Magna Mysteria

Magna Mysteria

Magnificent mysteries
John Fitz Rogers
Trinity Cathedral Choir
Trinity Chamber Orchestra
Martha Guth
Jared Johnson
Catalog Number: 
new classical

Columbia, SC

Release Date: 
Sep 25, 2015
Liner Notes: 
1 CD
One Sheet: 

Commissioned in 2009 to celebrate the restoration of Trinity Cathedral in Columbia, South Carolina, John Fitz Rogers’s Magna Mysteria is a seven-movement, 45-minute work for soprano, chorus and children’s chorus, and chamber orchestra that delves into “great mysteries” (magna mysteria). Weaving together Latin biblical texts and poetic verse from the sixth-century philosopher Boethius, the composition explores ideas of home and the seeking of home, the elevation of home to a metaphorical or spiritual realm, and the nature of time. Magna Mysteria is at once complex yet accessible, rooted in tradition (from Brahms and Faure to Britten and Stravinsky) yet wholly contemporary. It is a work about questions.

From its opening, we enter another world. Scored for children’s voices, the first movement evokes innocence as well as something lost. The second movement is an outburst of joy, but also hints at the fragmentation that will take place in subsequent movements. In “Reins of Nature,” Magna Mysteria develops its core ideas, dealing with cycles of time and eternity. The fourth and central movement is an extraordinary duet for children’s choir and soprano; the pizzicato strings suggest a ticking clock, a sense of lying awake at night, alone. In “Truth’s Paradox” the world has splintered, its form reduced to fragments that don’t fit together. The sixth movement—an a cappella work first premiered at Canterbury Cathedral in 2009—is where the music begins to point toward home. In the final movement, Rogers achieves a profound interlocking of musical and philosophical thought, taking the broken fragments of earlier movements and reassembling them into a glorious whole. 

This encore performance recorded in 2014 features soprano Martha Guth, first prize winner at the 2007 Wigmore Hall International Song Competition in London, as well as the combined adult and children’s choirs of Trinity Cathedral, ensembles that have performed in venues such as the Washington National Cathedral, St. Thomas Church in New York, Gloucester Cathedral, American Cathedral in Paris, St. Peter’s Basilica, and the Sistine Chapel, under the direction of conductor and choirmaster Jared Johnson.