Magnificat (My soul doth magnify the Lord)
SSATTB chorus unaccompanied
Text: Luke I: 46-55, King James Version
Commissioned by The Schubert Club for The Rose Ensemble, Jordan Sramek, Director.
Premiere—2003, by The Rose Ensemble, Montgomery, MN.
My soul doth magnify the Lord,
and my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour.
For he hath regarded the lowliness of his handmaiden:
for, behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed.
For he that is mighty hath done to me great things; and holy is his name.
And his mercy is on them that fear him from generation to generation.
He hath shewed 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 hath holpen his servant Israel, in rememberance of his mercy;
As he spake to our forefathers, Abraham, and his seed forever. Amen.
One of the most personal canticles of the church, the Magnificat comes from the first chapter of the Gospel of Matthew, where Mary visits Elizabeth, the mother of John the Baptist. When Elizabeth’s baby jumps in her womb, Mary responds with the text of the Magnificat.
My setting begins with a spark from a bell and follows the structure of the text closely. The opening sentence is set to opposing choirs, and the reasons for Mary’s rejoicing prompt gradually quieter phrases, until at the words “He hath scattered the proud,” only a single voice is left. The canyons and echoes of “He hath put down the mighty .” yield to a more flowing fugal texture at the mention of Abraham. The closing Gloria pulses with the rhythm of the opening words, as joy and wonder are now a power internalized.