This article first appeared in the February 2018 issue of our parish magazine.
As members of Maggie’s Music Makers are learning, there are many, many languages to sing in, and English is quite possibly the worst of the lot. English has become a lazy, soft, wet language. Listen carefully to native English speakers and notice how few hard consonant sounds are used to give shape to the vowel sounds. It is all too often context rather than enunciation that conveys meaning. Singers have to work extra hard at enunciating words precisely, otherwise “Christ” (for example) will sound like “rice”!
I first met Bogoroditse Devo in the spring of 2017 at a Manchester Chorale rehearsal. I was immediately captivated by the music, despite struggling hard with the text! Written in Russian, the Russian Transliteration, with word accentuation, is:
- Bogoróditse Dyévo, ráduisya,
- Blagodátnaya Maríye, Gospód s tobóyu.
- Blagoslovyéna ty v zhenákh,
- i blagoslovyén plod chryéva tvoyevó,
- yáko Spása rodilá yesí dush náshikh.
The English translation is:
- Rejoice, virgin mother of God,
- Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with you.
- Blessed are you among women,
- and blessed is the fruit of your womb,
- for you have borne the Saviour of our souls.
As luck would have it, a Chorale member is also a Ukrainian speaker, so we were coached in pronunciation.
There are many, many settings of the Magnificat, and each is a favourite of mine for different reasons.
We performed this piece as part of a mass at the “Hidden Gem” in July 2017. It is one of Manchester’s most beautiful churches, which complemented Rachmaninov’s music perfectly. The harmonies are luscious. All parts begin quite low in their ranges, singing softly and repeating the “Hail Mary” text translation. Gradually it builds to a climax – rightly – on “blessed is the fruit of your womb”, before resolving to a peaceful ending on “Saviour of our souls”.
You can listen to a recording of this utterly sublime music here.