Magnificat | SATB Chorus | 15'
Available in 4 voicings: with full orchestra, with chamber orchestra,
with string quartet & piano, or with solo piano.
Again and again, I find myself drawn to poems and other writings that present a very human perspective on the divine. In Lynn Ungar’s poem “Magnificat,” she contemplates an apparent contradiction in Mary's words: that magnifying God could mean in fact mean making God smaller, in the form of a child. Just as the poem turns these words over, finding new meaning each time, the music spins these repeated phrases into new harmonic perspectives.
Ungar's poem grounds the traditional Christmas story in minute details like the urgent hunger of an infant. Her text, like all good poems, uses the small, precise, and confined nature of poetry to magnify our humanity.
Magnificat was commissioned through the following consortium:
The Carson Chamber Singers through the Carson City Symphony Association, led by Richard Hutton (World Premiere); North Shore Choral Society, led by Julia Davids (Midwest Premiere); Harmonium Choral Society, led by Anne Matlack (East Coast Premiere); and Cantabile Chamber Singers, led by Cheryll Chung (Canadian Premiere). After the consortium premieres, this piece will be available for programming beginning in January 2024.
My soul doth magnify the Lord
said Mary, under circumstances
which make it something of a startling
utterance. Not I accept the will of the Lord.
Not I bow before the Lord.
Not even I give thanks to the Lord.
No, Mary, this young woman,
presumably unfamiliar with angels
or divine voices of any kind,
let alone those pronouncing
that salvation would grow inside
her ordinary flesh—this woman
who may be innocent, but hardly seems naïve—
says something remarkable.
My soul magnifies the Lord.
Who I am, what I do, how I choose
makes God bigger. As if God
were to slip between microscope slides
and appear in never-before-seen detail.
Which is, of course, exactly
what happens. Somehow,
in being magnified God gets small,
small enough to sleep amongst the straw
and the scent of farm animals.
God magnified becomes particular,
tangible, urgent as a hungry child.
And Mary, like so many women
before her and after, puts the baby
to her breast, where they both grow
vast in one another’s eyes.
String Quartet & Piano Demo
Piano Reduction & Chorus
2 B♭ Clarinets
4 French Horns