Christmas in Royal Anglo-Saxon Winchester CD
In 10th century England, especially in a great royal and monastic centre such as Winchester, Christmas, like Easter, was an occasion for liturgical celebrations of exceptional splendor and magnificence.
Apart from the Gradual, every item of the Proper and the Ordinary of the Mass was expanded and embellished by the addition of tropes (added verses), which filled out and commented upon the standard texts, elaborating joyfully upon their doctrinal content. Some of these tropes were known all over Europe; others were local and may well have been the work of Winchesters own Cantor, Wulfstan.
This selection represents what might have been heard in the Old Minster during the Third Mass, or Mass of the Day, on Christmas Day.The Kyrie offers an early example of the newly-discovered technique of organum.
These first attempts at 2-part polyphony were much relished by the Winchester cantors. There is a fascinating richness and beauty of sound in the twinned low voices, especially when heard in alternation with the unison chant. The resulting harmony is surprisingly attractive and satisfying.
1 Versus ante Officium: Hodie cantandus est nobis Puer
2 Introit: Ecce adest
5 Gradual: Viderunt omnes
7 Sequence: Celica resonent
8 Offertory: Qui est sine principio
10 Agnus Dei
11 Communion: Desinat esse dolor
12 Invitatory: Christus natus est nobis