Fitzwilliam Service
(Magnificat, Nunc dimittis) Sarah Cattley

Composer Sarah Cattley
Text Luke 1:46-55; 2:29-32
Voicing Two-part treble, organ
Topics Communion
Lectionary usage Advent, Christmas
Price $2.95 (U.S.)
Length 4' 00" + 3' 10" Released 1/2020
Catalog no. 410-941
Difficulty Mod. easy

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Written for the Fitzwilliam College Chapel Choir, this setting of the evening canticles is for treble voices and organ; it is largely in two vocal parts throughout, with some minor divisi. The dance-like Magnificat makes effective use of syncopation and hemiola. The Nunc dimittis contains vocal lines that contrast chant-like repeated notes with wide, expressive leaps. The two canticles are motivically linked via the shared Gloria: the slow first part alludes to the Nunc dimittis music, and the energetic ending comes from the Magnificat, thus providing both foreshadowing and reprise.

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.
--Luke 1:46-55

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.
--Luke 2:29-32

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Nunc dimittis

"Cattley has won many awards and prestigious commissions in choral and instrumental genres. This setting of the evening canticles quickly establishes an imaginative, adventurous compositional voice. Cattley's harmonic language is comfortable in ambiguity, and many phrases attain a weightless feel that has little tonal gravity. Despite this lack of strong pitch center, the music is never harsh or dissonant. Vocal lines are mainly diatonic and even conventional, even as the accompaniment undermines some expected harmonic implications. Of even more interest, however, is the complex rhythmic organization. Cattley contrasts 6/8 organization against 3/4, employing creative use of hemiola, and she explores unconventional beat subdivisions. These rhythmic hijinks will challenge singers, yet they infuse the music with a spirited vitality that is nothing short of bewitching. The Magnificat is written for two-voice choir with only a handful of divided notes in the lower voice, while the Nunc dimittis is cast more consistently in three voices. Where the first canticle dances, the second one sings lyrically. Expansive lines that outline wide intervals gain intensity from a similar rhythmic intricacy yet restrained within a gentle pacing. Whereas the first Gloria Patri exults, ending fortissimo, the concluding Gloria Patri maintains the expressive flow of the preceding canticle. The organ part throughout is interesting, affording players ample opportunities for interesting solo colors, and of only moderate technical difficulty. This extremely effective service will be useful for adults and children, and while it may require some careful rehearsal, choirs are sure to welcome it into their evensong repertoire." -AAM Journal, March 2020


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