Nunc dimittis

Puffed sleeves! Anne would be so excited.


Backstory: Mary & Joseph bring their baby to the synagogue to be consecrated. Simeon, the high priest, had been promised he would see the Messiah before he died. He was very old and it doesn’t take much reading between the line to understand that Simeon is getting tired of waiting. Imagine his joy when a 6-week old Jesus turns up at temple.

Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace according to thy word.
For mine eyes have seen thy salvation,
Which thou hast prepared before the face of all people;
To be a light to lighten the Gentiles and to be the glory of thy people Israel.

The text is sung in one setting or another at Evensong in the Anglican church, Vespers for Catholics and Orthodox and occasionally after communion for Lutherans. Pretty well anyone who is anyone has set this text. Here’s Rachmaninov’s delicious setting from his Vespers. (Track 4)


If you fancy losing an afternoon in a Youtube black hole, check out Mendelssohn, Stanford (several), Purcell, Dyer, Pärt, Tallis, Byrd, Gibbons, Holst, Britten, Taverner, Josquin, Victoria, Parry et al.

3 comments

    • Miss Mussel
      Author

      The same guy must have been at Death in Venice last Friday. The orchestra has a few bars alone after the last singer finishes and he was all over it.

      So early he had a 10 second solo before others eventually joined in.

  1. singing the text in English is such a moving experience. I sang a nunc every week for three years and it still has the same effect on me. Try the Howells ‘Collegium Regale’, pure British cheese but pretty powerful stuff.

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