The Universal Mother Figure

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To all mothers out there, Happy Mother’s Day! On this episode of The Choral Mix, we honor all mothers by using Mary, a Mother figure in Christianity, as our starting point. Much glorious music has been composed in her honor, and she is a figure from whom so many composers took inspiration.

In creative works over the centuries Mary is shown to rejoice, worry, fret, love and suffer. Don’t all mothers? These emotional experiences lend themselves to a range of musical interpretations.

We start with a setting of the Magnificat text – the song of Mary. It is a mother’s raw response to news that she is pregnant – a mix of confusion, surprise, courage and great joy. The text can be set so many different ways musically. We play an up-tempo, exciting version for brass and choir by the Baroque Polish composer Mikolaj Zielenski. Grahm O’Reilly leads the Ensemble Europeen William Byrd and Ensemble Ventosum.

The Biblical figure of Mary has inspired so much music, particularly the many settings of the Ave Maria text. We play a setting by the English Renaissance master Robert Parsons. Listen as he builds and layers the Amen from voice part to voice part. It reaches a glorious climax with a superb, gentle resolution. Paul McCreesh leads the Gabrieli Consort in this recording.

We also dedicate a work for mothers who have experienced loss. The Stabat Mater is a text about the sorrows of Mary. It's a grand piece in structure. We play the entirety of Szymanowski’s, Stabat Mater with Simon Rattle leading the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra and Chorus.

Also on the program are Franz Biebl’s, Ave Maria sung by Chanticleer, as well as a work from the early Italian Baroque composer Pier Francesco Cavalli performed by the Monteverdi Choir and English Baroque Soloists.

It’s been a tribute to and celebration of Mothers today. Where would we be without you? Thanks for spending part of your day with us.

Join in the discussion:  What choral pieces make you think of your mother?



Mikolaj Zielenski/ Polish Baroque/ Ensemble europeen William Byrd, Ensemble Ventosum, Grahm O’Reilly



Parsons/ Treasures of Tudor England/ The Sixteen, Harry Christophers

Ave Maria


Szymanowski/ Stabat Mater/ City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra and Chorus, Simon Rattle

Stabat Mater


Biebl/ Our Hearts Joy/ Chanticleer

Ave Maria


Cavalli/ Scarlatti: Stabat Mater/ Monteverdi Choir, English Baroque Soloists, John Eliot Gardiner

Salve Regina