Today I've chosen a piece by the English Renaissance composer William Byrd. He had a varied professional career and a huge output for the liturgy, both in English and in Latin.
Today's piece, Rorate Caeli, comes from the first of his two-volume Gradualia, published in 1605. The Gradualia are sets of propers for the major feasts of the Church's year. It is a polyphonic setting of the text for the Introit for Advent Sunday.
We sing the propers each Sunday and feast day at St Michael's to plainsong melodies, but in Byrd's time he, and some of his continental counterparts, were commissioned to write polyphonic settings for use in the liturgy. The Cardinall's Musick have recorded all of these propers and they're certainly worth a listen
The text: From Isaiah 45:8, the refrain: Drop down ye heavens from above, and let the skies pour down righteousness; the psalm verse is from Psalm 85: Lord, you have blessed your land - you have turned away the captivity of Jacob.
This performance comes from Belfast choir Melisma, and is a live recording from St Anne's Cathedral, Belfast.
Drop down, ye heavens, from above, and let the skies pour down righteousness: let the earth open, and let it bring forth a Saviour.
Lord, you have blessed your land - you have turned away the captivity of Jacob.