Monsignor Harry J. Byrne, JCD * * * Comment/

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Location: 3103 Arlington Avenue,, Bronx, NY 10463, United States

December 14, 2009


Yesterday, the Third Sunday of Advent, was marked at New York's Cloisters, an assemblage of three medieval monastery chapels and cloisters, by a performance in the Fuentiduena Chapel of The Christmas Story, drama and music of the Middle Ages, by The Waverly Consort, in dress, Latin language, and with musical instruments of the period. The Song of the Sibyl (Spanish, 10th century) introduced a dramatic procession of the Prophets with their anticipations of a coming Savior. Among these appeared Jacob, Isaiah, Elizabeth, and John the Baptist, followed by a "conductus", "The old law passes on, the old rites pass away...the bonds of sin are broken, for born is the King of glory."

The story proceeds roughly in the form of a Mass. An angel announces the Savior's birth to shepherds and midwives, followed by a 14th century Kyrie and an exultant Gloria. The Journey of the Magi is sung as experienced, with an evident touch of humor, by Sir Ass, bearing the gifts and equipage of the three kings. In dramatic body language, an upward pointing arm of each points to the high star and slowly lowers to the level of the creche, where, again in solemn drama, the gifts of gold, incense, and myrrh are presented. The scene shifts to Herods' court, back to the adoration, and a solemn angel calls ominously to Joseph to take Mary and child away. Atonal and angry music signals the Slaughter of the Innocents, followed by Rachel's heartbroken lament and the efforts of bystanders to console her. An Agnus Dei, pleading for mercy and peace, is followed by a triumphant "Let us Bless the Lord".

Musicians and singers exit in a stirring procession to the music of a rejoicing "Te Deum" with the silver ring of the performers' hand bells at the end of each passage.


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