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To Know Christ and to Make Him Known

Feb. 17, 2019: “Holy art thou” to setting of “Largo from Xerxes” by G.F. Handel

Today’s Music: The anthem, “Holy art thou,” is a setting of religious words to the well-known piece by G.F. Handel, usually called the “Largo from Xerxes.” The original piece was actually an aria from the opera Serse (Xerxes in Italian) entitled “Ombra mai fu,” sung by the Persian king, who, according to customary practice in those days (1738), would have been played by a soprano castrato (i.e. a male who was castrated at a young age to preserve his boy’s soprano range but with the lung power of an adult male). For some reason this practice declined in popularity and the piece is now sung by a countertenor or mezzo-soprano wearing male costume. “Ombra mai fu” was the first music to be broadcast on the radio, in 1906. David Boelzner