Marian Antiphons (2012)
mixed choir, piano and miscellaneous instruments

Robert Morris

Program Notes

Marian Antiphons, composed in the summer of 2011, is a cantata for chorus and instruments setting five Latin texts—the “Magnificat” and the “four Marian Antiphons.” These texts have been set by many composers, from Guillaume Dufay to Arvo Pärt. All of the texts sing praise to and ask for intercession from Mary, the mother of Jesus Christ. I associate Mary with the Goddess of Hinduism and (female) Bodhisattvas of Buddhism, and to mothers and muses everywhere—the miraculous fertility of imagination and compassion.

The entire piece lasts over an hour, but parts of it can be abstracted for use in concert and chapel. The various movements often allude to older and/or non-Western music, as well as some modern choral music, especially by Webern.

The piece is based on all twenty-nine, four-note harmonies available in the modern 12-equal-steps-per-octave system. The first and last movements present all of these harmonies in a concise, overlapped pattern; the rest of the movements each focus on one (or a group) of these harmonies. In this way, each movement has its own harmonic color, ranging from highly chromatic to diatonic, and all shades in between. Rhythmically, the piece uses temporal procedures abstracted and generalized from Medieval, Arabic, and Indian music, in addition to recent contemporary music.

Performance Notes

Marian Antiphons may be performed as a whole or in parts. Since the composition sets five different Latin texts, movements that set lines from one or more of those texts could be performed without the other movements. (See the pages of texts below.) Movements from the six instrumental Interludia can also be played to form a separate, non-vocal suite.

The chorus should not probably exceed about 50 people, but must have at least three singers on a part. Singers of Baroque choral music are ideal. Some of the movements for chorus might be sung by the soloists. The soloists should have lighter, flexible vocal attributes so that quick ornamentation will be supple, not labored. However, the bass solo in number 8 (“Fecit potentiam”) may have substantial gravity or heft.

Glissandi are continuous, not portamenti.

If necessary, the instruments accompanying the chorus can be substituted by one or more electronic keyboards (played by a second pianist or organist) so as to simulate the percussion, organ, and guitar parts. The handbells, gong, and woodblocks can be performed by members of the chorus if necessary or desired. A portative organ (or keyboard) will suffice if an organ is not available.

Program and Texts



Regina caeli, laetare, alleluia:

Quia quem meruisti portare, alleluia,

Resurrexit, sicut dixit, alleluia,

Ora pro nobis Deum, alleluia. (RC)

Queen of Heaven, rejoice, alleluia.

For He whom you did merit to bear, alleluia.

Has risen, as He said, alleluia.

Pray for us to God, alleluia.



Magnificat anima mea Dominum, (M1)

My soul doth magnify the Lord.



Interludium I




et exsultavit spiritus meus in Deo

     salvatore meo, (M2)


And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour


quia respexit humilitatem ancillae suae.

Ecce enim ex hoc beatam me dicent

     omnes generationes, (M3)

Because he hath regarded the humility of his handmaid;

for behold from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed.


quia fecit mihi magna,

qui potens est,

et sanctum nomen eius (M4)


Because he that is mighty,

hath done great things to me;

and holy is his name.


et misericordia eius in progenies et progenies

timentibus eum. (M5)



And his mercy is from generation unto generations,

to them that fear him


Fecit potentiam in brachio suo,

dispersit superbos mente cordis sui (M6)

He hath shewed might in his arm:

he hath scattered the proud in the conceit of their heart.


Alma Redemptoris Mater,

quae pervia caeli

porta manes, et stella maris, (ARM1)


Loving mother of the Redeemer,

that passage to heaven,

gate of the morning, and star of the sea,


succurre cadenti

surgere qui curat, populo: (ARM2)

help your fallen people

as they try to rise up again,


tu quae genuisti natura mirante,

tuum sanctum Genitorem: (ARM3)


you who bore to the wonderment of nature,

your holy Creator,


Virgo prius ac posterius,

Gabrielis ab ore sumens illud Ave,

peccatorum miserere. (ARM4)


Virgin before and after,

who received from Gabriel that joyful greeting,

have mercy on us sinners


Interludium II




Salve, Regina, Mater misericordiae,

vita, dulcedo, et spes nostra, salve. (SR1)

Hail, holy Queen, Mother of Mercy,

our life, our sweetness and our hope.



ad te clamamus exsules filii Hevae, (SR2)


To thee do we cry, poor banished children of Eve;


ad te suspiramus, gementes et flentes

in hac lacrimarum valle. (SR3)


to thee do we send up our sighs,

mourning and weeping in this valley of tears.


Interludium III







Eia, ergo, advocata nostra, illos tuos

misericordes oculos ad nos converte

et Jesum, benedictum fructum ventris tui, (SR4)


Turn then, most gracious advocate,

thine eyes of mercy toward us (converted);

show unto us the blessed fruit of thy womb, Jesus.


nobis post hoc exsilium ostende

O clemens, O pia, O dulcis Virgo Maria. (SR5)


and after this our exile,

O clement, O loving, O sweet Virgin Mary.


Interludium IV




deposuit potentes de sede

et exaltavit humiles; (M7)


He hath put down the mighty from their seat,

and hath exalted the humble.


esurientes implevit bonis

et divites dimisit inanes. (M8)


He hath filled the hungry with good things;

and the rich he hath sent empty away.


Suscepit Israel puerum suum,

recordatus misericordiae, (M9)


He hath received Israel his servant,

being mindful of his mercy:


sicut locutus est ad patres nostros,

Abraham et semini eius in saecula. (M10)


As he spoke to our fathers,

to Abraham and to his seed for ever.


Interludium V




Ave, Regina Caelorum,

Ave, Domina Angelorum:

Salve, radix, salve, porta

Ex qua mundo lux est orta: Gaude, Virgo gloriosa,

Super omnes speciosa,

Vale, o valde decora,

Et pro nobis Christum exora. (ARC)


Hail, O Queen of Heaven enthroned.

Hail, by angels mistress owned.

Root of Jesse, Gate of Morn

Whence the world's true light was born:

Glorious Virgin, Joy to thee,

Loveliest whom in heaven they see;

Fairest thou, where all are fair,

Plead with Christ our souls to spare.


Interludium VI




 Gloria Patri, et Filio, et Spiritui Sancto,

Sicut erat in principio, et nunc, et semper, et in saecula saeculorum. Amen. (M11)



Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit,

As it was in the beginning, both now and always, and to the ages of ages. Amen


Texts taken from the Magnificat (M); Regina Caeli (RC); Alma Redemptoris Mater (ARM); Salve, Regina (SR); and Ave, Regina Caelorum (ARC)