For anyone who doesn’t know or never cared to know about this part of my life, I sing with the Community Chorus of Redlands (who does not have a web site, unfortunately). We do free concerts around town and help augment the University of Redlands Choir for the annual Feast of Lights each December. It so happens we have a concert on March 26 (a notable day in two marriages close to me and a birthday of a long-time friend as well). We’re performing three pieces and I’ll be writing about each of them here in the weeks going up to the concert. First off, the Bach masterpiece Magnificat.
If ever there were a piece of music that is deceptively hard and deceptively easy at the same time, it would be this one. You absolutely must approach this music with a healthy level of self-confidence as well as respect for the music. The fact is, Bach didn’t compose this so much as pull it out of the fabric of the cosmos, so there is a kind of free will in the notes that makes the One Ring look like a whiny two-year old.
If you don’t have any confidence in yourself or your abilities to sing any sort of music, Magnificat will remove the bones from your legs and use them to beat you into a mushy pulp. But, if you come at it thinking it’s just another piece of music, it will suck your brain out through your tear ducts and replace it with a quiggly mass of jello. It is difficult, but not too difficult. It is also easy, but not too easy. I’ve now seen people think this was easy and walk away humbled, but also people think it was hard and never sing it well enough. It’s all in your perception of the music, though, and once you get to the right place, it’s just a good challenge that you find you can accomplish. To play on some old words, you don’t sing the Magnificat; it let’s you open your mouth so it can spring out into the world again.
The music itself is a setting of Mary’s song in response to finding out that she was going to bear a son without having sex (it’s in the Gospel of Luke for those keeping score). More so, the son’s father happens to be God, creator of…everything. (If an angel told me that (and I was a woman), I’d probably freak out before singing a song, but that’s probably why it wasn’t me.)
Magnificat has a structure to it. The keys of the movements, whether they are solos or full ensembles, and so on have a pattern to them that arcs from the beginning to the end. More so than other pieces of music, there is a purpose not just in the words and movements, but in the motion between movements and the sound that is created. Bach uses the music to paint the words onto the canvas of your mind and say something meaningful. The words and notes and harmonies weave together in a complex tapestry about the Story that is beginning in these words.
If you are coming to this concert, I hope you enjoy the performance. Things are coming along nicely and I’m looking forward to hearing it with the orchestra in two weeks at our rehearsal with them. I think you’ll be in for a treat. If you aren’t coming, grab a CD of this and take a listen. You won’t be disappointed.