Magnificat I

4 mins.

Programme notes

Magnificat I was written in 1982 in response to a commission from Christ Church, Oxford, whose choir gave the first performance in July 1982 under Francis Grier. Since then it has been performed and recorded by many choirs. It is scored for a cappella voices in eight parts, and sets the Latin text.

At that time I was still reeling from the impact of my belated encounter with African music and the composition (two or three years earlier) of CRY. At the end of 1981 I had spent two months in Southern Senegal and The Gambia, researching and recording music of the Jola people of that region; these recordings are now in the sound archive of the British Library and available to the public. One of the songs I heard during this trip was a work-song called O Lulum which I recorded in a small village called Badem Karantabaa, about thirty miles south-east of the town of Ziguinchor in the Casamance region of southern Senegal. I used the opening call of this song to begin Magnificat I; it also returns as a refrain towards the end of the piece. This apart, the music is built up in polyrhythmic layers which owe a great deal to the choral songs of the Ba-Benzele pygmies of the Congo region.

Giles Swayne 200


A Spotless Rose
Gabrieli Consort
Paul McCreesh (conductor)
Deutsche Grammophon: 477 7635
Magnificat I

Ave Gracia Plena
Cambridge Singers
John Rutter (conductor)
Collegium: COLCD116
Magnificat I

Giles Swayne: Convocation
The National Youth Choir of Great Britain, Laudibus
Mike Brewer (conductor)
Michael Bonaventure (organ)
Stephen Wallace (counter-tenor)
Delphian: DCD34033
Magnificat I
Missa Tiburtina
The coming of Saskia Hawkins
Convocation of worms
The Tiglet
Winter solstice carol
Four Passiontide motets

In Excelsis
Choir of New College, Oxford
Edward Higginbottom (conductor)
Erato: ERA 44657
Magnificat I

Swayne: Choral Works
Stephen Cleobury (conductor)
BBC Singers
David Goode (organ)
Philippa Davies (flute)
Classics: COLL15312
Three Shakespeare songs
Magnificat I
Missa Tiburtina
Nunc dimittis I
O magnum mysterium
Veni creator II
The Tiger
Ophelia drowning
Missa brevissima

The Worldes Joie
Oxford Schola Cantorum
Mark Shepherd (conductor)
Guild: GMCD7139
Magnificat I