2017-02-12 Notes from the Bench


“Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis” by Michael McCabe

A commentary on this week’s music by Dr. James T. Gerber, Music Associate


This Sunday, the All Saints’ community will hold its monthly Choral Evensong service. The Evensong liturgy is one of the oldest and most beautiful of the Anglican tradition. Archbishop Thomas Cranmer created the service for the first Book of Common Prayer, published in 1549, by combining the monastic evening offices of Vespers and Compline. Evensong is an invitation into mystical union with God; to engage in the ancient discipline of actively listening to God’s Word and joining our prayers with those of other. The liturgy is filled with Holy Scripture: readings, psalms, and two canticles from Saints Luke’s Gospel, the Magnificat (Song of Mary) and Nunc Dimittis (Song of Simeon). Elaborate settings of the two evening canticles are frequently sung during Choral Evensong and many composers connected with the Anglican tradition have written beautiful settings of these texts for use during the service.

A long-time friend of All Saints’, Michael McCabe (b.1941), composed the setting of the evening canticles sung by our Chamber Choir for this month’s Evensong. The All Saints’ Choirs regularly sing McCabe’s choral music and a number of his choral works have been recorded by our choirs. His compositions are artistically written and he has composed music appropriate for choirs of all ages and abilities. McCabe studied music at Creighton University where he also held appointments as university organist and choir director. He has studied and performed with notable musicians such as Leo Sowerby, David McK. Williams, Thomas Matthews, and Dale Wood. McCabe has had a diverse professional life: has served numerous churches including Grace Cathedral, San Francisco, has performed internationally, and served our county in the military for twenty years. He was elected to the American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers (ASCAP) in 1972, with credits that include NBC Television, foreign and domestic recordings, and Music Festivals in Stockholm and Stuttgart. McCabe presently resides in the Omaha area, working as chief, nurse anesthetist at the Omaha Surgical Center as well as continuing his musically related work as an organist, composer, and teacher; he serves as chapel organist at Boys Town, teaches keyboard harmony and improvisation at the St. Cecilia Institute in Omaha, is a board member of the Cathedral Arts Project in Omaha, and is an associate editor of Randall Egan Publications. McCabe is an oblate in the Episcopal Benedictine Order of the Companions of St. Luke.

McCabe believes that “church music … should bring people to the face of God.” This is certainly what we strive for as we worship together during Evensong: that we encounter God in through his Word, our presence to one another, and heavenly music.



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