Friday, April 15, 2005

interpretation, part two

If there is anything similar to midrash in the Christian tradition, it is probably in religious art. That is, artists have often told biblical stories filling in details that suggests they have pondered the story beyond what we read in the text.

Certainly the renaissance painters of Italy did that, providing us with a visual interpretation of biblical text that is highly relevant to their own period and place in history. A trip to Tuscanny feels like a trip to the Holy Land, given that so many of our visual images of the Bible come from Italian artists painting in the 15th and 16th centuries.

Within the Anglican tradition, one can find this interpretation of text with our music, particularly through the two offices of morning prayer, or matins, and evening prayer, or evensong.

Since World War II, sung morning prayer (matins) is rarely done. The texts used for that service are often the te deum (You are God) and the jubilate (from Psalm 100). But choral evensong does continue in places, and the text often used are settings of the Virgin Mary's song, the magnificat, and the song of Simeon, the nunc dimmitis.

Anglican composers have taken these texts and have provided numerous reflections on the words, reflective, triumphant, thoughtful, emphasizing particular aspects of the words.

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