The Nativity Story

Veni, Veni Emanuel by Mychael Danna on Grooveshark
"From the rose springs up the lily
Flower in flower flourishes
According to God's plan
The true day dawns.

From the moon shines
The sun's brightening ray;
And the star that never dims
Points out the stable."
-From the cue In Rosa Vernat Lilium
By Mychael Danna

In preparation for the upcoming Christmas season, I decided to review one of the best scores created for the 2005 Christmas film, The Nativity Story, composed by Mychael Danna.
A Star Shall Come Forth by Mychael Danna on GroovesharkThe Nativity Story tells of the true Christmas story based off the Gospels; Matthew, Mark, and Luke from the Bible. Mary is divinely given a son who is Jesus Christ, the Savior of the World. She and her husband to-be, Joseph, make a treacherous journey to his hometown, Bethlehem. In the meantime several groups of people are desperate to find Jesus. Three Wisemen who are startled to find the stars foretelling this king's birth, and Herod, a king who will stop at nothing to ensure that his place at the throne is unchallenged.
Composer, Mychael Danna was a perfect choice given his work for several films that included ethnic, middle eastern, and ancient instruments. The music for this this film remains remarkably historically accurate for the most part.
Danna utilizes several styles in the score. The first is his use of middle eastern instruments including the Persian Ney, Oud, Gamba, and even some Roman instruments which is all used to represent the people and locations of that time period. The second, is his use of Latin text, and Gregorian chanting, which is used to symbolize the religious aspects of the film. Danna also creates a tender orchestral theme for Mary who is feeling the burden but blessed responsibility of being the mother of God. On top of that, Danna also utilized several Christmas carols in the score including, The Coventry Carol, Silent Night, O Come, O Come Emmanuel, and Carol of the Bells. According to Danna he, "used medieval and renaissance instruments from the age of faith, when European culture was very strictly centered on the Nativity story and what it meant in everyday life."
The album opens up with the Gregorian-esq version of the carol Veni, Veni Emanuel (O Come, O Come Emmanuel) and intoning church bells Eerie roman brass suddenly cuts it off, and the cue swings into heavy percussion and ethnic instrumentation which is used for the action material throughout the score.
Silens Nox by Mychael Danna on Grooveshark In the cue, Nazareth, a solo female vocal intones what sounds like a tribute to Mary with a harp as the accompaniment. The cue transforms into a blissful melody heard on a flute.  
 The carol, Silent Night, is performed by female vocals in Latin which is heard in the gorgeous cue, Silens Nox and text from the book of Isaiah is intoned in Hebrew heard in the cue, Words of the Prophet. 
However, the best climatic moment in the score takes place in the frantic cue, Is There a Place for Us? Fast paced percussion accompanies strings in which Carol of the Bells, is the driving melody. The cue changes to a epic choral and string statement as the "solemnity" overtakes the "frenetic" in the following cue, A Star Shall Come Forth. A tender female vocal starts the cue off, then is overtaken with a reverent choral and orchestral statement. The effect is most powerful. The cue, Rosa Aeterna Floret, (We Rose In Bloom) closes the album with solo female vocals performing the song in Latin.
This score is very powerful and I highly recommend that you add it to your soundtrack and Christmas music collection. The music truly proclaims: Iesus Christus est natus!

"Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call His name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God With Us." - Matthew 1:23

Best Cue(s)
  • Veni, Veni Emmanuel
  • Nazareth
  • The Journey
  • Is There A Place For Us?
  • A Star Shall Come Forth
  • Silens Nox
Rating: ****1/2


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