Many years ago, when my school choir conductor told us we would be singing Lauridsen’s O Magnum Mysterium, I turned my nose up. Why couldn’t we sing Victoria’s magisterial setting of those beautiful words? What is the point in re-setting something that has been done so perfectly before?
I was then spellbound by Lauridsen’s interpretation. It is as captivating as Victoria’s, although its colours and textures are quite different.
What is the point in doing again what has been done before? Because each of us sees the world through a slightly different camera obscura. All of us are given an individual glimpse of eternal reality. We all have different blindspots and different illuminations. This is probably not much of an insight to many people, but it certainly took me a while to reach! Now doing a phd on texts that have ‘all been studied before’, this revelation is more meaningful to me than ever, as I ponder what my research really contributes (although, I confess, in absolute terms, I’m not quite sure).
So, here are two breath-taking settings of one of the most wonderful Christmas texts: