Wednesday, November 18, 2009

The Magnificat

A classmate's image of singing the Magnificat in the Chapel of the Good Shepherd to the Brian Forbes setting when no women sit on the dean's side:

"On this particular night, I am facing a Dean’s side which the women appear to have stayed home from, and it affords the unique opportunity of hearing burly voiced tenors and basses refer to themselves unblinking as handmaidens of the Lord, a turn of phrase which automatically fills my mind with images of tenors and basses dressed in 19th Century peasant farm girl garb, complete with milk pails. It only seems more ridiculous when I realize that it was not too long ago that it would have only been tenors and basses in this Chapel singing this song of Mary, men who, coming from Anglican influence were likely never among those hungry who had to wait to be filled with good things, whose hearts were almost certianly prone to proud, religious imaginations yet to be scattered by the strains of ordained ministry, and who would never be quick with child. In fact, this would place us in a long tradition of men singing the song of Mary in settings not necessarily always evocative of the lyrics' humble origins. On this particular night, we sing the Song of Mary to a setting by Sebastian Forbes and its the one that I had to try my hardest not to laugh during the first time I heard it. The slow, undulating tones of this Anglican chant always remind me of the Sea, and more specifically of sinking beneath it. Every time I hear it, my minds eye fills the wood planked stone built Chapel with blue water and sea weed, and so now we are 19th Century peasant farm girls singing bass- while we drown."

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