COMPLINE The Shadow of Thy Wings from Christ Church Choir ($16.95)

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"Every Sunday night at Christ Church Episcopal, in New Haven, Connecticut, people gather to hear the singing of Compline, the final prayers of the day. The Compline rite is over a thousand years old. Its beginning is shrouded in history; How old is the urge to pray in the gathering darkness? How old is the fear of night, the fear that dark will not always be followed by day?

"The early Christian Church established a daily cycle of prayer called the Hours. The eight Hours marked the day from dawn to fading light. The earliest formal description of Compline is found in St. Benedict's Rule, written in the early seventh century. St. Benedict called the final Hour of the day Compline, from the Latin complere, to complete. He described in fewer than thirty words the form Compline would take for the next thousand years. He wanted the prayer kept simple: Psalm, hymn, chapter, blessing, and dismissal. "After Compline," wrote St. Benedict, "no one may speak."

"In the early sixteenth century, the Reformation swept Europe, and the Anglican Church broke with Rome. King Henry VIII dissolved all the monasteries, where for hundreds of years monks had measured their days according to the Hours. The first Anglican Book of Common Praveg published in 1549, collapsed the eight Hours into two: Matins in the morning, Evensong at sunset. Compline was subsumed into Evensong. It would not reappear as a separate office in the Anglican Church for another four hundred years.

"The night prayer of Compline is practical again now in a way unforeseen during the Reformation. At Christ Church in New Haven, people use it not as part of a daily cycle of prayer, not as one of the monastic Hours, but as the sole point of calm in a hectic week. Compline at Christ Church serves a new kind of worshipper. Through music that is centuries old, it draws in people of all beliefs, or of none, and it joins them to one another.

"Darkness and incense heavy silence greet those who enter Christ Church on Sunday nights. Candles offer the only light. Sheathed in colored glass, red, blue, green, they cluster at the foot of the shrine to the Virgin Mary; they drape the High Altar; seven lamps hang suspended in the sanctuary like the Pleiades. People in their street shoes walk slowly up the long center aisle; some genuflect, bending a knee and crossing themselves. Some simply stare. They slide into seats that seem to be the right distance from the light, from the altar, from the door, from whatever is about to happen. Shortly before ten o'clock, church bells begin to clang, distant and discordant. And then an unseen choir begins to sing..." - Kendra Mack


  1. Christ Church Tower Bells
  2. Hymn: Te lucis ante terminum (Mode VIII)
  3. In manus tuas by John Sheppard
  4. Salvia nos, Domine by Thomas Lupo
  5. Antiphon: Salva nos, Domine (Mode I)
    Nunc dimittis by John Sheppard
  6. Ave Regina caelorum by Orlandus Lassus
  7. Antiphon: Ave Regina caelorum (Mode VI)
  8. Libera nos, salva nos (II)by John Sheppard
  9. Hymn: Cultor Dei, memento (Mode VIII)
  10. Salva nos, Domine by Jean Mouton
  11. Antiphon: Media vita (Mode IV)
    Nunc dimittis by Thomas Tallis
  12. Versicle/Response: Domine exaudi orationem by Sarum
    The Lord's Prayer by John Sheppard
  13. Alma redemptoris mater by Giuseppi Bernabei
  14. Antiphon: Alma redemptoris mater (Mode V)
  15. O Lorde, the maker of all things by William Mundy
  16. Versicle/Response: Custode nos, Domine by Sarum
    Christe, qui lux es et dies by Robert Whyte
  17. Libera nos, salvia nos (1) by John Sheppard
  18. Antiphon: O Rex gloriose (Mode III)
    Nunc dimittis by Robert Parsons
  19. Ave Regina caelorum by Guillaume Dufay
  20. In pace inidipsum by William Blitheman
  21. Antiphon: Salve Regina (Mode 1)

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