After mentioning online that the music of St. Hildegard is one of my favorite options for our children’s bedtime listening, it occurred to me that some may not be acquainted with this powerhouse Saint, much less her contributions to the canon of western music. In an attempt to remedy this travesty in my own little way, I thought I would share a little bit about her and offer a short playlist our favorite St. Hildegard “lullabies” to make her works more approachable.
In September of 2011, on the Feast of St. Hildegard, I was received into the Catholic Church. This was a month before Pope Benedict XVI was set to declare her a Doctor of the Church. I had become familiar with St. Hildegard through her in college a few years previously while studying music history and sacred music literature so it was divine providence when her feast was chosen by our priest for my reception.
St. Hildegard von Bingen was a german abbess, visionary, poet, musician, and naturalist during the 1100s. Both a prolific writer and composer, she also provides us with one of the largest bodies of surviving medieval music today. Of great note is her liturgical drama, Ordo Virtutum. With its 82 different melodies, Ordo Virtutum considerably expanded the original one piece liturgical dramas of the earlier century. The narrative, also written by St. Hildegard, follows a soul on its journey towards heaven as it wrestles with the personified vices and virtues. Possibly the first recognized morality play, it is a forerunner of the musical genres of modern opera and oratorio. Ordo Virtutum was part of St. Hildegard’s collection of music called Symphonia Armonie Celestium Revelationum that also contained an extensive compilation of 77 antiphons, hymns, Mass propers, responses, and sequences for the whole of the liturgical year. The following playlist is made up of pieces from Ordo Virtutum as well as the other portion of Symphonia Armonie Celestium Revelationum.
P.S. If you are looking for a fun way to introduce the life of St. Hildegard, this picture book is a great place to start.
Help your family grow closer to Mary through the ancient music of the Church!