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And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels,
And prevailed not; neither was their place found any more in heaven.
And the great dragon was cast out …
                                                    Revelation 12:7-8 (King James version)

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Another haunting polyphony, sung by a choir from Tennessee.

The title is taken from Revelation 8:1 – factum est silentium in cælo (“there was silence in heaven”) – but the lyrics stem from the apocalyptic passage at the head of this post.

St Michael fighting the dragon (Albrecht Durer, 1498)

This piece is by Richard Dering (1580-1630), an English composer who converted to Catholicism and moved to the Spanish Netherlands. His work was done outside the Tudor period in the new baroque style, but even though the Factum est Silentium was published in 1618 it has a strong affinity with the English catholic tradition from the previous century.

[Plain link (2:52)]

The lyrics while you listen – sinister draco + nice play on milia milium and omnipotenti:

Factum est silentium in caelo,
Dum committeret bellum draco,
Cum Michaele archangelo.
Audita est vox milia milium dicentium.
Salus, honor et virtus omnipotenti Deo.
Alleluia.

In English:

There was silence in heaven
When the dragon fought with the Archangel Michael.
The voice of a thousand thousand was heard saying:
Salvation, honour and power be to almighty God.

Gorgeous. Does the alleluia at the end remind you of … something by Handel?

There are several versions on Youtube – as usual, the American commitment to this tradition puts the Brits to shame.

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Odd fact: Dering was Oliver Cromwell’s favourite composer.

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