for mixed voices (SATB with divisi) a cappella
Text: Latin (from Matins for Christmas Day)
Duration: 3 minutes
O magnum mysterium was written in 2013 and is dedicated to Dawn Herbert, the composer’s ex-wife and the mother of his son, Reginald. It was written while staying at her family’s farm in Cambridgeshire. Unintentionally, the wide open spaces infused Ben Ponniah’s writing. This work uses the following 7-note scale: G, A, Bb, C, D, E and F#. Only these notes are used throughout the piece and the scale is derived from Scriabin’s ‘Mystic Chord’. The uncertain and unresolved tonality, therefore, reflects the mystery surrounding the miraculous birth of Jesus, as well as Ponniah’s own personal doubts and wonder.
O magnum mysterium,
et admirabile sacramentum,
ut animalia viderent Dominum natum,
jacentem in præsepio.
Beata Virgo, cujus viscera meruerunt
portare Dominum Jesum Christum.
O great mystery,
and wonderful sacrament,
that animals should see the Lord born,
lying in a manger.
Blessed is the virgin, whose womb was worthy
to bear the Lord, Jesus Christ.
Ben Ponniah is a British composer. His music has been performed at cathedrals and chapels around the world, as well as being broadcast on radio, including by the BBC Singers on BBC Radio 3. It also features on a number of CDs including Celestial Dawn (Signum Classics) by The Pembroke College Girls’ Choir and Marvellous Light (Regent Records) by The Choir of Selwyn College, Cambridge. Ben was awarded the Derek Ogston Postgraduate Music Scholarship by the University of Aberdeen in support of his PhD in Composition. His love of sacred music stems from his choral background, which started at St Mary-le-Tower Church in Ipswich. His first degrees were in Economics, after which he explored jazz piano, which rekindled his love for composition.