Thunder Entered Her

Last updated

Thunder Entered Her is a choral piece written by the English composer John Tavener in 1990. It was commissioned by the St Albans Chamber Choir and it is written for SATB chorus, handbells and pipe organ.

John Tavener British composer

Sir John Kenneth Tavener was an English composer, known for his extensive output of religious works, including The Protecting Veil, Song for Athene and The Lamb.

St Albans City in southern Hertfordshire, England

St Albans is a city in Hertfordshire, England, and the major urban area in the City and District of St Albans. It lies east of Hemel Hempstead and west of Hatfield, about 20 miles (32 km) north-northwest of central London, 8 miles (13 km) southwest of Welwyn Garden City and 11 miles (18 km) south-southeast of Luton. St Albans was the first major town on the old Roman road of Watling Street for travellers heading north, and it became the Roman city of Verulamium. It is a historic market town and is now a dormitory town within the London commuter belt and the Greater London Built-up Area.

In music, SATB is an initialism for soprano, alto, tenor, bass, defining the voice types required by a chorus or choir to perform a particular musical work. Pieces written for SATB can be sung by choruses of mixed genders, by choirs of men and boys, or by four soloists.


The simple lyrics "Thunder entered her / And made no sound" are taken from Saint Ephrem the Syrian (c. 306–373), [1] which describe the immaculate motherhood of Mary. The Messiah child is described as "The Shepherd of all ... [who] became a lamb." The poem ends with a lamb entering the world "bleating", featuring a melismatic tenor solo.

Ephrem the Syrian Syriac deacon and a prolific Syriac-language hymnographer and theologian of the 4th century

Ephrem the Syrian was a Syriac Christian deacon and a prolific Syriac-language hymnographer and theologian of the fourth century.

Mary, mother of Jesus religious figure and mother of Jesus of Nazareth

Mary was a 1st-century BC Galilean Jewish woman of Nazareth, and the mother of Jesus, according to the New Testament and the Quran.

Messiah saviour or liberator of a group of people, most commonly in the Abrahamic religions

In Abrahamic religions, a messiah or messias is a saviour or liberator of a group of people.

The multi-layered composition features a ritualistic use of handbells. [2] Tavener employs spatial techniques such as placing a smaller chorus, which intones the Velichayem [We magnify you], and the handbells at a distance from the main chorus. Tension is built by adding low organ roulades representing thunder that punctuate the text and are accompanied by several "Amen" from the main body of the choir. The work closes with a tenor solo, marked "The Sacrifical Lamb", which represents the birth and passion of Christ. [3]

A roulade is an elaborate embellishment of several notes sung to one syllable. It is most associated with the operatic coloratura vocal style. It consists of a single phrase, or could even be part of a longer phrase. It is more extended than ornaments such as a trill, mordent or turn, but not to the extent that it could be called a cadenza. It is usually performed in a rhythmically free style, either by use of rubato or over a musical pause and it is in this way that it is distinguished from a melisma. Examples are in the operatic works of Bellini and Donizetti and the Nocturnes of Chopin. Extended embellishments found in modern-day Gospel vocalisations could be said to be roulades.

Nativity of Jesus accounts of the birth of Jesus

The nativity of Jesus or birth of Jesus is the basis for the Christian holiday of Christmas and is described in the gospels of Luke and Matthew. The two accounts differ, but agree that Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea during the reign of King Herod the Great, his mother Mary was married to a man named Joseph, who was descended from King David and was not his biological father, and that his birth was caused by divine intervention. Luke's version says the birth took place during a Roman census, mentions an announcement to shepherds by angels, presentation of Jesus in the Temple, and gives the name of the angel who announces the coming birth to Mary. Matthew's version mentions the arrival of the Magi, the flight into Egypt by the family, and the Massacre of the Innocents by King Herod. The consensus of scholars is that both gospels were written about AD 75-85, and while it is possible that one account might be based on the other, or that the two share common source material, the majority conclusion is that the two nativity narratives are independent of each other.

Passion of Jesus final period in the life of Jesus

In Christianity, the Passion is the short final period in the life of Jesus beginning with his triumphal entry into Jerusalem and ending with his crucifixion and his death on Good Friday.


Velichayem Tya. [We magnify you]
Thunder entered her
And made no sound
There entered the Shepherd of all,
And in her He became
The Lamb, bleating as He comes forth.
Ameen [sic].

Nativity Hymn No. 11 by St Ephrem the Syrian (306–373)

Notable recordings

Notable recordings of this composition include:

Winchester Cathedral Choir, David Dunnett (organ), Iain Simcock (handbells)David Hill Virgin 1994VC545035-2 [4]
Ensemble BBC Singers Simon Joly Cala 1994CACD88023

Related Research Articles

<i>War Requiem</i> composition by Benjamin Britten

The War Requiem, Op. 66, is a large-scale setting of the Requiem composed by Benjamin Britten mostly in 1961 and completed in January 1962. The War Requiem was performed for the consecration of the new Coventry Cathedral, which was built after the original fourteenth-century structure was destroyed in a World War II bombing raid. The traditional Latin texts are interspersed, in telling juxtaposition, with extra-liturgical poems by Wilfred Owen, written during World War I.

A handbell is a bell designed to be rung by hand. To ring a handbell, a ringer grasps the bell by its slightly flexible handle - traditionally made of leather, but often now made of plastic – and moves the arm to make the hinged clapper inside the bell strike. An individual handbell can be used simply as a signal to catch people's attention or summon them together, but handbells are also often heard in tuned sets.

<i>Glagolitic Mass</i> Choral composition by Janáček

The Glagolitic Mass is a composition for soloists, double chorus, organ and orchestra by Leoš Janáček. The work was completed on 15 October 1926 and premiered by the Brno Arts Society, conducted by Jaroslav Kvapil, in Brno on 5 December 1927. Janáček revised the mass the next year.

<i>Christmas Oratorio</i> oratorio by Johann Sebastian Bach

The Christmas Oratorio, BWV 248, is an oratorio by Johann Sebastian Bach intended for performance in church during the Christmas season. It was written for the Christmas season of 1734 and incorporates music from earlier compositions, including three secular cantatas written during 1733 and 1734 and a now lost church cantata, BWV 248a. The date is confirmed in Bach's autograph manuscript. The next performance was not until 17 December 1857 by the Sing-Akademie zu Berlin under Eduard Grell. The Christmas Oratorio is a particularly sophisticated example of parody music. The author of the text is unknown, although a likely collaborator was Christian Friedrich Henrici (Picander).

Cloudburst is a composition by Eric Whitacre for eight-part choir, with piano and percussion accompaniment, written in 1991 and published in 1995. The text was adapted from Octavio Paz's poem El Cántaro Roto, and inspired by the experience of the composer witnessing a desert cloudburst. On his website, Whitacre stated that he composed it after approached by Jocelyn K. Jensen in 1991 to write a piece for her high school choir.

<i>Rejoice in the Lamb</i>

Rejoice in the Lamb is a cantata for four soloists, SATB choir, and organ composed by Benjamin Britten in 1943 and based on the poem Jubilate Agno by Christopher Smart (1722–1771). The poem, written while Smart was in an asylum depicts idiosyncratic praise and worship of God by all created beings and things, each in its own way. The cantata was commissioned by the Reverend Walter Hussey for the celebration of the fiftieth anniversary of the consecration of St Matthew's Church, Northampton.

<i>A Garland for Linda</i> album

A Garland for Linda is a tribute album for Linda McCartney, released in 2000 by the cancer-fighting organization the Garland Appeal. The album features classical music by ten contemporary composers including Paul McCartney, John Rutter and John Tavener, performed by the Joyful Company of Singers under conductor Peter Broadbent, recorded at All Saints Church, Tooting, London.


Hodie is a cantata by Ralph Vaughan Williams. Composed between 1953 and 1954, it is the composer's last major choral-orchestral composition, and was premiered under his baton at Worcester Cathedral, as part of the Three Choirs Festival, on 8 September 1954. The piece is dedicated to Herbert Howells. The cantata, in 16 movements, is scored for chorus, boys' choir, organ and orchestra, and features tenor, baritone, and soprano soloists.

Mary Jane Leach American composer

Mary Jane Leach is an American composer based in New York City. She has been a member of the Downtown Ensemble, composer in residence at Sankt Peter, Köln, and has recordings on XI, New World Records, and Lovely Music. In the late 1970s Leach composed mainly with tape, overdubbing her own playing and singing. As her music became more frequently performed she continued writing in an "overdubbing" fashion, layering parts and experimenting with the textures created by multiple voices. Her compositional style is characterized by modality, imitation, and prolongation. Leach received a 1995 Foundation for Contemporary Arts Grants to Artists Award. She currently teaches music courses at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.

<i>A Celtic Requiem</i> album by John Tavener

A Celtic Requiem is a requiem by the English composer John Tavener, written in 1969. It is written for soprano, children's choir and orchestra.

"Song for Athene" is a musical composition by British composer John Tavener with lyrics by Mother Thekla, an Orthodox nun, which is intended to be sung a cappella by a four-part choir. It is Tavener's best known work, having been performed by the Westminster Abbey Choir conducted by Martin Neary at the funeral service of Diana, Princess of Wales, on 6 September 1997 as her cortège departed from Westminster Abbey.

<i>The Book with Seven Seals</i> oratorio by Franz Schmidt

The Book with Seven Seals is an oratorio in German by the Austrian composer Franz Schmidt, on themes from the biblical Book of Revelation of Saint John. It was completed in 1937 and first presented in 1938 in Vienna.

In convertendo Dominus, Op. 32, is the musical setting of In convertendo Dominus, written by Jules Van Nuffel in 1926 for a mixed choir and organ.

<i>Utrecht Te Deum and Jubilate</i>

Utrecht Te Deum and Jubilate is the common name for a sacred choral composition in two parts, written by George Frideric Handel to celebrate the Treaty of Utrecht, which established the Peace of Utrecht in 1713, ending the War of the Spanish Succession. He composed a Te Deum, HWV 278, and a Jubilate Deo, HWV 279. The combination of the two texts in English follows earlier models. The official premiere of the work was on 13 July 1713 in a service in St Paul's Cathedral in London.

<i>Messiah</i> Part II second part of Handels Messiah

Messiah, the English-language oratorio composed by George Frideric Handel in 1741, is structured in three parts. This listing covers Part II in a table and comments on individual movements, reflecting the relation of the musical setting to the text. Part I begins with the prophecy of the Messiah and his birth, shows the annunciation to the shepherds and reflects the Messiah's deeds on earth. Part II covers the Passion in nine movements including the oratorio's longest movement, an air for alto He was despised, then mentions death, resurrection, ascension, and reflects the spreading of the Gospel and its rejection. The part is concluded by a scene called "God's Triumph" that culminates in the Hallelujah Chorus. Part III of the oratorio concentrates on Paul's teaching of the resurrection of the dead and Christ's glorification in heaven.

<i>The Creation</i> structure

The Creation, the oratorio by Joseph Haydn, is structured in three parts. He composed it in 1796–1798 on German text as Die Schöpfung. The work is set for soloists, chorus and orchestra. Its movements are listed in tables for their form, voice, key, tempo marking, time signature and source.

Steven Sametz American conductor and composer

Steven Sametz is active as both conductor and composer. He has been hailed as "one of the most respected choral composers in America." Since 1979, he has been on the faculty of Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, where he holds the Ronald J. Ulrich Chair in Music and is Director of Choral Activities and is founding director of the Lehigh University Choral Union. Since 1998, he has served as Artistic Director of the professional a cappella ensemble, The Princeton Singers. He is also the founding director of the Lehigh University Summer Choral Composers’ Forum. In 2012, he was named Chair of the American Choral Directors Association Composition Advisory Committee.

Chöre für Doris, after poems by Paul Verlaine, is a three-movement a cappella choral composition by Karlheinz Stockhausen, written in 1950 and later given the number 1/11 in the composer's catalogue of works. The score is dedicated to the composer's first wife, Doris Stockhausen, née Andreae.

<i>Queen Caroline Te Deum</i>

The Te Deum in D major, "Queen Caroline" is a canticle Te Deum in D major composed by George Frideric Handel in 1714.


  1. Robert Reilly (2016-04-21). Surprised by Beauty: A Listener's Guide to the Recovery of Modern Music. Ignatius Press. p. 362. ISBN   978-1-68149-704-4.
  2. Liner notes to EMI Classics 50999 2 37691 2 0
  3. Liner notes by Michael Stewart from CD Virgin Classics 545035-2.
  4. Keith Potter; Kyle Gann (2016-03-23). The Ashgate Research Companion to Minimalist and Postminimalist Music. Routledge. p. 316. ISBN   978-1-317-04255-6.