Helping the listener spiritually enter into another realm is a claim that music has made over the centuries. Margaret Rizza quotes St Paul’s ‘Let your minds be remade and your whole nature thus transformed’ in her introduction to these 13 settings of prayers, hymns and antiphons from the Bible and from mystical writers from Hildegard of Bingen through St John of the Cross to the 20th-century Thomas Merton and John Main.
Many readers of CMQ will be familiar with Margaret Rizza’s musical style including unaccompanied choral writing, vocal solos, strings and woodwind with solo lines and in ensemble, simple chant and rich harmonies – interwoven, and serving the words and what lies behind them. Several pieces relate to Advent and Christmas, with three of the O Antiphons, and three that have the Virgin Mary and the Incarnation as their subject. These include Hildegard’s Ave Generosa, and a remarkable setting of words taken from Thomas Merton, Mary Slept, which opens with clusters of sound (‘cosmic silence’ is the composer’s phrase) before upper voices describe how ‘Mary slept in the infinite tranquillity of God; and God was a child curled up who slept in her.’ This could be an ideal disc to accompany an Advent and Christmas this year stripped of some of its outward tinsel.