Magnificat & Nunc Dimittis
Writing your first Evening Canticles (or Evening Catnip, as my computer spellchecker likes to call it) is every bit as daunting as your first string quartet. There are so many magnificent precedents, in an ancient spiritual choral tradition beloved by so many. However, when both St Mark’s Episcopal Church Choir (Philadelphia, USA) & the Exultate Singers (Bristol, UK) simultaneously approached me to do it, I felt it was time.
I consulted my good friend, The Revd Canon Michael Hampel, and he suggested the idea of interpolating the Ave Maria (in Latin) with the Magnificat – as those words of the Archangel Gabriel telling Mary that she was carrying God’s son must have been utmost in her mind for the subsequent Magnificat, which is her response to that awesome news. Piecing the two texts together, they have very close associations – it seemed a very natural thing to do.
Simeon’s speech on the fulfilment of prophecy at the Messiah’s/Jesus’s arrival starts more reflectively, again with a little Latin – this time just the first line of the Nunc Dimittis. The music draws greatly on the more wild and theatrical Magnificat, ending with the same last celebratory lines.
The piece is dedicated to the two commissioning choirs, with thanks for our very happy continuing collaborations. It last’s approximately 10 minutes.
RP, 17th November, 2011
MAGNIFICAT Luke 1
MY soul doth magnify the Lord: Ave Maria, (Hail Mary,) and my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour.
For he hath regarded gratia plena, (full of grace,): the lowliness of his hand-maiden. Dominus tecum, (the Lord is with thee,)
For behold, from henceforth: Benedicta tu in mulieribus (blessed art thou among women) all generations shall call me blessed. Et benedictus fructus ventris tui, Jesus. (And blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus,)
For he that is mighty hath magnified me Sancta Maria, (Holy Mary,) : and holy is his Name. Mater Dei, (mother of God,)
And his mercy is on them that fear him: Ora pro nobis peccatoribus, (Pray for us sinners now,) throughout all generations. Nunc et in hora, mortis nostrae. (And at the hour of our death.)
He hath showed strength with his arm: he hath scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts. He hath put down the mighty from their seat: and hath exalted the humble and meek. He hath filled the hungry with good things: and the rich he hath sent empty away.
He remembering his mercy hath holpen his servant Israel: as he promised to our forefathers, Abraham and his seed, for ever.
Glory be to the Father, and to the Son : and to the Holy Ghost; As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be: world without end. Amen.
NUNC DIMITTIS Luke 2.29
Nunc dimittis servum tuum, Domine, secundum verbum tuum in pace: LORD, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace: according to thy word.
For mine eyes have seen: thy salvation; Which thou hast prepared: before the face of all people; To be a light to lighten the Gentiles : and to be the glory of thy people Israel.
Glory be to the Father, and to the Son: and to the Holy Ghost; As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be : world without end.