Advent marks the beginning of the new year in liturgical terms. In church we notice that the liturgical colour has changed to purple, we have moved on to a new volume of the breviary for the offices, and that the Sunday Gospel readings for this liturgical year at Mass will come mostly from St Matthew's Gospel.
One other change that takes place at Advent is our concluding antiphon at Evening Prayer. Until Candlemas we will sing Alma redemptoris mater at the end of Evening Prayer each weekday.
We will sing the simple plainsong version of the antiphon but many composers have over the years composed beautiful polyphonic settings of them, often incorporating elements of the plainsong tune. One such is a setting by Tomas Luis da Victoria.
Listen carefully to the opening of this version (for eight voices) by Victoria - you will hear the familiar chant melody in the S1 part first, and in several other places as the piece progresses.
Mother of Christ! Hear thou thy people's cry,
Star of the deep, and portal of the sky!
Mother of Him Who thee from nothing made,
Sinking we strive and call to thee for aid;
Oh, by that joy which Gabriel brought to thee,
Thou Virgin first and last, let us thy mercy see.