The beauty of sacred choral music knows no bounds.
VOCES8, the world renowned chamber choir, released this rendition of Palestrina’s “Magnificat Primi Toni” in early May 2020. The work is one of Palestrina’s finest, displaying a fluid movement in the voice parts that defined the sacred music style of the 16th century.
The skilled singers of the famed UK vocal group perform the difficult piece to perfection. What makes the works of Palestrina so demanding is the counterpoint style. In counterpoint the melodic line can be hard to find because each voice part has its own melody. All of these melodies weave together to make a grander sound than each would alone.
The result is a cascading waterfall of melody, with each part ceasing just as another picks up the line. When heard together, these melodies unite to give the impression of fluid, unending movement. This is in itself one of the most wonderful things about sacred music. While the lyrics move through the text of prayers and scriptural references, the music acts as a metaphor for the ever-present and moving Spirit of the Almighty.
“Magnificat Primi Toni” is a canticle also known as the “Song of Mary.” The text is drawn from the Gospel of Luke 1:46-56, when Mary visits her cousin Elizabeth. Elizabeth praised Mary’s faith, to which she responded with what would become known as the Magnificat. The Magnificat is considered one of the eight oldest Christian hymns, and most likely the earliest Marian hymn.
Be sure to listen until the end. The last minute is truly breathtaking.