4. John Tavener:  Funeral ikos 

5. John Tavener: Song for Athene

6. John Tavener:  from Ex Maria Virgine

                 a) Nowell, nowell

                 b) Remember O thou man

                 c) Ave rex angelorum 

Texts and translations

1. The Song of Wandering Aengus

I went out to the hazel wood,
Because a fire was in my head,
And cut and peeled a hazel wand,
And hooked a berry to a thread;
And when white moths were on the wing, 
And moth-like stars were flickering out,
I dropped the berry in a stream
And caught a little silver trout.

When I had laid it on the floor
I went to blow the fire a-flame, 
But something rustled on the floor,
And someone called me by my name:
It had become a glimmering girl
With apple blossom in her hair
Who called me by my name and ran 
And faded through the brightening air.

Though I am old with wandering
Through hollow lands and hilly lands,
I will find out where she has gone,
And kiss her lips and take her hands; 
And walk among long dappled grass,
And pluck till time and times are done,
The silver apples of the moon,
The golden apples of the sun.

(W. B. eats (1865-1939) from The Wind Among the Reeds (1899).)


Audivi vocem de caelo

Audivi vocem de caelo venientem: venite omnes virgines sapientissime; oleum recondite in vasis vestris dum sponsus advenerit. Media nocte clamor factus est: ecce sponsus venit.

I heard a voice coming from heaven: come all wisest virgins; fill your vessels with oil, for the bridegroom is coming. In the middle of the night there was a cry: behold the bridegroom comes.

(8th responsory at Matins on All Saints. The source of text is Jeremiah 40:10 and Matthew 25:6.)


2. Dum transisset Sabbatum

Dum transisset Sabbatum, Maria Magdalene et Maria Jacobi et Salome emerunt aromata ut venientes ungerent Jesum. Alleluia. Et valde mane una sabbatorum veniunt ad monumentum orto iam sole. Gloria Patri et Filio et Spiritui Sancto.

And when the sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome, had bought sweet spices, that they might come and anoint him. Alleluia. And very early in the morning the first day of the week, they came unto the sepulcher at the rising of the sun. Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost.

(Third responsory at Mattins on Easter Sunday. The source of text is Mark 16:1-2.)


3. Funeral ikos (1981)

Why these bitter words of the dying, O brethren, which they utter as they go hence? I am parted from my brethren. All my friends do I abandon, and go hence. But whither I go, that I understand not, neither what shall become of me yonder; only God who hath summoned me knoweth. But make commemoration of me with the song: Alleluia.

But whither now go the souls? How dwell they now together there? This mystery have I desired to learn, but none can impart aright. Do they call to mind their own people, as we do them? Or have they forgotten all those who mourn them and make the song: Alleluia.

We go forth on the path eternal, and as condemned, with downcast faces, present ourselves before the only God eternal. Where then is comeliness? Where then is wealth? Where then is the glory of this world? There shall none of these things aid us, but only say oft the psalm: Alleluia.

If thou hast shown mercy unto man, O man, that same mercy shall be shown to thee there; and if on an orphan thou hast shown compassion, the same shall there deliver thee from want. If in this life the naked thou hast clothed, the same shall give thee shelter there, and sing the psalm: Alleluia.

Youth and the beauty of the body fade at the hour of death, and the tongue then burneth fiercely, and the parched throat is inflamed. The beauty of the eyes is quenched then, the comeliness of the face all altered, the shapeliness of the neck destroyed; and the other parts have become numb, nor often say: Alleluia.

With ecstasy are we inflamed if we but hear that there is light eternal yonder; that there is Paradise, wherein every soul of the Righteous Ones rejoiceth. Let us all, also, enter into Christ, that all we may cry aloud thus unto God: Alleluia. 

(From the Order for the Burial of Dead Priests; translated from the Greek by Isabel Hapgood.)


4. Song for Athene

Alleluia. May flights of angels sing thee to thy rest. 
Alleluia. Remember me, O Lord, when you come into your kingdom. 
Alleluia. Give rest, O Lord, to your handmaid, who has fallen asleep. 
Alleluia. The Choir of Saints have found the well-spring of life and door of Paradise. 
Alleluia. Life: a shadow and a dream. 

Alleluia. Weeping at the grave creates the song: Alleluia. 

(Text from Shakespeare's Hamlet and the Orthodox funeral service.)


5. From Ex Maria Virgine

a) Nowell, nowell

Nowell! Nowell! Nowell! Nowell!

This is the salutation of the Angel Gabriel.

Out of your sleep arise and wake,

For God mankind now hath ytake,

All of a maid without any make,

Of all women she beareth the bell:

Nowell! Nowell! Nowell! Nowell!

This is the salutation of the Angel Gabriel.

Now man is brighter than the sun,

Now man in heaven on high shall wone,

Blessed be God this game is begun,

And his mother empress of hell:

Nowell! Nowell! Nowell! Nowell!

This is the salutation of the Angel Gabriel.

Now, blessed brother, grant us grace

A Domesday to see thy face,

And in thy court to have a place,

That we mow therae sing Nowell:

Nowell! Nowell! Nowell! Nowell!

This is the salutation of the Angel Gabriel.

(Text: Anonymous, medieval.)


b) Remember O thou man

Remember 0 thou man, 0 thou man, 0 thou man, Remember 0 thou man, Thy time is spent. Remember 0 thou man, How thou art dead and gone, And I did what I can, Therefore repent. Remember God's goodness, 0 thou man, 0 thou man, Remember God's goodness, And his promise made. Remember God's goodness, How he sent his Son doubtless Our sins [for] to redress, Be not afraid. The angels all did sing, 0 thou man, 0 thou man, The Angels all did sing Upon the shepherds' hill, The Angels all did sing Praises to our heav'nly King, And peace to man [living], With a good will. To Bethlem did they go, 0 thou man, 0 thou man, To Bethlem did they go, The shepherds three. To Bethlem did they go, To see where it were so or no, Whether Christ were born or no To set man free. In Bethlem he was born, 0 thou man, 0 thou man, In Bethlem he was born, For mankind's sake. In Bethlem he was born, For us that were forlorn, And therefore took no scorn, Our flesh to take. Give thanks to God alway, 0 thou man, 0 thou man, Give thanks to God alway, Most joyfully. Give thanks to God alway, For this our happy day, Let all men sing and say, Holy, Holy.

(Thomas Ravenscroft, c. 1590-1633.)


c) Ave rex angelorum 

Ave rex! Ave rex angelorum! Ave rexque celorum! Ave princeps que polorum! Hail, 0 King! Hail, King of the angels! Hail, King of the skies! Hail, Prince of Heaven! Hail, most mighty in thy working, Hail, thou Lord of allae thing; I offer thee gold as to a king. Ave rex angelorum!

(Text: Anonymous, medieval.)