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my soul doth magnify …

January 15, 2011

Like anyone who’s sung in an Anglican church or chapel choir, I’ve sung these words many times, in many wonderful settings (and a few less wonderful ones, too). I had never set the Magnificat myself, though.  And over Christmas, I suddenly felt drawn to have a go.

They are wonderful words.  But it took a lot of work, reading and speaking them through again and again, to get to the point where I could actually approach them again as words, ideas.  Until then, every phrase of the text immediately rang out with musical phrases from all the well-known settings which I’ve sung over the years til they’ve become engrained in my brain, and even if I managed to let go of the particular rhythms and shapes of that setting, I was still left with a sense of it that was already interpreted, pre-digested.  Gradually, as I said the lines over and over, I felt I was beginning to clear some free space in my mind and strip my reading and thinking right back to the words themselves. And this was the place where I could begin to find some music of my own. I’ve now finished the Magnificat, and tried to focus on the feelings of awe as well as joy,  the sense of realising something all-encompassing and fundamental.  Now I need to start thinking about the Nunc Dimittis…

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