O vos omnes

SATB (divisi) a cappella

Recording credit: Central Washington University Chamber Choir, conducted by Megan McCormick

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O vos omnes,
transitis per viam,
attendite, et videte:
Si est dolor similis
sicut dolor meus.

Attendite, universi populi,
et videte dolorem meum.

Si est dolor similis
sicut dolor meus.


O, all ye
that pass by
attend and see:
If there be any sorrow
like my sorrow.

Attend, O all ye people
and see my sorrow.

If there be any sorrow
like my sorrow.


This setting of O vos omnes was commissioned by Opus 7 Vocal Ensemble in Seattle in celebration of their 10th Anniversary Season. It serves as a musical portrait of the scene at Golgotha, where Christ hung on the cross and by which travelers and onlookers passed on their way in and out of Jerusalem. The “speaker” of the text is somewhat ambiguous: is it Mary or Christ himself? I find that this ambiguity makes the text even more poignant. Regardless of the speaker, the perspective of the setting is from that of those at the cross. The music begins quietly as the crowd approaches a few at a time at first, then becoming a surging throng, while the volume and density of the music rises to a tumult. Eventually the crowd moves past into the distance, both the volume and density of the music dwindling down to the hushed sound of the crowd disappearing into the distance, leaving only the bleak scene and its aftermath at the foot of the cross.

The musical style of the setting has an obsessive quality and is reminiscent of a funeral procession. The pervasive, poignant ostinato represents “all those who pass by” while the other voices express both Christ’s and Mary’s pain in sharp dissonances placed against the ostinato. A faster middle section beginning at the word “Attendite” is more agitated and asks of those who pass by if they have “seen such a sorrow as my sorrow.” Again, the identity of the speaker, be it Mary or Jesus, is deliberately ambiguous.