Saturday, 25 December 2010



I have been privileged to sing in a choir here in Ottawa that regularly performs pieces that I write; on occasion the choristers have been guinea pigs when I test techniques or compositional styles.

Anyway, on December 5th, 2010, the Harmonia Choir of Ottawa premiered two works of mine, including this one: a setting of the Magnificat.

Embedded video below the break.

The text is the older Latin translation of the song, which is extracted from a passage in the Gospel account of Luke when Mary goes to visit her cousin Elizabeth.

The Magnificat is commonly sung in Advent (a Christian liturgical season during the four weeks leading up to Christmas), since one of the weeks is often dedicated to the Virgin Mary. The text is generic enough that it can be sung or recited on other occasions, and indeed in the Anglican Church it is a staple of evening prayer services.

The score is for a standard SATB chorus. The dominant key regions are a D-Aeolian (standard minor) mode and a C-Ionian (standard major) mode. Although the score includes bar lines for spacing purposes, I think it is best sung without reference to them.

The principal and most common motive occurs when the chorus begins on a unison D (and I mean a real unison: everyone singing the same note), opens up to a B-flat Lydian cluster and closes back to the D, or some variation thereof.

For a bit of contrast, the section where the proud are scattered ('dispersit superbos mente cordis sui') has staggered entries, and ends up on a fully-diminished 7th chord; the following segment, where the mighty are put down from their seats, is declaimed in an almost-medieval harmonic structure. The primary motive returns when the humble are exalted, and going forward.

The piece is written with a standard doxology, although of course it can be easily performed without it.

One interesting note: this is the only piece that I have written so far from keyboard. Otherwise I write either at the computer or entirely by hand. I spent one solid summer day, back in my unemployed student summertimes, working away at the first draft.

Summing things up this is, I believe, the first of any of my compositions to be uploaded to YouTube, which is great for sharing. Certainly I hope it won't be the last, and I also hope you all enjoy listening to it as much as I enjoyed writing it and performing it.

1 comment:

  1. Didn't realize you sang with Harmonia with my good friend Debbie. A lovely composition!