One spell of employment held by Clemens—tellingly, for a period of only three months—was at the leading religious confraternity of Onze Lieve Vrouwe Broederschap in ’s-Hertogenbosch, during the autumn of 1550. The motto of this guild, devoted to performing good works (and good music) in the name of Our Lady, was ‘Sicut lilium inter spinas’ (‘As a lily among thorns’: one of many standard references to what was by this stage of late-medieval devotion regarded as the perpetual virginity of Mary). That Clemens should write a motet in seven parts (a Marian number) in which this very phrase is uttered three times in homophony, first by a high-voice group, then a low, then finally the entire choir, suggests strongly that the Broederschap was involved in its genesis. The beauty of this moment is enhanced by its central position in the piece: just as the Virgin is a lily among thorns, so her motto is set in simple chords between complex polyphony. The motet concludes with descriptions of streams of waters flowing down from Lebanon, aptly depicted in wave-like phrases passed between the voices.
from notes by Stephen Rice © 2009