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  • Writer's pictureMitchell Covington

O salutaris Hostia

In this season of social distancing, I'm offering a series of virtual micro-concerts for anyone to enjoy. Every Wednesday, I’ll post one fine performance of notable music for women’s voices. The selections and performing groups will be varied and eclectic. Most will be in the 3-5 minute range. Each post will include an audio recording, brief notes, text & translation and, when practical, a PDF copy of the score in case you want to follow along.


Listen to this week's music and see the score in the Listening Room.



Last week’s post was longer than I want most of these posts to be. To make up for that, I think I’ll keep things short and sweet this week.

Northern Lights, Part I

The Baltic and Scandinavian regions are marked by long, cold winters and short but highly celebrated summers. Their landscapes include vast tundra and almost limitless forest lands. This is reflected in much of the music and poetry of these places. Themes of darkness and light, winter, night, and stars in the sky are frequently taken up. Ešenvalds’ setting of the sacred text, “O salutaris Hostia…” is beautifully and mystically devout and somehow reflective of the landscape that produced it.

Since the last half of the Twentieth century, there’s been a significant flowering of choral music composition in these northern European countries. Music for women’s voices, in particular, is being produced in abundance, with great diversity and exquisite quality. Much of this superb new music is rarely performed in the United states.

About the Composer

Ēriks Ešenvalds is one of the most sought-after composers working today, with a busy commission schedule and performances of his music heard on every continent. Born in Priekule, Latvia in 1977, he studied at the Latvian Baptist Theological Seminary (1995–97) before obtaining his Master’s degree in composition (2004) from the Latvian Academy of Music under the tutelage of Selga Mence. In 2011 he was awarded the two-year position of Fellow in Creative Arts at Trinity College, Cambridge.

Ešenvalds has won multiple awards for his work, including the Latvian Grand Music Award three times (2005, 2007, and 2015), First Prize from the International Rostrum of Composers, the Year’s New-Composer Discovery of the Philadelphia Inquirer and Officer in the Order of the Three Stars, the highest state decoration of his home country Latvia, for merits in the field of culture.

About this Performance

This performance is by the Female Choir Balta, directed By Mara Marnauza.

(If you can find a website for this group, please post it in the comments section below.)

The Text

O salutaris Hostia is a section of one of the three Eucharistic hymns written by St. Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274) for the Feast of Corpus Christi. It comprises the last two stanzas of his hymn, Verbum supernum prodiens, and is used for the Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. The other two hymns written by Aquinas for the Feast contain the famous sections Panis angelicus and Tantum ergo.

O salutaris Hostia

Quae caeli pandis ostium.

Bella premunt hostilia;

Da robur, fer auxilium.

Uni trinoque Domino

Sit sempiterna gloria:

Qui vitam sine termino,

Nobis donet in patria.


O saving Victim opening wide

The gate of heaven to all below.

Our foes press on from every side;

Supply thine aid, bestow thy strength.

To Thy great name be endless praise

Immortal Godhead, One in Three;

Oh, grant us endless length of days,

In our true native land with Thee.

For more…

The choir I direct, Voci Women’s Vocal Ensemble, presented a concert in the spring of 2019 that we called, Northern Lights. All of the music on the program was by living composers from the Baltic and Scandanavian regions. For the complete program featuring titles and composers, visit Voci’s website:

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Mitchell Covington is an award-winning composer and conductor who lives and works in the San Francisco Bay Area. He is a frequent adjudicator for choir competitions and festivals and has led choir tours and festivals throughout Europe. Mr. Covington has several choral compositions in print with major U.S publishers and his music has been performed by choirs throughout the U.S and Europe. Mr. Covington is the Founding Artistic Director of Voci Women's Vocal Ensemble.

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