Thunder Entered Her

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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.


The simple lyrics "Thunder entered her / And made no sound" are taken from the Hymns on the Nativity of Saint Ephrem the Syrian (c. 306–373), [1] and describe the virginal conception of Jesus within Mary. The characteristic juxtaposition by Ephrem of opposites or paradoxical elements continues as the child is described as "The Shepherd of all ... [who] became a lamb." [2] The quotation ends with a lamb entering the world "bleating", featuring a melismatic tenor solo.

The multi-layered composition features a ritualistic use of handbells. [3] 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 Sacrificial Lamb", which represents the birth and Passion of Christ. [4]


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 [5]
Ensemble BBC Singers Simon Joly Cala 1994CACD88023

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  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.
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  3. Liner notes to EMI Classics 50999 2 37691 2 0
  4. Liner notes by Michael Stewart from CD Virgin Classics 545035-2.
  5. 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.