Father Joncas’ Magnificat commissioned for installation

| May 13, 2016 | 0 Comments
Basilica-choir

Choir members of the Basilica of St. Mary in Minneapolis sing during the Rite of Reception for Archbishop Bernard Hebda at the co-cathedral May 12. Dave Hrbacek/The Catholic Spirit

Ahead of Archbishop Bernard Hebda’s May 13 installation Mass, the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis commissioned Father J. Michael Joncas to compose a piece of music inspired by the Magnificat.

It was performed for the first time at the Basilica of St. Mary in Minneapolis May 12 as part of an evening prayer that included words of welcome from a variety of civic, religious and Catholic leaders from across the Twin Cities and archdiocese.

Father J. Michael Joncas. CNS

Father J. Michael Joncas. CNS

Father John Paul Erickson, director of the archdiocesan Office of Worship, reached out to Father Joncas on Good Friday, the day after Archbishop Hebda’s appointment was announced. Father Erickson told Father Joncas that the Installation Mass’ Gospel reading would be Luke 1:39-56, which includes Mary’s Magnificat, the canticle that begins, “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my savoir.”

Father Joncas, a priest of the archdiocese and the artist in residence at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, began the score on Easter Monday and finished it in two days. At the archdiocese’s request, he later added a brass and timpani arrangement.

Father Joncas wrote a new translation of the prayer to fit with the style of music he was writing. The piece, “My Soul Gives Glory to the Holy One,” sets the prayer words in a refrain sung by the congregation. Five verses sung by the cantor or choir include the majority of the prayer.

During the 2 p.m. installation Mass at the Cathedral of St. Paul in St. Paul, the piece was to be sung during Communion.

Father Joncas first heard the piece sung at the May 12 evening prayer. “You hear it in your head, but that’s not the same,” he said.

“When you’re in a space like this or the Cathedral, “ he said of the Basilica, “I tend to write in a more elevated, kind of classical way, so [the composition is] classical but lyric.”

The third and fourth verses are a cappella, arranged with two soprano parts, two alto parts, a tenor part and a bass part.

“I could not be more honored, I could not be more overwhelmed,” Father Joncas said. “Everything I know about Archbishop Hebda is something that I respect and admire, and frankly am kind of in awe of. So if this could be a kind of offering of affection, I’m pretty happy.”

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