• John Joubert
  • Rorate Coeli (1985)

  • Novello & Co Ltd (World)

Commissioned by the Cappella Novacastriensis in association with Northern Arts

SATB
Ne irascaris
Peccavimus
Vide Domine
Consolamini

  • SATB
  • 15 min

Programme Note

John Joubert: Rorate Coeli, Op. 107

Drop down the dew, you clouds above, and let the clouds rain down justice.

1. Ne irascaris
Do not be angry, Lord, do not remember our sins. The holy city is deserted, Jerusalem is desolate: the house of your holiness and glory, where our fathers praised you.

Drop down the dew, you clouds above, and let the clouds rain down justice.

2. Peccavimus
We have sinned and become like a leper, we have all fallen like a leaf; our sins have whirled us away like the wind; you have hidden your face from us and crushed us in the grip of our sins.

Drop down the dew, you clouds above, and let the clouds rain down justice.

3. Vide Domine
See, Lord, the affliction of your people, and send him whom you will send. Send out the Lamb who is the Lord of the world, from the crag in the desert to the mountain of zion, so that he may take away the yoke of our bondage.

Drop down the dew, you clouds above, and let the clouds rain down justice.

4. Consolamini
Comfort, comfort my people: soon your salvation will come. Why are you wasting with sorrow and distracted with grief? I will save you, do not fear, for I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel and your redeemer.

Drop down the dew, you clouds above, and let the clouds rain down justice.

These four texts form a prose sequence for Advent unified by the Rorate Coeli refrain. This occurs at the beginning of the whole sequence and at the end of each prose. The cycle as a whole represents the progression from desolation to consolation implicit in the season of Advent. The musical setting of the refrain is first sung by unaccompanied soprano, and for each of its subsequent appearances the melody recurs in different ways - for soprano (accompanied this time) at the end of no. 1, for all the sopranos at the climax of no. 2, for three solo sopranos in harmony in no. 3, and for soprano and tenor soli at the end of no. 4. The mood of the first motet is one of penitence and despair, which is characterised by sonorous minor-key harmonies. The musical imagery of the second is suggested by the idea of our sins whirling us away 'like the wind'. The third is a passionate plea for deliverance by the promised Redeemer, while in the fourth - for the first time unequivocally in the major - the soprano and tenor soloists together represent the voice of God.
© John Joubert