Cloud and Majesty and Awe : Advent Sunday with Sufjan Stevens

Advent Sunday : “O my God, in thee have I trusted, let me not be confounded ; neither let mine enemies triumph over me …”.  Amen to that.

The C of E doesn’t often do “cloud and majesty and awe“, but I think the humblest congregation can aspire to a sense of the numinous with a performance of this hymn, which no doubt we shall be singing this evening.  As a child it was potent enough for the solemnity to survive the unfortunate notoriety (at the time) of a film with a similar title.  Any giggling had usually subsided by the time the organ made its entrance.

Part of its power, I think, comes from the fact that it feels ancient (unlike most hymns which feel Victorian) and, indeed, it is ancient.  The verses derive from the O Antiphons (in which Christ is addressed by seven of His various titles).  The Antiphons date from at least the 8th century and were originally sung separately.  They seem to have been first sung together in about the 12th century and sung to the familiar tune by the 14th. 

This is a modern version by Sufjan Stevens (whom we have met before in his devotional guise (see here)).  I don’t know whether this is exactly awe-inspiring, but, in my view, it is like totally awesome …  

(Two versions here – the first a fragment, the second full-length) –



2 thoughts on “Cloud and Majesty and Awe : Advent Sunday with Sufjan Stevens

  1. How brilliant – always pleased to hear from Mr Stevens. I rely on you to keep me up to date with the Indie side of life!

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