This article first appeared in the March 2018 issue of our parish magazine.
I learned this contemporary setting of the Ave Maria in the autumn of 2016, ready for a tour to Belgium with the Manchester Chorale. We were due to sing it during a mass at a large church in Beveren, near to Antwerp. Written in Latin by young Norwegian composer Ola Gjeilo, the text is:
Sancta Maria, Regina caeli, Holy Mary, Queen of heaven,
Dulcis et pia, o mater Dei: gentle and holy, mother of God:
Ora pro nobis peccatoribus, pray for us sinners,
Ut cum electis videamus. that with the chosen we may see you.
Ave Maria, gratia plena, Hail Mary, full of grace,
Dominus tecum: the Lord is with you:
Benedicta tu in mulieribus, blessed are you among women,
Et benedictus fructus ventris tui, and blessed is the fruit of your womb,
Iesus Christus. Amen. Jesus Christ. Amen.
It took me a while to figure out why it was called “Second Eve”. Eventually I realised that it wasn’t “Eve” as in “Christmas Eve” or “New Years Eve”, but Eve as in the book of Genesis. Eve, created to be a companion for Adam, could be considered to be the mother of humanity. The Second Eve, Mary, was chosen to be the mother of God. Suddenly the title made perfect sense.
Scored for a double choir (soprano I, soprano II, alto I, alto II, tenor I, tenor II, bass I and bass II*), the harmonies are complex, but utterly sublime. With eight groups of singers all singing at the same time no accompaniment is necessary; there are key changes and mood changes at appropriate times, and although written in 3/4 time there are frequent hemiolas that give a syncopated feel.
The first verse begins gently and ends with a plagal cadence, which is the musical equivalent of a semi-colon, leading into verse 2 and a change to a major key. The second verse slowly builds in intensity, through to the Benedictus. This starts with another key change, and is forte (loud) rising to fortissimo (very loud) for the first amen. Gradually, the energy is dissipated through the amens, and the piece ends piano (soft) and contemplative.
I have been lucky enough to sing this a number of times since then with the Manchester Chorale, in some beautiful locations – concerts in Cawthorne, Stockport, and a service at St Mary’s (also known as the Hidden Gem) in Manchester.
Sit back and enjoy the music here.
* the “first” singers of each section sing different notes and at a higher pitch to the “second” singers of each section; firsts and seconds are equally important.