Music Message for August 9, 2020 from Danny
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Magnificat on the Ninth Tone by Samuel Scheidt and Tell Out My Soul arranged by J. Wayne Kerr
This week I chose to do some music in honor of the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary (which is coming up in the lectionary this Saturday—8/15, not celebrated on Sunday though). One of the readings for this solemnity is, of course, from Luke chapter 1 (verses 39-56) and tells the story of Mary’s visit with Elizabeth and the moment when she finds out that Elizabeth is pregnant as well.
Settings of the magnificat (the text of which is found in those verses from Luke that I just mentioned) have been a staple of church music for hundreds of years—especially at evening services. Since we don’t typically have a chance to do an evensong here at Good Shepherd, I thought I’d grab an excuse to go ahead and plug in a magnificat anyway.
The magnificat setting that I have chosen is by North German composer Samuel Scheidt and is based on a chant that was often used for the magnificat. This piece appears in Scheidt’s book of music Tabulatura Nova, which was published in 1624 and is an immense collection of keyboard works in various genres—especially liturgical organ music. It was published in open score (meaning that it was laid out on four staves rather than the more typical two or three staves used for organ music) probably because, as Scheidt explains in the preface, his pieces can be distributed among the hands and feet in various different ways (for example, if the performer so chooses, with the feet playing the soprano voice rather than the bass voice).
This magnificat by Scheidt is meant to be performed in the alternatim fashion (meaning that a congregation, choir, or cantor sings the odd number verses of the magnificat text and the organist performs the even verses—the idea being that the congregation would know the words if this text so well that they wouldn’t need to hear every single verse sung in order to be able to reflect upon each one). This recording is of me playing on the Fisk organ in Auer Hall at Indiana University for my Performer Diploma recital in 2012. My friend Anastasia Chin is singing the odd numbered verses. Here is a translation of the magnificat text to follow along with (just to reiterate: the even verses are played, not sung):
1. Cantor: Magnificat anima mea Dominum.
My soul glorifies the Lord,
2. Organ: Et exultavit spiritus meus in Deo salutari meo.
my spirit rejoice in God, my Saviour.
3. Cantor: Quia respexit humilitatem ancillae suae; ecce enim ex hoc beatam me dicent omnes generationes.
He looks on his servant in her lowliness; henceforth all ages will call me blessed.
4. Organ: Quia fecit mihi magna, qui potens est: et sanctum nomen eius.
The Almighty works marvels for me. Holy is his name!
5. Cantor: Et misericordia eius, a progenie et progenies: timentibus eum.
His mercy is from age to age, on those who fear him.
6. Organ: Fecit potentiam in brachio suo: dispersit superbos mente cordis sui.
He puts forth his arm in strength and scatters the proud-hearted.
7. Cantor: Deposuit potentes de sede: et exaltavit humiles.
He casts the mighty from their thrones and raises the lowly.
8. Organ: Esurientes implevit bonis: et divites dimisit inanes.
He fills the starving with good things, sends the rich away empty.
9. Cantor: Suscepit Israel puerum suum: recordatus misericordiae suae.
He protects Israel, his servant, remembering his mercy,
10. Organ: Sicut locutus est ad patres nostros: Abraham, et semini eius in saecula.
the mercy promised to our fathers, to Abraham and his sons forever.
11. Cantor: Gloria Patri, et Filio, et Spiritui Sancto,
Glory to the Father, and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit,
12. Organ: Sicut erat in principio, et nunc, et semper, et in saecula saeculorum. Amen.
As it was in the beginning, also now, and always, and to ages of ages. Amen.
And then, I thought I’d also offer something a little more modern in contrast to the Scheidt piece. One of our favorite hymns at Good Shepherd uses Timothy Dudley-Smith’s paraphrase of the magnificat from the 1960s. Here it is then, my recording from my apartment of a modern arrangement of Hymn 478 from our hymnal. Thanks for listening!