Tag Archives: Advent

Annunciation and Magnificat

annunciationmagnificatp3Annunciation and Magnificat. Brass quintet (with opt. flugelhorns), narrator, 22 minutes

Annunciation and Magnificat is a set of musings on the text of the first chapter of Luke, verses 26 through 55. Beginning with the announcement to Mary from the angel Gabriel that she would become the mother of Jesus the Messiah, and ending with her song of praise, the text explores her questions and trepidations, the angel’s assurances, and Mary’s visit with her cousin Elisabeth who was then pregnant with John the Baptist. A narrator reads the text, which I’ve divided into eight sections. The quintet plays a meditation on the text after each section is read, the Magnificat ending with the non-scriptural but traditional Gloria Patri:

1. The angel Gabriel was sent
2. She was troubled
3. Fear not, Mary
4. How shall this be?
5. Nothing shall be impossible
6. Behold the handmaid of the Lord
7. And Mary arose
8. Magnificat

Elements of the music appear, transformed, as the work progresses. In “Nothing shall be impossible,” the key of D-flat travels quickly to the farthest key away, G, and back again, which journey I tried to make as unnoticed as I could. Normally I take one emotion from each section and attempt to express that musically, but I do, in the Magnificat, follow the text closely. The antiphon recurs as in a sung Magnificat (albeit truncated sometimes), after each two-line thought; the overall feel is of a jubilant dance.

I am thankful to the Gaudete Brass for the opportunity to compose this. Their trumpeters are also excellent flugelhorn players, so I was happy to provide places in the music where those warm-sounding instruments could optionally be used.

Annunciation and Magnificat was premiered 3 December 2016 by the Gaudete Brass Quintet at St. Clement Parish, Chicago.

1. The angel Gabriel was sent
And in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee, named Nazareth, to a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary. And the angel came in unto her, and said, Hail, you who are highly favored, the Lord is with you: blessed are you among women.

2. She was troubled
And when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and cast in her mind what manner of salutation this should be.

3. Fear not, Mary
And the angel said unto her, Fear not, Mary: for you have found favor with God. And, behold, you shall conceive in your womb, and bring forth a son, and shall call his name Jesus. He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end.

4. How shall this be?
Then said Mary unto the angel, How shall this be, seeing I know not a man?

5. Nothing shall be impossible
And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon you, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow you: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of you shall be called the Son of God. And, behold, your cousin Elisabeth, she has also conceived a son in her old age: and this is the sixth month with her, who was called barren. For with God nothing shall be impossible.

6. Behold the handmaid of the Lord
And Mary said, Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to your word. And the angel departed from her.

7. And Mary arose
And Mary arose in those days, and went into the hill country with haste, into a city of Juda; and entered into the house of Zacharias, and saluted Elisabeth. And it came to pass, that, when Elisabeth heard the salutation of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb; and Elisabeth was filled with the Holy Ghost: and she spake out with a loud voice, and said, Blessed art you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And what is this to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For, lo, as soon as the voice of your salutation sounded in my ears, the babe leaped in my womb for joy. And blessed is she that believed: for there shall be a performance of those things which were told her from the Lord.

8. Magnificat
And Mary said,

My soul magnifies the Lord,
And my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior.

For he has regarded the low estate of his handmaiden:
for, behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed.

For he that is mighty has done to me great things; and holy is his name.
And his mercy is on them that fear him from generation to generation.

He has showed strength with his arm;
he has scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts.

He has put down the mighty from their seats,
and exalted them of low degree.

He has filled the hungry with good things;
and the rich he has sent empty away.

He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy;
As he spoke to our fathers, to Abraham, and to 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.

—Luke 1:26-55, Gloria Patri

O Come, O Come, Emmanuel recording

OComeOComeEmmanuelp1The choir at the Church of the Holy Trinity on Rittenhouse Square, where I’m Composer in Residence, sang O Come, O Come, Emmanuel this past Sunday, the First of Advent. John French directed from the organ.

Details about the anthem are here, and my slightly tongue-in-cheek description of the revision process, which I wrote up for the Broad Street Review, is here.

I couldn’t be at the Church of the Holy Trinity, unfortunately—duties at my own Holy Trinity church keeping me away—but I feel as if I had been, now that they kindly sent me the recording of it, made as they sang during the offering. They sound lovely, as always.

I’m so delighted to be working with John and the choir! Here’s the recording: 


Herr Christ, der einig Gotts Sohn at Saint Mark's

Saint Marks DoorsMy thanks to Matt Glandorf for the exquisite performance of Herr Christ, der einig Gotts Sohn at the first Lessons & Carols of the Advent season at Saint Mark’s, Philadelphia.

This anthem is from Vespers, an a cappella setting of the early Reformation hymn for four, then eight, then 16 parts. The Saint Mark’s singers were spectacular, and Matt’s reading of it was brilliantly done.

Not only in my work, but in everything: Gibbons, Praetorius, Paul Manz, a Jan Sandström Lo, how a rose, and Roxanna Panufnik’s Magnificat, pieces sung from all corners of the sanctuary. They began the service with a choral improvisation for the Introit. I hadn’t heard of such a thing until a few months ago.

The choir literally improvises on the selected verse and antiphon. Steven Bradshaw soloed within a mode, and others hummed or sang words within that mode, according to a road-map from Glandorf, who sculpted the sound. It is thrilling. I know of Julian Wachner doing this at Trinity Wall Street in New York City, and wonder how many other places have attempted this?

Glandorf improvised the stunning organ postlude, and Assistant Organist Tom Sheehan played the rest of the service while Matt conducted. Richard Stone accompanied beautifully here and there on theorbo. Sheehan’s Prelude, the Dupré Le monde dans l’attente du sauveur was magnificent, as was his delivery of the hymns. Thank you, all, for a blessed evening.