|Lux Fulgebit: The Mass at Dawn of Christmas Day
St. Mary’s Schola Cantorum
David J. Hughes, dir.
William Rasar: Mass Christe Jesu
Alfonso Ferrabosco: Mirabile mysterium
William Byrd: Quem terra, pontus, æthera
Walter Lambe: Nesciens mater
Gregorian Mass at Dawn of Christmas Day: Lux fulgebit
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Preview full tracks from the CD on the St. Mary's Norwalk YouTube Channel:
What music is included on the CD?
The CD is the “soundtrack” of a sung Mass as it is done at St. Mary’s Norwalk on Sundays and feast days. Everything musical that takes place in the Mass is included, from the bells to the organ, the chant, and the choral polyphony. The readings and chants all come from the Mass at Dawn of Christmas Day, and the polyphony featured is the Mass Christe Jesu by William Rasar, with motets by William Byrd, Alfonso Ferrabosco, and Walter Lambe.
What is the “Mass at Dawn”?
The Mass at Dawn is the second Mass of Christmas Day. Most feasts in the Roman rite have one proper set of readings and chants, but Christmas, almost uniquely, has three sets: one to be sung at midnight, one at dawn, and one for masses during the day. The Masses for Midnight and during the day have been recorded numerous times before, while the Mass at Dawn is less commonly heard.
What does “Lux fulgebit” mean?
“Lux fulgebit” is from the first line of the proper texts for the Christmas Mass at Dawn. The Introit for the Mass begins with “Lux fulgebit hodie super nos” (“A light shall shine upon us this day”), a line from Isaiah’s prophecy of the coming of the Messiah. This is the culmination of the imagery that pervades Advent (the four weeks preceding Christmas), which depicts the world in darkness, longing for the dawn, and repeatedly figures the birth of Christ as the light in the East. At this special Mass, these words are to be sung just as the sun is rising.
Lux fulgebit hodie super nos: quia natus est nobis Dominus: et vocabitur Admirabilis, Deus, Princeps pacis, Pater futuri sæculi: cuius regni non erit finis. (Isaiah 9:2, 6; Luke 1:33)
A light shall shine upon us this day: for the Lord is born unto us: and He shall be called Wonder-Counselor, God-Hero, Father-Forever, Prince of Peace: of Whose reign there shall be no end.
What is the Mass Christe Jesu?
The Mass Christe Jesu is a sixteenth-century English setting of the Mass Ordinary for five voices, which is found complete in the Forrest-Heyther partbooks (Bodleian Library) and incomplete in the Peterhouse partbooks (Cambridge University Library). It is the only extant composition of William Rasar, and is of very high musical quality. The model of the Mass is unknown or lost, and there are a couple of other features of the Mass that are unusual for the period: the entire text of the Gloria and Credo are set, and the Mass is entirely in duple meter.
Who is William Rasar?
William Rasar is an obscure composer who was active in the early sixteenth century. The only dates known with certainty about him are his tenure as a boy chorister at St. George’s Chapel, Windsor, from 1499 to at least 1504, from which his birth year can be estimated as 1491, and his time as a clerk at King’s College, Cambridge, 1510–c. 1515. His only known surviving composition is the Mass Christe Jesu, which survives in two sets of partbooks.