Geoffrey Burgon (1941-2010) started composing his ‘Magnificat’ for his own pleasure after the runaway success of his ‘Nunc Dimittis’. He found the composition process for the Magnificat to be a struggle, indeed he was so dissatisfied with his first efforts that he tore them up and threw them away. Happily for us the Royal Choral Society commissioned him to compose a Magnificat which he duly did. It’s the first music video in the playlist below. This was in distinct contrast to the composition process for ‘Nunc Dimittis’ of which he said:
‘Like many of my best pieces, it came to me very clearly and complete. And I always thought of it as being part of a tradition of sacred music, not a piece deliberately written in a “pop” style.’
However difficult or otherwise Burgon found composing the two pieces they’re both characterised by his elegant style in which not one note is either wasted or out of place. Of the two the ‘Nunc Dimittis’ (this is the 1979 version) is the better known due to it’s role as the end piece for the BBC dramatisation of John le Carré’s "Tinker,Tailor, Soldier,Spy" and its entry into the BBC’s "top ten". But the ‘Magnificat’ is also a remarkably fine piece of music that deserves to be far better known. Enjoy :-)
My soul doth magnify the Lord.
And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my saviour.
For he hath regarded the lowliness of his handmaiden:
for behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed.
For he that is mighty hath magnified me: and holy is his name.
And his mercy is on them that fear him throughout all generations.
He hath showed strength with his arm:
he hath scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts.
He hath put down the mighty from their seat,
and hath exalted the humble and meek.
He hath filled the hungry with good things:
and the rich he hath sent empty away.
He remembering his mercy hath holpen his servant Israel.
As he promised to our forefathers, Abraham and 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.
Lyrics: Nunc dimittis
Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace,
according to thy word. For mine eyes have seen thy
salvation which thou hast prepared before the face of all
people. To be a light to lighten the Gentiles; and to be the
glory of thy people Israel. 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.