Advent Calendar Day 2 – Magnificat (Purcell)

I was trying to find a version of Purcell’s ‘Thy Word is a Lantern’ for today, but given a choice of excessively mannered male alto * or pleasing but very quiet female alto with lots of background rustling, I was less than inspired (I’m not sure why this particular search string also brought me up the Alto’s Lament, but that is a question for another day).

Fortunately, it also brought up this gorgeous verse anthem by Purcell, which is ever so much more appropriate for Advent anyway, being as it is a Magnificat. This is Mary’s song early in the book of Luke, after the Angel tells her that she will conceive and bear a son and all that. I believe I’ve expressed the opinion before that Advent is All About Mary, and we might as well start early on this one. You’ll be seeing a lot more Magnificats around here before Advent is over.

I’ve never actually heard this piece before, but already I want to sing it – I have a weakness for verse anthems (anthems which alternate between a soloist or group of soloists and the full choir) and particularly love the way Purcell alternates between full choir and trios composed of lower and then upper voices. I strongly suspect that this is an all-male choir, and I do wish it wasn’t, but it is a very good one for all that.

And you really can’t ever go wrong with Purcell (despite the evidence beside the asterisk below).

No embedding for this video – hie thee to YouTube and watch it there!

Magnificat, composed by Henry Purcell, and sung by the choir of Christ College, Oxford

* seriously, I was waiting for him to start singing the No Kissing At All song. That’s how mannered he was. And yes, he was really that camp.

Edited to add: In fact, I did get to sing this at Christ Church Brunswick, a few years later, and I couldn’t figure out why it seemed so familiar – now I know.

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