Wednesday, 26 July 2017

Talk on Friday

Please come to the St Magnus Centre in Kirkwall on Friday (28 July) at 7pm, to hear me talking about music inspired by St Magnus - past, present and future - and to hear some medieval music in the Saint's honour, sung by the Orkney Schola.

Mine will be the first of four talks about St Magnus and his legacy, and the whole evening is part of the Aberdeen Diocesan pilgrimage on the 900th anniversary of Magnus's martyrdom.

Monday, 24 April 2017

Happy St Magnus Day!

Yes, today is the feast of St Magnus the Martyr, transferred this year from 16 April, which was of course Easter Sunday, to 24 April.

This is the story:


This is the song:


This is the way:

Tuesday, 4 April 2017

St Magnus evening class

I am teaching an evening class on St Magnus of Orkney – the ideal way to get to know our local saint during this novocentenary year of his martyrdom!

The course starts on Tuesday 2 May, and runs for eight weeks. To book, phone Customer Services at the Council on (01856) 873535. Enrolment is open now but closes on Friday 14 April.


The hymn to St Magnus, Nobilis humilis

From the Community Learning Spring Programme:
B167: St Magnus of Orkney
As we commemorate the 900th anniversary of his martyrdom, this course looks at the background, life, death and legacy of St Magnus of Orkney. Drawing on history, art, music, archaeology and literature, we will explore how the 12th century Saint has continued to intrigue and inspire both here and further afield. This is another chance to take this course, which was oversubscribed in Autumn 2017.
· Tutor: Dr Ben Whitworth.
· Tuesdays from 2 May (8 meetings).
· 7.00pm-9.00pm
· Course fee: £80.00.
Maximum class size: 20 students.


Friday, 31 March 2017

Nobilis humilis

Click here for a recording of me speaking the words of the St Magnus hymn. This is just here as a guide to pronunciation.

I've gone for a sort of generic medieval Latin pronunciation; it's hard to know exactly how this would have been pronounced in Orkney, as there were marked local variations as well as changes over time, and of course even the scholars can only make an informed guess, since there are no recordings! But this may well differ from the pronunciation you might have been taught as "Church Latin", because that's really late nineteenth-century Italian pronunciation ...

Monday, 27 March 2017

MI Sancti Magni

Invitatory at Matins in the office of St Magnus.

Sancti Magni *
coléntes solénnia,
regis regum
laudémus magnália.

Celebrating the solemnities 
of holy Magnus, 
let us praise the mighty works 
of the king of kings.

UPDATE 28/03/2017: Click here for practice recording.

Model: Assunt Thome (office of St Thomas Becket). Recordings: Schola Hungarica (track 1) (video below); Lay Clerks of Canterbury Cathedral Choir (track 14).

LA1 Favus stillans

Favus stillans is the 1st Psalm Antiphon at Lauds (hence LA1) in the office of St Magnus.


Favus stillans frángitur, *
mellis dans dulcórem;
Mala queque fúgiunt
cujus per odórem.


The dripping honeycomb is broken, 
releasing the sweetness of honey; 
at whose scent 
all evils flee.

Click here for a practice recording. N.B. These recordings are rehearsal aids only; no claims are made for the quality either of the singing or of the recording!

The model for this antiphon was Granum cadit from the office of St Thomas of Canterbury. Recordings of Granum cadit [N.B. not from the same manuscript that I am using] can be found on the CDs by Schola Hungarica (track 19) and Schola Gregoriana of Cambridge (track 10; starts at 4'58"). See here for details of these recordings; the Schola Hungarica recording is on Spotify (UPDATE 29/03/2017: and on Youtube, see embedded video below, and in blogposts on the other Lauds antiphons).


This is the first of a series of posts illustrating chants from the medieval liturgical office of St Magnus of Orkney. For this and subsequent excerpts from the office of St Magnus, I have established the text by collating all four pre-Reformation sources; however, I am indebted to Alan McQuarrie for his excellent edition of one version of the office in Legends of the Scottish Saints: Readings, hymns and prayers for the commemorations of Scottish saints in the Aberdeen Breviary (Four Courts, 2012), and I largely follow his punctuation of the texts. The translations, the setting of the texts to ancient melodies, the practice recordings, and any errors occuring in these posts, are my own.

LA2 Vir sanctus

Vir sanctus is the 2nd Psalm Antiphon at Lauds (hence LA2) in the office of St Magnus. There are two other antiphons in the office which also begin Vir sanctus, so the 'serial number' is useful for avoiding confusion.


Vir sanctus occíditur, *
cujus dant stupórem
Signa: cecos lúminant,
témperant furórem.


The holy man is killed, 
whose miracles cause astonishment: 
they enlighten the blind, 
they restrain madness.

Click here for a practice recording. 

Model: Totus orbis (office of St Thomas). Recordings by Schola Hungarica (track 20) (video below) and Schola Gregoriana of Cambridge (track 10; starts at 7'25").

LA3 Surdi muti

Third psalm antiphon at Lauds in the office of St Magnus.

Surdi, muti, précibus *
Magni reparántur;
Claudis datur sánitas,
leprósi mundántur.

The deaf, the dumb are cured 
by the prayers of Magnus; 
health is given to the lame, 
lepers are cleansed.

Click here for a practice recording. A somewhat shaky recording, I fear; this mode 3 melody never goes quite where you expect it to, but these *are* the notes you're looking for. I'll upload a better version in due course.

Model: Aqua Thome (office of St Thomas). Recordings: Schola Hungarica (track 21) (video below); Schola Gregoriana of Cambridge (track 10; starts at 11'27").

LA4 Ferro vincti

Fourth psalm antiphon at Lauds in the office of St Magnus.

Ferro vincti mártyris *
ope relaxántur;
Naufragántes néxibus
mortis liberántur.

From irons the enchained are released
by the martyr’s aid;
the shipwrecked are delivered
from the clutches of death.

Click here for a practice recording. (Updated with a better version, 26/2/16.)

Model: Ad Thome memoriam (office of St Thomas). Recordings: Schola Hungarica (track 22) (video below); Schola Gregoriana of Cambridge (track 10; starts at 16'49").

LA5 Fit mestis

Fifth psalm antiphon at Lauds in the office of St Magnus.

Fit mestis letítia, *
egris medicína,
Spes firma perículis,
salus in ruína.

There is joy for the sorrowful, 
medicine for the sick, 
firm hope for those in peril, 
rescue from ruin.

Click here for a practice recording.

Model: Tu per Thome (office of St Thomas). Recordings: Schola Hungarica (track 23) (video below); Schola Gregoriana of Cambridge (track 10; starts at 23'53").

Friday, 3 February 2017

NRK TV visits Orkney (1966)

Click here to watch a lovely 18-minute Norwegian travel show about Orkney. There are some nice shots of the Italian Chapel towards the end, overlaid with the Regina caeli (solemn tone).