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StMarksTympanumWhat a service. All thanks to Matt Glandorf and the choir of St. Mark’s Church, Philadelphia, along with organist Tom Sheehan and harpist Madeline Blood, for such a stirring presentation yesterday of the Magnificat, at Advent Lessons & Carols.

Matt had asked if I might wish to re-arrange the accompaniment of this Magnificat, from its origins in Vespers for Renaissance instruments, to modern harp and organ. The choir and solo soprano parts (so well sung yesterday!) remain the same. I was happy to give it a try, and they blessed me with their presenting of it in this version.

Throughout the service the choir sang from all compass points in the sanctuary (and out). They also sang works by Gustav Holst, Richard Marlow, Roxanna Panufnik (a haunting “Come, My Way, my Truth, My Life”), Eric Whitacre, Paul Manz (as gorgeous an “E’en So Lord Jesus Quickly Come” as you’re likely to hear), and a brilliant premiere of “People, Look East” by Daniel Shapiro.

It’s easy to take Matt’s direction for granted, as effortless as it seemed. But this was often challenging music, and the choreography of keeping all the musicians together, often in various parts of the church, had to have tested everyone.

But as I said, it seemed absolutely effortless. What a service, from beginning to end.

At their Christmas Eve Advent Lessons & Carols, also at 4 pm, they will sing, for a second year in a row, the a cappella 16-voice Herr Christ, der eining Gotts Sohn, also from Vespers. If I can at all be there, I will.

Here’s a snippet of the original Magnificat (more information here and more on Vespers here), as the tenors join their chorale to the 3-soprano canon: 

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