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O magnum misterium, by William Byrd (1540​​-​​1623)

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This version of O magnum misterium is from William Byrd's Gradualia (II) collection, published in 1607. Having been published in Protestant England at a time when practicing Catholicism was a very risky enterprise, this motet was most likely intended for private worship in the household chapel of Sir John Petre.

The intimate texture of Byrd's setting transfers particularly well to our format of solo voice and lute, an historically appropriate performing medium for Byrd's music that is strengthened greatly by the large number of his motets that survive for solo voice and lute in the Edward Paston manuscripts (Folger Shakespeare Library Mss V.A. 405-7).

Byrd's setting, originally for ATTB, sets the full responsory text beginning with O magnum misterium, the respond Beata Virgo, the verse Ave Maria, and completed by repetition of the respond Beata Virgo.


O magnum misterium
et admirabile sacramentum,
ut animalia viderent Dominum natum
jacentem in praesepio.

Beata Virgo, cujus viscera meruerunt
portare Dominum Jesum Christum.

Ave Maria, gratia plena: Dominus tecum.

Beata Virgo, cujus viscera meruerunt
portare Dominum Jesum Christum.

O great mystery
and wonderful sacrament,
that animals should see the new-born Lord
lying in a manger.

Blessed is the Virgin, whose womb
was worthy to bear Christ the Lord.

Hail Mary, full of grace: the Lord is with you.

Blessed is the Virgin whose womb
was worthy to bear Christ the Lord.


from Magnum Mysterium: Advent & Christmas music for lute & voice, released November 1, 2016
Performed live by Mignarda: Donna Stewart, voice and Ron Andrico, lute. Arranged from the original source by Ron Andrico, Mignarda Editions.



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Mignarda Danby, New York

Mignarda specializes in thoughtful programming illuminating the vibrant mingling of renaissance music & poetry. Noted for awakening modern audiences to an appreciation for historical music, their work encompasses concertizing, teaching & recording, with ten critically-acclaimed CDs, a series of 12 music editions, scholarly articles, reviews and the internationally-popular blog, Unquiet Thoughts. ... more

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