During the Anglican service of Evensong the choir’s main duty is to sing the Anthem and the two evening canticles – the Magnificat and the Nunc Dimittis. Composers who have set these pieces had to meet very precise requirements if they wanted to see their setting in regular use. It is precisely this very discipline that has stimulated many composers musical to work at the top of their form in many of the settings that you can hear performed on a regular basis in Cathedrals and University chapels throughout England. One such composer was Charles Villiers Stanford the Dublin-born son of a prosperous Anglo-Irish lawyer whose influence on modern choral music particularly English religious choral music was profound (I have a brief biography of him here: Stanford: Song of Wisdom : Canterbury Cathedral Choir | Saturday Chorale). Much of what English religious choral music is today is owed to his labours and while Stanford’s non-religious music is reasonably well known and of very good quality I would argue that his church music shows at his best as a composer.
All of his settings of the Great Service are very special but two of them the G major and the C Major are particularly appealing to me. That being so I was very happy to see that a video of a performance of Stanford’s Magnificat in C given by The Choir of Somerville College, Oxford on April 21st last had been uploaded by the choir to their YouTube channnel. I’ve written about this choir on several occasions before and will confine myself on this occasion to remarking that this is a choir that consistently punches above its musical weight. Enjoy :-).
Video Source: Charles Villiers Stanford: Magnificat in C, op. 115 – YouTube Published on 29 May 2013 by somervillechoir
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My soul doth magnify the Lord: and my spirit rejoiceth in God my Saviour.
For he hath regarded: the lowliness of his hand-maiden.
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 shewed 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 forefather 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, and is now, and ever shall be: world without end. Amen.