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Stacks Image 65
Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares. Hebrews : 2

Angels have been an element of human consciousness for as long as we can remember. Their roles in the life of mankind are various; they appear as guardians, counsellors, guides, judges, and interpreters and cross barriers of culture, language, time, religion and geography. Many are a force for good but there are also fallen angels, angels of death and others who are spirits of wrath, destruction, confusion and vengeance.

Angels are key to the central story of Christianity; the virgin birth and its celebration in heaven and on earth. A host of angels accompany the shepherds who provide the pastoral backdrop to the story and it is Gabriel, through his role as messenger and emissary from God who features most prominently in music associated with the birth of Christ. Gabriel is important, not only in relation to his encounter with Mary (beautifully represented in ‘Lullay, Lullay’) but also as comforter and explainer to Joseph. ‘When righteous Joseph wedded was’ tells the story of Joseph ‘Who thought it strange his wife should be untouched and yet with child’. Gabriel appears to him in a dream and reassures him,
“Fear not, just Joseph; this, thy wife is still a spotless maid; And no consent of sin” said he, “Against her can be laid.”

The Cantigas de Santa Maria, composed at the Court of King Alfonso X of Castile in the second half of the 13th century, include 353 narratives of miracles of the Blessed Virgin and almost all are set to music. Angels, in various guises and appearing in a variety of roles, play a prominent role in many of the stories. In Cantiga 131 an angel, under the instruction of the Virgin, feeds and comforts an Emperor as he lies trapped in a collapsed tunnel.

The fall of Satan, the chief fallen angel, is documented vividly in Revelations (7-9):

‘And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.’

Fallen angels feature heavily in apocalyptic writings and in all three Abrahamic faiths – Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Lucifer (Satan) is especially associated with music. On our CD, Satan makes an appearance in Guillô pran ton tamborin! but is merely mocked by carousers, who are clearly in the ascendant and celebrating the birth of Christ.

Angels have also permeated many areas of life outside religion. There are countless examples of angelic comparison and personification
In Clara Sanabras’s setting of ‘El recer del vol dispers’, the Catalan poet Joan Llongueras describes, ‘Ocells dispersos que heu volgut volar’ (You scattered birds who have flown), the birds an angelic metaphor for something lost and longed for. In ‘Belle qui tiens ma vie’ we find the most common angelic metaphor of all, the lover, personified as an angel: Je meurs, mon Angelette, Je meurs en te baisant.

Finally, angels have always been associated with music making and there are countless literary and iconographic representations of them with instruments or singing. It is in the spirit of this long tradition that we offer this music in praise and celebration of these heavenly creatures.

Angels and ministers of grace defend us!
Be thou a spirit of health, or goblin damn’d,
Bring with thee airs from heaven, or blasts from hell,
Be thy intents wicked, or charitable,
Thou com’st in such a questionable shape
That I will speak to thee.

William Shakespeare