When Sheku Kanneh-Mason played the cello at the wedding of Prince Harry to Meghan Markle, a beautiful rendition of Ave Maria was performed.
Many wanted to know more about this beautiful wedding song.
Franz Schubert composed the popular Catholic hymn in 1825, as part of his Opus 52. He titled the song “Ellens dritter Gesang” or Ellen’s Third Song.
Philip Adam Storck translated and published the poem Lady of the Lake into German in 1819. This was the inspiration for Schubert’s work and future masterpiece.
The song, Ave Maria, was composed as a setting for Sir Walter Scott’s epic poem The Lady of the Lake. In the poem, Ellen Douglas is the character known as the Lady of the Lake.
Ellen, who is travelling with her exiled father, sings a prayer to the Virgin Mary calling upon her help and comfort in the rebellion between her Scottish clan and King James. She and her father are hiding in a cave at the time she sings this prayer.
Many of Sir Scott’s words contain references to the Latin Prayer, Ave Maria.
Schubert’s arrangement is believed to have been performed for the first time at the Austrian castle of Countess Sophie Weissenwolff and dedicated to the Countess. For this reason, she became known as the “Lady of the Lake.”
The opening words of the song are Ave Maria, which means Hail Mary. This may have led to the adapting of Schubert’s work to the full text of the Roman Catholic Church prayer, Ave Maria.
“The Latin version of the Ave Maria is now so frequently used with Schubert’s melody that it has led to the misconception that he originally wrote the melody as a setting for the Ave Maria (prayer).”
Both the German and English translations were published in 1826 as Schubert’s Op. 52, under the title Sieben Gesänge aus Walter Scotts Fräulein vom (Seven Songs from Walter Scott’s Lady of the Lake).
Schubert was paid 20 pounds sterling for his work and it became a success.
Schubert wrote to his father and step-mother, “My new songs from Scott’s Lady of the Lake especially had much success. They also wondered greatly at my piety, which I expressed in a hymn to the Holy Virgin and which, it appears, grips every soul and turns it to devotion.”
Schubert died in 1828, at the age of 31, but lived to see his song considered a masterpiece.
Walt Disney used the song in the final part of his 1940s movie, Fantasia, and provided a wide, modern audience for the musical work.
The song has become one of Schubert’s most popular works. The song is usually referred to as Schubert’s Ave Maria to differentiate from the traditional Catholic text.
The adapted Latin is the version most often performed today and continues to move audiences.
When was the last time you heard Ave Maria played?
Diana Leagh Matthews writes, speaks and sings to bring glory to God. She has been published in numerous anthologies, including many Moments books. In her day job, Leagh is a Nationally Certified Activities Director for a busy nursing facility. She takes great joy in family, friends and soaking in the beautiful wonders and promises of God. Leagh blogs about her faith and struggles on her website www.DianaLeaghMatthews.com and family history at www.ALookThruTime.com