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This setting of the well-known words from the 2nd nocturn of Christmas Day matins opens on pp semtone discords while the sopranos sing a lullaby-like melody. The discords continue to tug, puzzling at the ’great mystery’, until all voices take up the tune, resolving mystery into simple wonder. A 2nd theme again moves from discord to an ff climax in the bright dominant key of E major, underscoring the epiphany: the animals really did see the Infant Jesus in the manger.Theme 1 returns, then theme 3: a swinging 6/8 celebration of Mary, again climaxing in E. The work closes, as it began, in quiet mystery. Best sung a cappella.
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