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The Magnificat was written in 1982 in response to a commission from Christ Church College; Oxford; whose choir first performed it under their conductor Francis Grier in July of that year. At that time the composer was influenced by his belated discovery of African music. During a period of research in Senegal and The Gambia he recorded a working-song in a small village called Badem Karantaba; about thirty miles south-east of Ziguinchor in the Casamance region of southern Senegal. Swayne used the opening call of this song to begin the Magnificat; it returns as a refrain towards the end.