The more settings of the Magnificat and Nunc dimittis we learn, the more we are struck by one central mystery: how the same two New Testament songs can be set over and over again with so much variation.
Mary’s song of joy upon discovering she is to give birth to the Son of God, and the ageing Simeon’s hymn of recognition, upon taking the baby Jesus into his arms, that he had lived to see the Messiah, appear to provide composers over the centuries with almost limitless inspiration.
This year alone we have sung settings by Gibbons from the early 17th century, Walmisley from the early 19th century, Dyson and Brewer from the early 20th century, with one by Howells written in the mid 20th century coming soon: in each case it is as if the words were being set for the first time.
At our next Evensong we’ll be singing a setting by Ēriks Ešenvalds from the early 21st century – one that is refreshingly new without being discordant, powerful while at the same time uncomplicated, original yet hauntingly timeless.
Join us this Saturday to experience the beautiful music and restorative liturgy of Evensong!
Image: Leonardo da Vinci, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons