While this tune isn’t difficult to learn, it isn’t entirely familiar (though the style may be accessible to many, given the growing popularity of Irish folk bands in recent years). The other issue is the wordiness of the stanzas; a congregation could slow this down too much trying to get the words out. One way to introduce this into worship is to have a soloist (preferably a younger woman) sing the stanzas, and have everyone join in on the refrain. If you are reading the entire gospel account of Mary meeting Elizabeth, you might even have the soloist read Mary’s words in the first part of the Scripture, and then move directly into the hymn after Luke 1:45.
For accompaniment, it is important to keep the tune from getting bogged down. The congregation will, naturally, try to slow things down, but this tune, with this much text, especially needs to move forward. If you have fiddlers and flutists, this could be the time to put them to work in worship.
(from Reformed Worship, Issue 93)
James Hart Brumm
This is an Irish folk tune and one would do well to employ Irish traditional instruments such as a Celtic drum and a penny whistle. But it is more important to place the emphasis on the folk aspects of the tune rather than get hung up on “Irish performance practice.” The music translates well to almost any folk genre—the more primitive and unadorned, the better. If piano accompaniment is used, one could emphasize the rhythmic harmonic progression. Once the melody is established by the singers, percussively strike each new chord. Steer clear of the sustain pedal. This can be contrasted with arpeggiated sections where the text calls for a less strident accompaniment.
One reason this tune is easy to learn is that it is closely related to another Irish tune; in fact, star of county down is a variant of kingsfold. “Canticle of the Turning” is found in many recent hymnals; this setting was taken from Renewing Worship 5: New Songs and Hymns (2003), a resource prepared by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) for provisional use as the ELCA prepares the next edition of their denominational Lutheran Book of Worship to succeed the ground-breaking 1978 edition. Cooney has also prepared a choral octavo on this hymn for SAB or unison, with guitar, optional piccolo, and violin (GIA, G-3407).
(from Reformed Worship, Issue 80)
Rory Cooney named this song “The Canticle of the Turning.” The text is not only based on the Song of Mary, one of the three major canticles from the gospel of Luke, but also introduces uses a rhetorical device, or “hook” phrase that ends each stanza and the refrain, placing the incarnation of Jesus Christ at the crux of history. St. 1 asks, “Is the world about to turn?” St. 2-4 and the refrain end with an answer to that answer that question, ending, “Wipe away all tears, for the dawn draws near, and the world is about to turn.” This song also anticipates the return of Christ and the promise of a day when all wil be made right, because “God…is turning this world around” (st. 4). The setting of this text to the Irish ballad tune STAR OF COUNTY DOWN has become very popular since it was first published in 1990 by GIA Publications, Inc..
Rory Cooney (b. 1952) has been the director of liturgy and music ministries at St. Anne Catholic Community in Barrington, Illinois, since 1994. His published compositions span a career of songwriting that began nearly 35 years ago, and continues to the present, as he tries to write to the needs of the church and the communities in which he serves. Early compositions were published by Composers’ Forum for Catholic Worship and Resource Publications in the 1970’s, and his works are represented in Gather and RitualSong, as well as other publications.
His recording career began in 1984, and virtually all of his recordings have been collaborations with his wife, Theresa Donohoo, and Gary Daigle. His most recent work with GIA has been the collection "Today" and Terry Donohoo’s "Family Resemblance."
Rory travels with Theresa and Gary Daigle giving concerts, days of renewal, missions, and workshops for parishes, dioceses, and organizations.