FEAST OF THE ANNUNCIATION
Today the Eastern Orthodox Church celebrates the day when young Mary, the future Mother of God received a visitor, Archangel Gabriel who, famously, announced:
“… Hail, thou that art highly favoured, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women…..” etc. from the Gospel according to St. Luke
In this wonderful Byzantine icon from the late 12th century, we see dynamic composition, tension and much symbolism, of course. Mary, a slight young woman, turns with apprehension from her task of spinning thread to look at the similarly tense figure of an angel. A dove (which represents the Holy Spirit) hovers between them, seemingly propelled on a golden disk. The angel’s garment, treated with a lot of mannerist twists and turns, increases the energy with which he arrives. One of Mary’s many epithets is written (take my word for it, it is there, even if we cannot see it in our image) over the lively stream with jumping fishes, calling Her a “grace-giving stream.”
To add another dimension, the dimension of magnificent music and sound, I invite you to link to a remarkable choral performance on UTUBE:
Some sources give this music the title “Gabriel Appeared.” *
It is composed by Pavel G. Chesnokov (1877 – 1944), a Russian composer, choral conductor and teacher. **
The soloist is Egor Chernegov-Nomerov, who is also the director of this group from Moscow.
This is a dramatic form of choral singing where the soloist is Archangel Gabriel addressing the future Mother of God.
Words fail to describe the beauty of the music and the gifted singing group with their remarkable soloist. Listen for yourself!
You do not have to understand the church slavonic to feel the magnificence of the moment of the Annunciation.
I am so moved by this music that I have filed it among my favorite performances on UTUBE, returning to hear it again and again. What music! What a performance. There are few moments in life when I can freely say I have been so moved. Bless the singers. May their voices be heard for all to enjoy!
- The words in church slavonic are as follows :
Совет превечный открывая Тебе, Отроковице, Гавриил предста, Тебе лобзая и вещая:
Радуйся, земле ненасеянная! Радуйся, купино неопалимая! Радуйся, глубино неудобозримая!
Радуйся, мосте, к небесем преводяй, и лествице высокая, юже Иаков виде!
Радуйся, божественная стамно манны! Радуйся, разрешение клятвы!
Радуйся, Адамово воззвание, с Тобою Господь!
The word “Rejoice” appears 7 times! which gives us an idea of the emotion conveyed by the laudatory words of the archangel as he addresses Mary. Thanks to one astute YouTube visitor, the words in English are:
** It is hard to find reliable information on this wonderful Russian composer. This comes from Wikipedia, in part: he
“was a Russian composer, choral conductor and teacher. He composed over five hundred choral works, over four hundred of which are sacred….At an early age, Chesnokov gained recognition as a great conductor and choirmaster while leading many groups including the Russian Choral Society Choir. This reputation earned him a position on staff at the Moscow Conservatory where great composers and music scholars like Tchaikovsky shared their skills and musical insight. There he founded a choral conducting program, which he taught from 1920 until his death.
By the age of 30, Chesnokov had completed nearly four hundred sacred choral works but his proliferation of church music came to a standstill at the time of the Russian revolution. Under communist rule, no one was permitted to produce any form of sacred art. So in response, he composed an additional hundred secular works, and conducted secular choirs like the Moscow Academy Choir and the Bolshoi Theatre Choir. With Joseph Stalin as dictator of the Soviet Union, many religious people suffered for his effort to enforce a universal doctrine of atheism. In this pursuit, Cathedral of Christ the Saviour, whose last choirmaster had been Chesnokov, was destroyed. This bothered him so much that he stopped writing music altogether.
He died on 14 March 1944.”
[some sources suggest he died waiting in the freezing winter cold, waiting in a bread line. His magnificent sacred choral music lives on, ed.]