O magnum mysterium is a chant from the Matins of Christmas. The Latin text translates into English as “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. Alleluia!”
This setting of O magnum mysterium was commissioned in 2009 by Mieskuoro Laulajat (the Tampere Male Voice Choir) and their conductor, Juha Holma.
Finland has an outstanding number of quality male choirs. The breadth and colour of their tone inspires one to write settings that capture the complete essence of the male voice.
The piece opens with soft, resonant 9th chords, while the soprano sustains a seemingly endless long note, which arrives at the melody as the choir completes its first phrase. This dialogue continues into the poco mosso “et admirabile sacramentum” section and then returns to the original dialogue, dividing into a double choir. The reverent mood is sustained throughout with contrasting complexities in the double chorus as the music develops towards the concluding Alleluia section.
O magnum mysterium is a challenging but rewarding choice.