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Thea Musgrave

Publisher: Novello & Co

Rorate Coeli (1973)
commissioned by the National Federation of Music Societies for the Roehampton Conducting Competition
Text Writer
William Dunbar
Publisher
Novello & Co Ltd
Category
Chorus a cappella / Chorus plus 1 instrument
Year Composed
1973
Duration
11 Minutes
Chorus
SATB
Availability
Buy this work
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Programme Note
Thea Musgrave Rorate Coeli (1973)
Rorate Coeli for unaccompanied chorus, was written in 1973 in response to a commission from the National Federation of Music Societies in Great Britain. It was first performed by the Thomas Tallis choir in Greenwich.

It is a setting of two interleaved poems of the famous Scottish poet William Dunbar (written circa 1500). One poem is the Nativity poem of the title, the other is the poem about the Resurrection: 'Done is a battle on the dragon black'.

The work is framed by the rich chords of the opening line where full chorus is echoed by soloists. This setting of both poems simultaneously, reminiscent of medieval polytextural techniques, shows the future victory of the Resurrection along with present joy of the Nativity. The chords of the opening return at the end combined with an exultant Gloria.

TEXT

Rorate coeli desuper!
Heavens distill your balmy showers,
For now is risen the bright day star,
Fro’ the rose Mary, flower of flowers:
The clear sun, whom no cloud devours,
Surmounting Phoebus in the East,
Is coming of his heavenly towers;
Et nobis Puer natus est.

Archangels, angels, and dominations,
Thrones, potestatis, and martyrs sere,
And all ye heavenly operations,
Stars, planets, firmament, and sphere,
Fire, earth, air, and water clear,
To him give loving, most and least,
That come into so meek mannere;
Et nobis Puer natus est.

Sinners be glad, and penance do
And thank your maker hairtfully;
For he that ye might not come to,
To you is coming full humbly,
Your souls with his blood to buy,
And loose you of the fiends arrest,
And only of his own mercy,
Pro nobis Puer natus est.



Done is a battle on the dragon black,
Our campion Christ confoundit has his force;
The gates of hell are broken with a crack,
The sign triumphal raisit is of the Cross ,
The devils trymmillis with hiddous voce,
The souls are borrowit and to the bliss can go,
Christ with his blood our ransom does endorse:
Surrexit Dominus de sepulchro.

Dungen is the deadly dragon Lucifer,
The cruel serpent with the mortal sting;
The old keen tiger, with his teeth on char,
Whilk in a wait has lain for us so long.
Thinking to grip us in his clawes strong;
The merciful Lord would not that it were so,
He made him for to fail of that fang:
Surrexit Dominus de sepulchro

He for our sake that suffered to be slain,
And like a lamb in sacrifice was dight,
Is like a lion risen up again,
And as giant raxit him on height;
Sprungen is Aurora, radiant and bright,
On loft is gone the glorious Apollo,
The blissful day departed from the night:
Surrexit Dominus de sepulchro.



All clergy do to him incline,
And bow unto this bairn benign
And do your observance divine
To him that is of Kingis King;
Incense his altar, read, and sing
In Holy Kirk, with mind digest,
Him honouring above all thing
Qui nobis Puer natus est
Celestial fowls in the air
Sing with your notes upon height;
In firths and in forests fair
Be mirthful now, at all your might,
For passed is your dully night;
Aurora has the cloudis pierced,
The sun has risen with gladsome light,
Et nobis Puer natus est.

Now spring up flowers fro’ the root,
Revert you upward naturally,
In honour of that blessed fruit
That raise up fro’ the rose Mary;
Lay out your leaves lustily,
From dead take life now at the last
In worship of that Prince worthy,
Qui nobis Puer natus est.

All clergy do to him incline,
And bow unto this bairn benign
And do your observance divine
To him that is of Kingis King;
Incense his altar, read, and sing
In Holy Kirk, with mind digest,
Him honouring above all thing
Qui nobis Puer natus est
Celestial fowls in the air
Sing with your notes upon height;
In firths and in forests fair
Be mirthful now, at all your might,
For passed is your dully night;
Aurora has the cloudis pierced,
The sun has risen with gladsome light,
Et nobis Puer natus est.

Now spring up flowers fro’ the root,
Revert you upward naturally,
In honour of that blessed fruit
That raise up fro’ the rose Mary;
Lay out your leaves lustily,
From dead take life now at the last
In worship of that Prince worthy,
Qui nobis Puer natus est.



The great victor again is risen on height,
That for our quarrel to the death was wounded;
The sun that wax all pale now shines bright,
And, darkness cleared, our faith is now refounded;
The knell of mercy fro’ the heaven is sounded,
The Christians are delivered of their woe,
The Jews and their error are confounded:
Surrexit Dominus de sepulchro.

The foe is chased, the battle is done cease,
The prison broken, the jevellour is fleit and flemit;
The war is gone, confirmed is the peace,
The fetters loosed and the dungeon temit,
The ransom made, the prisoners redeemed;
The field is won, o’ercomen is the foe,
Despoiled of the treasure that he yemit:
Surrexit Dominus de sepulchro.



Sung heaven imperial, most of height,
Regions of air make harmony;
All fish in flood and fowl of flight,
Be mirthful; and make melody:
All ‘Gloria in excelsis’ cry,
Heaven, earth, sea, man, bird and beast,
He that is crowned above the sky
Pro nobis Puer natus est.

  • Ensemble
    Ionian Singers
    Conductor
    Timothy Salter
    Usk Recordings:
Performances
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