the deluge of Christmas discs, Nox Lucis, stands out
– not through spectacular arrangements and flashy melodies but
through low-voiced intimacy and stillness. The wonders of the
first Christmas night are retold straightforwardly, even artlessly,
but every word, every syllable is weighed on golden scales.
There is no highlighting of important words, no underlining
of phrases – it is just the old story told again; we listen,
amazed at what we already knew. But it is not only a matter
of rejoicing in what happened at Bethlehem 2000 years ago; “we
must also acknowledge the presence of fear, darkness and death”,
as Johanna Korhonen and Hilkka-Liisa Vuori, who constitute Vox
Silentii, write in the booklet.
the songs are from original Finnish sources from the period
1200–1500. Several come from the Brigittine Sisters’ office.
Recorded in surround sound in the warm acoustics of the Sauvo-Karuna
Church, just outside Turku in south-west Finland, we become
enveloped in the proceedings and the light voices rise towards
the ceiling and create Christmas magic. As was the norm in medieval
church music they sing in unison. That said it sometimes seems
that the voices are multi-layered to create a larger sound.
In some places there is also a drone to provide simple two-part
attuned to the sounds of modern day society with wide dynamic
contrasts, consummate harmonies, aggressive performances, will
probably, after a while at least, get a feeling of sameness:
tempos are invariably slow, dynamics seldom rise above mezzo-forte,
if that. The melodies mostly progress in small intervals and
the monody, apart from the occasional drone, excludes harmonic
tension. On the credit side is a stillness, a peacefulness that
after a while transports the listener to a state of trance -
a feeling of liberation, of seeing the light.
always with Proprius the presentation is exemplary with an essay
in three languages and the sung texts, in the Swedish translation,
giving references to the appropriate Bible passages.
in all this is a disc that functions as a corrective to the
stressful world that surrounds us, one to return to for peace