There are a few things that I react to in a very emotional manner. Often it comes from feelings of sadness or tragedy, but sometimes it is brought on by something that is beautiful.
Flashback with me, if you will, to 1985…
I was driving to work in my beloved and hated red Renault Alliance. The CBC was playing and I was working my way down Portage avenue toward my place of work; WH Smith in the underground complex at Portage and Main. It was snowing heavily, a multitude of snowflakes combining during their fall into large white galaxies of snow. Everything was white and soft. I can’t remember what I may have been thinking about at the time, but I remember suddenly hearing a voice ring out and my attention was drawn to the sounds floating about my car, not unlike the snow outside. It was a choral work. In all honesty most choral works do little to hold my interest, but this one seemed to catch me. It was beautiful. I felt buoyed, hopeful, and in awe. It seemed to snatch at my emotions and take them with the voices as they swirled about me. I felt tears rise up. I will always remember that event well and when I do I often feel the hairs on my arms rise.
I was determined to know what the piece of music was, who sang, who wrote, and where I could get a copy. A quick call to a very helpful CBC told me that it was Vox patris caelestis, written by William Munday, and performed by the Tallis Scholars. I ordered the CD (Allegri: Miserere) the same day. I don’t think I even had a CD player yet. I received the CD nine months later. I had started to worry that perhaps the experience was unique, that I would not have the same response. I was wrong. It is every bit a beautiful now as it was that winter morning so many years ago. Although, I am careful not to listen to it too often – often only once or twice a year – as I never want it to be a common thing.
From the Oxford Journals:
William Mundy’s ‘Vox Patris Caelestis’ and the Assumption of the Virgin Mary
William Mundy composed the votive antiphon Vox patris caelestis during the brief English Counter-Reformation under the reign of Mary Tudor (1553–8). Unlike the majority of earlier votive antiphons, Vox patris refers to a specific liturgical and theological event, the Assumption of the Virgin Mary. The text is an elaborate network of tropes on the Song of Songs, interwoven with other scriptural and literary topics traditionally linked to the feast of the Assumption, and finds parallels in Conrad of Saxony’s Speculum Beatae Mariae Virginis.