This article is the latest instalment of the Choral Evensong Blog, giving an insight into the history of and background to music sung by the choir at our monthly Choral Evensong services. Click here to read all previous instalments of the blog.
Some of you may already have in your diaries Andrew Green’s talk on Tuesday 20 November on Vaughan Williams short opera The Shepherds of the Delectable Mountains. If not, put it in straightaway! More details here
Andrew Green will be talking about his conviction that (though not stated publicly by the composer) the piece is a memorial to those who died in the Great War. The text of the opera is largely adapted from John Bunyan’s allegory of 1678 The Pilgrim’s Progress from This World, to That Which Is to Come, which was hugely popular at the time of the Great War. Some of us have heard Andrew’s talk before, and we can promise a moving, intriguing and fascinating evening, just a few days after the centenary of the Armistice. The evening will include the playing of a recording of the whole opera. But don’t worry, it is not a work of Wagnerian proportions, and lasts just over half an hour.
It occurred to Kathy Goodchild that movements from this work and Vaughan Williams’s later and longer opera The Pilgrim’s Progress (of which The Shepherds forms a part) would adapt well into a service for All Souls. She has therefore arranged four movements for choir, organ and viola (to be played by choir member and webmistress Kate Ford).
The Introit and motet after the commemoration of the departed are from ‘Watchful’s Song’ of The Pilgrim’s Progress, including words from Psalms 31, 127 and 121 and Isaiah 11 and 14.
Into thy hands O Lord, I commend my spirit.
Except the Lord keep the house, the watchman waketh in vain. The Lord hath poured out upon you the spirit of deep peace: the whole earth is at rest and is quiet.
I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills from when cometh my help. My help cometh even from the Lord who made heaven and earth. He will not suffer thy foot to be moved. He that keepeth thee shall not sleep. Behold he that keepeth thee shall neither slumber nor sleep. The Lord himself is thy keeper, he shall preserve thee from all evil: yea it is even he that shall keep thy soul from this time forth for evermore
The Gradual is from The Shepherds of the Delectable Mountains, and sets words from Psalm 91:
Whoso dwelleth under the defence of the most high shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. He shall defend thee under his wings, and thou shalt be safe under his feathers. He shall give his angels charge over thee, that thou hurt not thy foot against a stone.
To this the Requiem words have been added:
Requiem aeternam dona eis Domine, et lux perpetua luceat eis (Give them eternal rest O Lord, and let light perpetual shine upon them)
The anthem, taken from The Shepherds of the Delectable Mountains sets words from Psalm 23
The Lord is my shepherd, therefore can I lack nothing. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures, he leadeth me beside the still waters, he restoreth my soul, he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his Name’s sake. Yea though I walk thro’ the valley of the shadow of death I will fear no evil, for thou art with me, thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.
We hope that this music will give solace to the bereaved in 2018 just as it did after the Great War.