During Advent, our thoughts often turn to Mary and the passages at the beginning of Luke that describe the annunciation, Gabriel’s visit, and Mary’s visit to see her cousin Elizabeth. The famous words from Gabriel are “Hail Mary, the Lord is with thee” (hail meaning greetings or rejoice). Elizabeth says, “Blessed are thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb.” These two pieces of scripture are the basis for the text of Ave Maria. This morning in place of a psalm, we use the Magnificat or the Canticle of Mary, which is the response attributed to Mary in these same passages. 

Although there are numerous settings of Ave Maria, Barrett Seals (oboe) and I (harpsichord) have chosen the one by J.S Bach and Charles Gounod. Bach’s prelude in C from the Well-Tempered Clavier, written in 1722, was the basis for the melody that Gounod improvised over it in 1853. This piece was actually written over a hundred-year spread between the accompaniment and the melody.

Our closing hymn this Sunday morning, Tell Out My Soul, is based on the Magnificat. Senior Chief Musician Barrett Seals plays oboe and English horn with the Coast Guard and has been a frequent soloist at St John’s for many years. We are delighted to have him play for us today and hope you enjoy Ave Maria.

Written by Darlene James