For equal voices, synthesizer, percussion and bas.
Lyrics: Edward Broadbridge
In our conception of ‘Maria’ resonances to her name are numerous and various. We have chosen the more musical ‘Maria’ (rather than ‘Mary’) and associated it with the virgin and the sinner, human perfection and imperfection. Throughout there is a link between faith (Maria believed) and conception (Maria conceived), as well as between active and passive modes. For Maria is also herself ‘conceived’ and ‘believed’. Simultaneously Maria is also associated, though not on biblical evidence, with Maria of Magdala, here spelt ‘Magdalene’ and pronounced as three syllables, the last being stressed. This Maria has long been associated with the woman taken in adultery in Matthew’s gospel.
In Maria Conceived, Maria the mother of Jesus appears first in a setting of one of the 420 Cantigas de Santa Maria, songs written in her praise in Castile in the 13th century. This is followed by a version of the more familiar text of Ave Maria based on Gabriel’s greeting in Luke’s gospel, to which Maria responds with her Magnificat. The Latin hymn, Stabat Mater speciosa, celebrating Maria by the crib, also dates from the 13th century. Maria, the virgin and intercessor, is presented as a unique woman in time and space.
The work then takes an unexpected turn to the present day and the music changes suddenly from harmonious choral singing to raucous hip-hop, in which the choir and soloist are accompanied by the bass guitar, various stomp instruments and electronics recorded on the enclosed CD.
First Maria is allowed a love life with a quotation from West Side Story, after which the outsider Maria Magdalene is both admired and reviled for her free-and-easy ways. This leads musically to quotations from Lady Madonna and I Don’t Know How to Love Him, but also to a clamouring for her death by those who simultaneously lust after her. In Jesus’ care, however, Maria is repentant and according to Matthew’s gospel becomes his disciple. In the Middle Ages she was revered as only second to the virgin in sainthood.
The two Marias meet at the foot of the cross, where the virgin sings Stabat Mater dolorosa and the disciple Let It Be. But it is the latter to whom Jesus makes his first resurrection appearance in John’s gospel (There is a grave). The work ends with a reprise of the core concept of the work: Maria believed, Maria conceived.
Maria Conceived was commissioned by Copenhagen Girls Choir/Claus Vestergaard Jensen and is scored for equal voices, electronics, percussion and bass. It received its first performance at The 8th World Symposium on Choral Music, Copenhagen 2008.