Commissioned by the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra with funds from the Feeney Trust

  • 2(pic)211/2200/timp.2perc/hp/str
  • SATB / SA
  • contralto, baritone
  • 27 min
  • Christopher Hassall

Programme Note

The Cantata Mary of Magdala is mainly based on the episode described in St. John’s Gospel, Chapter XX, verses 11-18. It is early morning and Mary is hastening to the Sepulchre. Darkness and dawn are midway met, And a mist hangs over Olivet sings the Chorus, and later Nothing moves on the trodden way – Only the feet of Mary running, running to the Sepulchre. (The text throughout the work was written and adapted by Christopher Hassall.) As Mary hastens, she remembers the feast where first she met Christ, and his kindness to her when the guests taunted and derided her. Why trouble ye her? Let her alone.

When Mary reaches the Sepulchre, she finds it empty. How quick were the robbers to plunder, she cries in horror, and calls to Peter and John for help. It is then that she sees the two Angels, who say to her Woman why weepest thou? This is no time for tears of grief. She turns and sees a man whom she supposes to be the gardener. She addresses him and he quietly utters her name. Mary throws herself on her knees with the cry Rabboni! Master! Then follows the scene of Noli me tangere painted by Titian and so many other great artists. The Chorus closes the work with Roland Watkins’ words describing Christ as a gardener,…He trims, ties back, the spray that wandereth wild. Finally Mary sings softly, Rabboni! Master!

© Sir Arthur Bliss


Mary of Magdala: I. Ashen the Sky
Mary of Magdala: II. At last, at last
Mary of Magdala: III. Look there, look there
Mary of Magdala: IV. Why trouble ye her?
Mary of Magdala: V. The proud Aegyptian Queen
Mary of Magdala: VI. Surely this was the place
Mary of Magdala: VII. But what are those two strangers
Mary of Magdala: VIII. But who is that yonder
Mary of Magdala: IX. Mary, Mother was the pleasant bower


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