Thursday 31 March 2005

Lancelot's Magi

I've just started work on a new libretto for a choral work. It's based on a sermon preached by Lancelot Andrewes. He has featured in my reading recently as he was part of the high church group surrounding Archbishop Laud in the early 17th century; Charles 1st came heavily under their influence and the rest, as they say, his history

But Andrewes was also a gifted orator and one of his published sermons, on the journey of the Magi, was quarried by T.S.Eliot for his poem about the Magi. Here is the original Andrewes: It was no summer progres. A cold coming they had of it at this time of the year, just the worst time of the year to take a journey. The ways deep, the weather sharp, the days short, the sun farthest off, in solsitio brumali, the very dead of winter.. Wonderful, is it not. I managed to find the whole sermon here. The sermon was preached at Whitehall, before King James at Christmas 1622.

Andrewes was a very learned cleric and his sermons can be convoluted. He heavily lards the text with Latin references to the original biblical text. I am currently struggling to reduce the text to manageable proportions whilst still keeping the magic, settable quality of the original

Current thinking is to have it set for double choir, or choir and semi-chorus with some magical (we hope!) bitonal echo effects for the dual language bits. I'll keep you posted.

By the way, does anyone know of a good English translation of the Pervigilium Veneris?

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