Gibbons, Magnificat & Nunc dimittis (from Short Service in A-flat)

Music historian Peter Le Huray describes the so called “Short Service” of Orlando Gibbons (1583-1625) as “an unusually tuneful work, and for this reason, perhaps, it was quite the most popular setting of its day.” This collection included canticles for Morning Prayer (Venite, Te Deum, and Benedictus), settings of the Kyrie and Credo for Holy Communion, and a Magnificat and Nunc dimittis for Evensong.

Our parish doesn’t often have a full Evensong service, so — unlike many Anglican choirs — our choir doesn’t have many settings of the canticles for Evening Prayer in its repertoire. But we have sung Gibbons’s Magnificat and Nunc dimittis, usually near the Feast of St. Luke to commemorate the role of the “beloved physician” in setting down the texts of these remarkable songs.

The very end of the Nunc dimittis is quite familiar in our parish, as we sing the “Amen” from the Nunc dimittis quite often at the end of Communion services. Even that short excerpt is notably tuneful.

Here is a recording of our choir singing the Magnificat at a Christmas concert in 2010.


Here is a recording of the Ensemble Hilaris — an octet of singers based in Prague — singing the Nunc dimittis from Gibbons’s Short Service.