The Way of the Cross: Music for Palm Sunday

A short blog on the music to be included in the evening service on Sunday 10 April at 6.30.

Covid has impacted on many things, one of which is the Choral Evensong Blog!   So here, after a gap of some 2 years, are some thoughts on the music the choir will be singing on the evening of Palm Sunday, 10 April.

The first choir piece, Like as the Hart desireth the waterbrooks is a setting of Ps 42 by Herbert Howells (1892-1983):

Like as the hart desireth the waterbrooks :
so longeth my soul after thee, O God.
My soul is athirst for God, yea, even for the living God :
when shall I come to appear before the presence of God?
My tears have been my meat day and night :
while they daily say unto me, Where is now thy God?

The anthem was written in 1942 and dedicated to Thomas Armstrong, organist of Christ Church Oxford.  It combines beautiful melodies, poignant word setting and dramatic choruses.  

Herbert Howells

Howells is a composer that excites strong feelings.  I am a great fan, and remember in my teens having a record of his church music sung by the choir of King’s College Cambridge, which I wore out through it playing so much.   On the other hand Damian Cranmer, when writing his blog for our evensong in July 2019, said that Like as the Hart was a piece he never liked!  Come along and let us know who you side with. 

Ola Gjeilo

The second piece is Ubi Caritas by Ola Gjeilo.   Those of you with good memories will remember an evensong where we sang Gjeilo’s Evening Prayer accompanied on the saxophone by former choirboy Dominic Pusey.   Ubi Caritas has a similar structure comprising choral sections interspersed with piano improvisations, the learning of which have been keeping me out of mischief for some weeks.   The plainsong hymn Ubi Caritas is one of the antiphons for Maundy Thursday, traditionally sung during the washing of feet.   The words in English are:

Where charity and love are, there God is.

The love of Christ has gathered us into one.

Let us exult, and in Him be joyful.

Let us fear and let us love the living God.

And from a sincere heart let us love each other.

Where charity and love are, there God is.

Ola Gjeilo (b. 1978) is a Norwegian composer who lives in the USA.  His Ubi Caritas is a spectacularly beautiful and evocative piece; have a listen:

William Byrd

The choir’s final piece will be the Agnus Dei from the 4-part mass by William Byrd (c. 1540-1623).  Byrd wrote 3 mass settings, in 3 4 and 5 parts, for the use of recusant Catholic community.   The 4-part Mass is one of the great glories of Tudor music, and the concluding words ‘grant us peace’ are particularly resonant at the time of such appalling warfare in eastern Europe. 

Jonathan Goodchild

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