Service music

“O Antiphons,” VII
Arvo Pärt
O Immanuel

The final O Antiphon in this week before Christmas is O Emmanuel. In invoking the name which affirms “God with us,” the text summarizes the character of the salvation that comes with that divine presence:

O Emmanuel, Rex et legifer noster,
O Emmanuel, our king and our lawgiver,
exspectatio Gentium, et Salvator earum:
the hope of the nations and their Saviour:
veni ad salvandum nos, Domine, Deus noster.
Come and save us, O Lord our God.

Arvo Pärt’s setting of this final antiphon is the longest of the seven movements, as it repeats the text three times. The first statement of the texts is a long ascending sequence of chords that builds a sense of drama with increasing volume. In the second time through the text, sung at full throttle, the sopranos stay on a high A, while the lower parts sing a more stable sequence of chords separated by dramatic silences. The third time through the text features a more subdued sound, emphasizing the middle ranges.

O Immanuel is sung here by the South Dakota Chorale, conducted by Brian A. Schmidt.


O Immanuel, unser König und Lehrer,
O Emmanuel, our king and counselor,
du Hoffnung und Heiland der Völker:
Thou hope and saviour of the nations:
o komm, eile und schaffe uns Hilfe,
O come, make haste to help us,
du unser Herr und unser Gott.
Thou our Lord and our God, our God.