Advent Polyphony
  • Does anyone have favorite recommendations for polyphonic Advent hymns? Looking for something not too complex but beautiful. We have learned the Guerrero Conditor Alme Siderum, and the well-known 2 part Veni, Veni Emanuel but we are looking for something new this Advent. We are stronger in our SA voices, as we have only a few TBs and they don't learn as quickly as our high voices, so 2 part harmony recommendations are great too. Thanks!
  • Sicut rosa, the last in Orlandus Lassus' set of Cantiones duorum vocum, would be nice for 'Mary Sunday'. It can be sung by any two equal voices.
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  • Creator Alme Siderum - (Thermignon) alternates (or not) the chant against a part arrangement. Fairly straight-forward, 4 part.

    Not polyphonic, but I always liked using the chant Rorate Coeli with different choirs... maybe Soprani on 1 verse, alti on another verse, men on a verse, etc., with everyone on the refrain.

    Given the time constraint, perhaps for a future year the SSATB Rorate Coeli by Palestrina. That would split the top-heavy voices into three part and might make it more equitable for your lower voices. Just a thought.

    Hmmm... also Tota Pulchra Es. There is a two part by Lassus and a three part "ancient" version. Although not particularly for Advent, it would be used during Advent for the Immaculate Conception (including before / after).
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  • Liam
    Posts: 4,967
    For a Marian antiphon, it's hard to beat Palestrina's Alma Redemptoris Mater:

    From the first time I heard/sang this, I've had this sense that the articulation of the "Ave" leading into measure 35 is a what might be called a zikkaron/anemnesis moment: where we participate mystically across time and space in that original Ave, an aural ikon that points beyond to the mytical, supernatural, eternal reality of the original Ave. (I prefer if a score brackets that Ave as a quotation rather than a simple noun - not because it's orthographically authentic but as a way to convey something special about that word there.) That Ave should have a certain lively suspension of time about it....if there were a word to describe an aural mandorla, that's perhaps maybe the best metaphor. It's hard to describe, but from time to time I've encountered it, and it's supernal.

  • SalieriSalieri
    Posts: 3,177
    There is a three-part Mediaeval setting of Conditor Alme from a MS in the Bodleian at Oxford which alternates chant and polyphony. It's not too difficult, and it's a style that most people don't hear too often. There is a score at CPDL.
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  • Kathy
    Posts: 5,500
    There's a modern fellow who writes lovely, accessible things, some (all?) on CPDL. Christoph Dalitz.
  • 3 part Veni Emmanuel by Kodaly. SAB
    Warlock Adam lay ybounden
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  • GerardH
    Posts: 417
    Indeed, as @Kathy points out, Dalitz has quite a few pieces available, including this Rorate Caeli, which is just a polyphonic setting of the prose antiphon, and the rest is plainsong. It looks like the kind of setting perfect for a choir pressed for preparation time. My choir had much success with his Ubi Caritas, so we might give this a try, probably with soft organ for the verses.
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  • Cantus67Cantus67
    Posts: 207
    Something not too difficult is the Dufay Conditor Alme Siderum.

    there's also MIDI helps here.
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  • I second the Palestrina Alma, which is quite straightforward and very beautiful.
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  • Drake
    Posts: 219
    If it is not to presumptuous to suggest one's own composition, this Vox Clara might be a possibility for your group. PDF and electronic rendering are at the link.
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  • I agree with Kathy. Christoph Dalitz's setting of Rorate Caeli (SATB) (aka, the "Advent Prose") with chant verses, and his setting of the Veni, veni Emmanuel are very easy and satisfying to sing. Find stuff here:
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  • Another "Creator of the stary height" here - - mostly SA (or could be fully SA) with any men singing the tune.
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  • Thank you all for these excellent suggestions!