Tuesday, December 24, 2019

Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence – Music Story

“Imagine that you are watching – astonished! – as God, accompanied by thousands of angels, descends from heaven to earth be born of Mary. Picture that descent as you sing these words.”

The choir director was asking us to focus on the lyrics of the sheet music he had passed out. I was a student nurse at Abbott Hospital School of Nursing and privileged to be part of an area wide student nurse choir. We would be performing Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence at a Christmas concert downtown Minneapolis. We had in our hands an ancient Greek hymn translated into English and set to a French melody.

Sixteen hundred years ago the hymn was chanted during communion when the bread and wine were presented. The words focus the attention to the awe and mystery of God’s presence in the Eucharist. We were to sing the words as an act of worship, in awe and wonder that God with us once lay in a manger.

I can’t remember what else was sung at the concert. But I will never forget singing this song, our voices reverberating through St. Mark’s Episcopal Cathedral, seemingly in concert with the angelic host as they announced the birth of Jesus to the shepherds. For me this communion chant will always be a Christmas hymn, depicting the amazing wonder of God being born as a man.

From the album “The HymnBook – Thirty-Four Hundred Years of Praise!” this video is scrolling playback of the song.

Click here and here to read the history of the hymn.

You can get print (PDF) and/or digital (MusicXML™) sheet music for Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence (arranged for brass and bells).
Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence
Click here for print sheet music.
Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence
Click here for digital sheet music.
(MusicXML™ is the standard open format for sharing digital sheet music. Check the help files in your music notation app for directions on importing MusicXML™ files.)