The composer writes: The author of the poem “O Magnum Mysterium” is unknown. Originally the text for a Gregorian chant, it was later used in polyphonic motets of the 16th century – and many settings have been composed since then. Perhaps the enduring appeal of the poem is based on its simple depiction of Christ’s humanity and humility, together with its expression of devotion to his mother, Mary.

In composing my own setting, it pleased me to think of the choir as representing the worldly creatures (people and animals) present at Jesus’s birth; and the saxophone as an otherworldly, mystical presence hovering above. It’s a fanciful notion, but I found it inspiring.


O magnum mysterium,
et admirabile sacramentum,
ut animalia viderent Dominum natum,
iacentem in praesepio!
O beata virgo, cuius viscera
meruerunt portare
Dominum Iesum Christum.

English translation

O great mystery,
and wonderful sacrament,
that animals should see the newborn Lord,
lying in a manger!
O blessed virgin, whose womb
was worthy to bear
the Lord Jesus Christ.