When we think of the Magnificat sung by Mary Most Holy, we easily imagine how she is almost the prototype of all those who sing the glory of God down the centuries:
The Almighty has done great things for me and holy is his name: from generation to generation his mercy extends to those who fear him. He has shown the power of his arm, he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their heart; he has overthrown the mighty from their thrones, he has exalted the lowly; he has filled the hungry with good things, he has sent the rich away empty. He rescued Israel, his servant, in remembrance of his mercy, as he promised to our fathers, to Abraham and to his descendants forever.
A song of triumph but also of liberation, that liberation which is not political or social, but above all spiritual. The Blessed Virgin Mary teaches us how it is necessary to look at the things of the spirit and then the rest will come by itself.
Mary sings of the great things that God has done in her, but the following generations have also sung the glories of God in Mary. Beginning with Gregorian chant, up to the contemporary era, many masterpieces of sacred music are dedicated to her, the Mother. And this is not only profoundly appropriate, but also necessary, since the Incarnation that changed the course of history took place in her and this is, in a certain sense, the model of all sacred music in which the divine meets with the human.
In my now long activity as a composer, the compositions in honor of Mary Most Holy are many and it could not have been otherwise. She is the Mother I turn to when it seems to me that everything is going wrong, the last thought before going to sleep is to her.
That’s why I wanted to collect some of my compositions for female choir and organ in a CD called Gratia plena. What did I want to accomplish on this CD? First of all, as Saint Bernard of Clairvaux says, de Maria numquam satis: one can never say (or sing) enough about Mary. There is always something new, beautiful and noble that can be said about her and it is up to us, useless servants, to say it through the little or much talent that God has given us.
The next goal was to compose in a traditional way without rejecting modernity. What is important is that there is an intrinsic logic to the composition and that the language is coherent and not outlandish attempts to try to appear modern. The true avant-garde is tradition, because through it we are allowed to look much further.
Then I think I wanted to demonstrate that the lesson of Gregorian chant is not only still important, but indeed is increasingly important. Saint Pius X taught it well in his Motu Proprio of November 22, 1903:
Gregorian chant was always considered as the supreme model of sacred music, the following general law being able to establish with all reason: the more sacred and liturgical a composition for church is, the closer it approaches the Gregorian melody in its flow, inspiration and flavor, and the less worthy it is of the temple, the more it recognizes itself as different from that supreme model.
A law of profound wisdom that helps us to better understand how to make use of the talents that God has given us to raise a song of praise in which “old and new things” are present.
Then there is the discourse of Latin, a language that has been so reviled in recent decades. All the motets on my CD are in Latin and the more I frequent this language the more I discover its beauty and solemnity. For my love of Latin I have to thank not academic qualifications, but a nun. When I served Mass in my parish, during my adolescence, we had a nun who taught us how to strive to be more worthy of this important service. One day the nun proposed to teach us the main prayers in Latin. We, who grew up in the post-conciliar church, were surprised. But I must say that since that day I have never forgotten those prayers and they resonate within me every day and are my favorite way of addressing God.
The CD is available for streaming and for purchase on Spotify, Itunes, Amazon, Apple Music and on major platforms.
Aurelio Porfiri is a composer, conductor, writer and educator. His music is published in Italy, France, USA, China and Germany. He has published more than 60 books. With Mons. Athanasius Schneider has published The Catholic Mass, now translated in several languages. He writes from Italy.