The Great “O” Antiphons - Nicholas White

The Great “O” Antiphons - Nicholas White
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Product ID : SY911
Weight: 0.25 lbs
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The Great “O” Antiphons - Nicholas White

30 pages, 8.5" x 11"
Minimum order of 4 copies

A Note from the Composer

The “O” Antiphons are Magnificat antiphons used at Vespers during the last seven days of Advent. Each antiphon is assigned to a specific day between December 17th and December 23rd. As I find myself happily ensconced in an academic setting nowadays, relieved of the daily duties of a liturgical musician – and missing them deeply, especially during Holy Week and Advent – I am aware of myself taking an increasingly passionate interest in the riches of Anglo-Catholic liturgy.

During the past seven days, I have set myself the task of composing a musical setting of each of these antiphons, as they reflect on the prophecy of Isaiah and the coming of the Messiah. I decided to compose my setting of each antiphon on its assigned day, and devised a rhythmic, melodic and harmonic scheme for each, giving the set of seven a unifying progression. This progression is explained in detail below. While I approached the self-imposed constraints with a distinct level of freedom, I was able to use the pattern to give my creative process some form and structure. I hope that this has resulted in beautiful music, transcending any technical aspects of the task at hand.

Each of the seven antiphons opens with a straightforward statement of the initial words (O Sapientia, O Adonai, O Radix Jesse etc.) using the same musical material for each, based on the Gregorian Chant melody. After this, each antiphon takes on a character of its own, using key signatures that rise in complexity, moving from E minor (one sharp) to A sharp minor (seven sharps) which is notated as B flat minor in this case, for ease of reading. Time signatures for each antiphon become less complex as the set proceeds, moving from 7/8 to an unusual 1/1. Additionally, each antiphon features – to a greater or lesser degree – a certain interval. These move from octaves (and unisons) through 2nds, 3rds, and all the way to 7ths for the final antiphon. The central movement, O Clavis David, achieves a happy coincidence of numerology where, as the fourth piece in the set, it has four flats in the key signature, the time signature is 4/4, and the interval of a fourth is featured! Details for each antiphon are presented below, along with the texts and translations.

Nicholas White
December 23, 2016


1. O Sapientia (December 17)

  Interval: Octave/Unison
  Key signature: One sharp (E minor)
  Time signature: 7/8

O Sapientia, quae ex ore Altissimi prodiisti,
attingens a fine usque ad finem,
fortiter suaviterque disponens omnia:
veni ad docendum nos viam prudentiae.

O Wisdom, coming forth from the mouth of the Most High,
reaching from one end to the other,
mightily and sweetly ordering all things:
Come and teach us the way of prudence.

2. O Adonai (December 18)
  Interval: 2nd
  Key signature: Two flats (G minor)
  Time signature: 6/8

O Adonai, et Dux domus Israel,
qui Moysi in igne flammae rubi apparuisti,
et ei in Sina legem dedisti:
veni ad redimendum nos in brachio extento.

O Adonai, and leader of the House of Israel,
who appeared to Moses in the fire of the burning bush
and gave him the law on Sinai:
Come and redeem us with an outstretched arm.

3. O Radix Jesse (December 19)

  Interval: 3rd
  Key signature: Three sharps (F sharp minor)
  Time signature: 5/8

O Radix Jesse, qui stas in signum populorum,
super quem continebunt reges os suum,
quem Gentes deprecabuntur:
veni ad liberandum nos, jam noli tardare.

O Root of Jesse, standing as a sign among the peoples;
before you kings will shut their mouths,
to you the nations will make their prayer:
Come and deliver us, and delay no longer.

4. O Clavis David (December 20)

  Interval: 4th
  Key signature: Four flats (F minor/A flat major)
  Time signature: 4/4

O Clavis David, et sceptrum domus Israel;
qui aperis, et nemo claudit;
claudis, et nemo aperit:
veni, et educ vinctum de domo carceris,
sedentem in tenebris,
et umbra mortis.

O Key of David and sceptre of the House of Israel;
you open and no one can shut;
you shut and no one can open:
come and lead the prisoners from the prison house,
those who dwell in darkness
and the shadow of death.

5. O Oriens (December 21)

  Interval: 5th
  Key signature: Five sharps (G sharp minor)
  Time signature: 3/4

O Oriens,
splendor lucis aeternae, et sol justitiae:
veni, et illumina sedentes
in tenebris, et umbra mortis.

O Morning Star,
splendour of light eternal and sun of righteousness:
Come and enlighten those who dwell
in darkness and the shadow of death.

6. O Rex Gentium (December 22)

  Interval: 6th
  Key signature: Six flats (E flat minor)
  Time signature: 2/2

O Rex Gentium, et desideratus earum,
lapisque angularis, qui facis utraque unum:
veni, et salva hominem,
quem de limo formasti.

O King of the nations, and their desire,
the cornerstone making both one:
Come and save the human race,
which you fashioned from clay.

7. O Emmanuel (December 23)

  Interval: 7th
  Key signature: Seven sharps (A sharp minor)
  written enharmonically with five flats (B flat minor)
  Time signature: 1/1

O Emmanuel, Rex et legifer noster,
exspectatio Gentium, et Salvator earum:
veni ad salvandum nos, Domine, Deus noster.

O Emmanuel, our king and our lawgiver,
the hope of the nations and their Saviour:
Come and save us, O Lord our God.

About Nicholas White

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