Category Archives: Worship

Choral Matins: 19th August 2018

We are singing the second August Matins at St Mary’s in what I hope will become an annual event. It is sometimes possible, and I am guilty, to be pessimistic about Matins beyond the cathedrals of England. But in recent times, Isobel and I have attended matins at the Royal Hospital Chelsea, The Guards Chapel (with military band), the Temple Church, St Peter ad Vincula in the Tower of London, St Peter’s in St Albans, and at St Mary’s. We have our eyes on Hampton Court and St James’ Palace. It’s no coincidence that Matins is more readily available in and near the capital where the professional choir set-up is a major influence.

So, it’s great to be singing another Matins in Redbourn; and the music is a celebration of Ralph Vaughan Williams. Last month I was reflecting on the important work he did for the English Hymnal, and you may have noted him as one of the composers who reached, but did not pass, nine symphonies, in answer to the question I posed in a previous post. He is regarded as one of the quintessentially English composers, and his work covered every genre, hymn tunes, songs, chamber music, operas, symphonies and film music, and iconic works such as The Lark Ascending, the Sea Symphony and the Mass in G minor are among pieces which stand the test of time. His style was not entirely to everyone’s taste: Peter Warlock described his Pastoral Symphony as like “a cow looking over a gate”, and a one-time European colleague of mine commented that his music would have been better if it was all “on a theme by Thomas Tallis”.

Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872–1958)

Vaughan Williams was born in 1872 in the Gloucestershire village of Down Ampney, and this is the name that he gave to perhaps his most famous original hymn tune, intrinsically associated with the words ‘Come down, O love divine’. Appropriately in this VWfest, this is the first hymn in our service. It is one of the earliest that he wrote (c1905), and, of the 14 or so original tunes, the few that are in regular use are all early: ‘For all the saints’ and ‘Hail thee, festival day’ for instance. We sing the Te Deum and Jubilate from Vaughan Williams’ 1939 Service in D minor, “written for and dedicated to Dr CS Lang and his singers at Christ’s Hospital”. Craig Sellar Lang (1891-1971) was a New Zealander who was Director of Music at Christ’s Hospital from 1929 to 1945, when he retired to Cornwall to concentrate on composition. He edited the music for the Public School Hymn Book (1949), which included 18 of his own tunes, many with the names of Cornish towns, and over 20 descants to well known tunes. None of his music has found its way into HON, but some of the descants (like a dog, they aren’t only for Christmas!) deserve to be heard today. This is relevant because Vaughan Williams’ Service in D minor is very much a public school piece. As well as the usual four-part choir, there is an important and independent congregational part. A photograph on the school’s website of its chapel, with high and open space and inward-facing seating, prompts one to imagine the tremendous sound of perhaps more than 500 voices singing VW’s music. We may not have quite that number in August in Redbourn, but we intend to give the piece a good run for its money. As for the music, it’s not long before one recognises Vaughan Williams as the composer: the triple time with cross rhythms and flat 7ths are some of the features that show the influence of folk music and the English Tudors. The key changes easily from D minor to D major and F minor and the melodic line is fluent and singable.

The anthem is VW’s ‘O how amiable are thy dwellings’. The words of the first four verses of Psalm 84 are set to largely reflective music, before the mood changes and the last verse of Psalm 90 (“The glorious company of the Lord our God be upon us”) leads directly into the first verse of ‘O God, our help in ages past’. You could almost, but not quite, add Lang’s descant: the transposition would take the sopranos up to top C!

The closing voluntary for this service will be Vaughan Williams’ Prelude on the Welsh hymn tune ‘Hyfrydol’. (You have to ask a Welsh person how to pronounce this, but you can be sure it isn’t the obvious way!) We’ll sing this tune as our final hymn to the words ‘I will sing the wondrous story’. It is the most enduring of the many tunes written by Rev Roland Huw Pritchard (1811-1887), for some time minister in Bala. Hymn books vary in their noting of Vaughan Williams as the arranger of the tune. HON does, but English Hymnal doesn’t, for example. A quick look at the original on WIkipedia suggests that “tidying up” might be a better description of Vaughan Williams’ contribution.

Most of his arranged hymn tunes come from folk music, but it’s interesting that Vaughan Williams, who rejected much of English 19th century music, turned additionally to Celtic music of the time for inspiration.   The organ prelude is a straightforward setting with the tune in the top part and incorporating the repeat of the second part. But the tune is the only straightforward part of the piece. Everything else, and particularly the pedal part, goes at a much quicker pace and not always in the direction you might expect. A seat behind the organ would be instructive!

The responses are by Smith and the psalm is no.106 to a chant by Thomas Jackson of Newark (c1715-1781). Why are the chants often by people you’ve never heard of? Well I suppose it’s that short pieces – and chants are short pieces – are easier to write, and serious composers can’t always be bothered with short pieces, though there are some original ventures into chant-writing by Elgar and others.

Damian Cranmer

Baby Loss Service: Sunday 29th April, 6.30pm

Revd Tim writes:

When I first came to the village a few years ago, I remember a village tree was ‘yarnbombed’ to support Tommy’s – a charity which funds research into the causes of miscarriage, still birth and premature birth. This made an impact and I cut out the article and still have it. At the time Sophy had just given birth to Jem, but he was our third pregnancy. So this is an issue close to my heart. Since coming to Redbourn, holding a service for those of us who have lost children, at whatever stage and under whatever circumstances, was something I wanted to do.

Loss at any stage of pregnancy is traumatic. Early loss is often not acknowledged or discussed, with commemorative services seldom taking place. Services for babies who are stillborn or lost in early years, are usually conducted whilst parents are in a fog of grief and pain.

This service, to be held at St Mary’s, is for anyone who has never had the opportunity to grieve the loss of a child, as well as for their children and their extended family and friends, whether the loss be recent or historic. Additionally, anyone who is grieving the fact that they have never had children is also welcome.

All are welcome regardless of the type or circumstances of loss they have experienced. Whether you have been through early or late miscarriage, missed miscarriage, compassion induction, an ectopic or molar pregnancy, stillbirth, neonatal or early infant loss or any other type of baby or child loss.

If you need to say goodbye to a baby or to grieve, or you want to come along with a friend who needs to say goodbye, you are welcome. The service will give you the opportunity to stand with other people who ‘know’ the pain of losing a child, whatever the circumstances, and to offer you a time to publicly acknowledge and remember children who have been lost.

There will also be non-judgemental pastoral support available after the service for anyone who needs it.

Lord, we pray for those who mourn, for parents and children, friends and neighbours.

Be gentle with them in their grief.

Show them the depths of your love, a glimpse of the kingdom of heaven.

Spare them the torment of guilt and despair.

Be with them as they weep beside the empty tomb of our risen Saviour,

Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Holy Week: Palm Sunday to Easter Day

PALM SUNDAY – 25th March

This coming Sunday we celebrate Palm Sunday, remembering Jesus entering Jerusalem to be greeted by the crowds. We gather at the Cricket Pavilion at 9.15 am to hear the story and then, carrying palms and singing hymns, we make our joyful procession to St Mary’s for our Parish Eucharist, which this year includes a dramatic reading of the Passion story led by members of our Gospellers.

6.30 pm – The Way of the Cross’, a powerful service with choir anthems, hymns, readings and prayers for the start of Holy Week.  Click here for more information.


MONDAY, TUESDAY & WEDNESDAY OF HOLY WEEK 26th, 27th & 28th March, 8.00pm

Each evening we gather to share the Eucharist, a lovely quiet and reflective service ‘in the round’ in the Chancel area of the church. Each night, Will offers a devotional address to help us enter more deeply into the meaning and events of the last days of Jesus’ life.


MAUNDY THURSDAY – 29th March

8.00 pm           THE LORD’S SUPPER with FOOT WASHING

Our evening service recalls the events of the Last Supper, the washing of feet and Jesus’ gift to us of the Eucharist. It starts with joy; but over it lies the shadow of the Cross, the Agony of Gethsemane and the torment of Good Friday. What begins as an occasion of rejoicing and thanksgiving ends on a different note in this extraordinarily powerful service. The Stripping of the Altars, the removal of all ornaments from the Sanctuary, the exit of choir, ministers and congregation in silence, all symbolise Christ’s isolation and loneliness.

Before that, however, there is the solemn procession to the Altar of Repose, symbolising the walk of Jesus and his disciples from the Upper Room out to the Garden of Gethsemane.

On arrival at the Altar of Repose the sacrament is placed on the Altar surrounded by flowers, reminding us of Gethsemane where Christ in his Sacrament waits; and we watch and pray with him in a vigil up until midnight…

9.00 pm           THE VIGIL OF GETHSEMANE until midnight, concluding with

11.50 pm         COMPLINE


GOOD FRIDAY – 30th March

10.00 am         ALL AGE SERVICE

Our All Age Service is suitable for everyone. We gather to offer our songs, prayers and readings as we remember the events of the first Good Friday and Jesus going to the Cross to die for us.

The Easter Garden – decorated by our Friday morning Teddy Tots – will be on display for the first time after the service and then we make our way to the Transept for Hot Cross buns and other refreshments.

11.30 am         WALK OF WITNESS from St John Fisher RC Church to the Common

We gather outside St John Fisher Roman Catholic Church on Dunstable Road to begin a Walk of Witness shared with Christians from all the different churches in Redbourn. At various points we stop to hear another part of the last hours of Jesus’ life, to pray and to offer a hymn as we celebrate our shared faith in Christ. All are welcome – young and old – as we walk and witness together.

1.30 pm           GOOD FRIDAY LITURGY with COMMUNION

A stark, solemn and incredibly moving service offered at St Mary’s at the very time when we recall Jesus hanging on the Cross. The service includes a reading of the Passion story, the veneration of the Cross, a powerful Litany of prayers and an opportunity to receive Christ’s body and blood in the sharing of Communion with him in his death for each and every one of us.


EASTER DAY – 1st April

6.00 am           DAWN VIGIL followed by PARISH BREAKFAST, leading into

8.00 am           THE FIRST COMMUNION OF EASTER

10.00 am         ALL AGE EUCHARIST followed by Easter Egg Hunt

12 noon           HOLY COMMUNION

6.30 pm           FESTAL EVENSONG for EASTER with St Mary’s Choir

Our Easter celebrations start at dawn with the Vigil of Readings, as we hear again the story of our salvation, fill the church with the new light of Easter, finishing with a splendid cooked breakfast. Our services continue with 8.00am, 10.00am (All Age) and 12 noon celebrations and we round of the day with a splendid Choral Evensong led by our choir.


EASTER MONDAY PILGRIMAGE

Monday 2nd April

On Easter Monday we join in the traditional Easter Pilgrimage to St Albans Abbey to join with thousands of others from around the Diocese. Read more on the Pilgrimage Website.

We meet at 10.15 am for breakfast in the Transept, then set off at 11.00am and make the gentle walk along the River Ver to St Albans where we share a picnic lunch on the Abbey Orchard (bring your own) and then join in the joyful All Age Service at 3.00pm. Please sign up in church if you’re coming so we know how many to expect. Dogs welcome!