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John Taverner: Dum Transisset Sabatum

I love singing and listening to choral music. One of my favorite groups is the Blue Heron Renaissance Choir, which is from my hometown of Boston and includes many of the finest singers there, including my masterful early teacher and dear friend, Pamela Dellal. This piece is by John Taverner, a very early British composer who lived 1490-1545. It’s an Easter piece, depicting the moment just before Mary Magdalen discovers that the stone of Jesus’s tomb has been rolled away – so even though it’s for Easter, the music still is filled with the bleakness of Holy Week, with plangent trebles soaring high above the altos. The opening section of the piece, slowly unfurling, perhaps reflects her weariness as she trudges up to the tomb at sunrise.

English text (Mark 16:1-2):
When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices so that they might go to anoint Jesus’ body. Very early on the first day of the week, just after sunrise, they were on their way to the tomb.

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