Category Archives: Worship

Choral Eucharist for All Souls: Sunday 6th November, 6.30pm

Apologies to those of you who have come to this page expecting news of the next Choral Evensong. But read on …

The next choral evening service will be a Choral Eucharist for All Souls with commemoration of the departed on Sunday 6th November at 6.30 pm. The Church of England has no prescribed ‘Requiem’ service, and therefore there is not much choice of music. For the past few years we have sung the beautiful Short Requiem by Henry Walford Davies, and this year Kathy Goodchild has written some music for us.

The Introit sets words from Psalms 139 and 119:

If I take the wings of the morning

and fly to the uttermost parts of the sea,

Even there Thy right hand shall guide me,

And Thy right hand uphold me.

If I say, ‘surely the darkness shall cover me’

Even the night shall be light around me.

The darkness is no darkness with Thee,

But the light shineth as the day.

The darkness and the light to Thee are both alike.

But Thy word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path.

The Gradual sets words from Psalm 91 followed by the traditional Latin Requiem Eternam:

Whoso dwelleth under the defence of the most high

Shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.

Requiem eternam Dona eis requiem.

Et lux perpetua, luceat eis.

[Grant them eternal rest, and light perpetual shine upon them.]

After the reading of the names of the departed, the choir will sing words from the Book of Revelation:

I heard a voice from heaven saying unto me,

‘Write: from henceforth blessed are the dead which die in the Lord.

Even so saith the spirit. For they rest from their labours

The music for All Souls finishes with a piece for choir and congregation which will be sung at the end of the service, setting a metrical version of Psalm 23:

The Lord’s my shepherd I’ll not want, He makes me down to lie

In pastures green He leadeth me the quiet waters by.

My soul he doth restore again and me to walk doth make

Within the paths of blessedness e’en for his own name’s sake.

Yea though I walk through shadowed vale yet will I fear no ill,

For thou art with me and Thy rod and staff me comfort still.

My table thou hast furnished in presence of my foes

My head with oil Thou dost anoint, and my cup overflows.

Goodness and mercy all my days shall surely follow me,

And in my Father’s house always my dwelling place shall be.

(‘And in My house for evermore Thy dwelling place shall be’) Amen.

To finish, Jonathan will be playing Bach’s Fugue in Eb BWV 552, the last movement of the monumental Clavierübung Part III and often played at memorial services. The beginning is very similar to the hymn ‘O God our help in ages past’, and therefore in Britain has been nicknamed the ‘St Anne Fugue’ after the hymn’s tune. The nineteenth-century composer Samuel Wesley played it and said it was received by people with the same wonder as when they saw an air balloon rise for the first time!

The service is always very moving; we very much hope you will come and remember your loved ones departed this life.

Choral Evensong for Harvest: Sunday 2nd October

The purpose of this column is to promote choral evensong according to the Book of Common Prayer in Redbourn on the first Sunday of the month. In May, by warning you not to come in August, I gave the impression that we sang this service eleven times a year. However, there was no choral evensong in September because St Mary’s unites in one 11am service to celebrate our patronal festival. And as Revd Darren Collins reminded us in this service, autumn is all about preparation, and not just for Christmas. In November the first Sunday evening service is a Eucharist for All Souls, in December it is the Advent Carol Service – though this often comes on the last Sunday in November – and in January it is an Epiphany Carol Service. Given the odd complication of a moveable Easter, we do get a run of six choral evensongs from February to July. So only seven in the year.

Our October choral evensong celebrates Harvest Festival on Sunday 2nd at 6.30pm. Traditionally, this festival is held on the Sunday closest to the full moon nearest to the autumn equinox; this year the full moon comes on September 16, so we are a little late, but the monthly schedule rules.     Celebration of harvest goes back to pagan times but did not become a major feature of church life until Victorian times, partly as a reaction to immoderate harvest suppers: St Mary’s harvest supper is on Friday 30 September, and any immoderation can be assuaged by attendance at choral evensong two days later – subject, of course, to ratification by the Vicar!

And so to the music. It is an interesting fact about responses that, after an initial flowering in settings immediately following the Reformation in England (Byrd and Smith are the two most frequently sung), composers after the Restoration seem to have kings_college_d_lgneglected this part of the service and new settings did not appear until the last century. On this occasion we will sing the Preces and Responses of Humphrey Clucas, who was a choral scholar at King’s College, Cambridge, and wrote these for King’s either while he was there or shortly afterwards. He uses single note recitation along with rich harmonic passages in up to six parts. He must surely have had the acoustic of that wonderful building in mind.

parryCharles Hubert Hastings Parry (1848-1918) is best known as the composer of ‘Jerusalem’ and ‘I was glad’. It’s less well known that he was the composer of some great hymn tunes including ‘O praise ye the Lord’ and ‘Dear Lord and Father’. But his output was larger than this and included much instrumental and orchestral music. Although he never held a church music post, he was writing chants and hymn tunes from a very early age. While at school near Winchester, he got to know SS Wesley, and later at Eton he wrote services and anthems. At the age of 18 he was awarded BMus from the University of Oxford for his oratorio ‘O Lord thou hast cast us out’ and promptly went up to Exeter College to read law and modern history. During this time (c1868), he managed to write, or at least get published what he had written earlier, a complete set of morning and evening canticles in D. We’ll sing the Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis of this set in which the music follows the style of Wesley with considerable independent interest in the organ part. Parry began his adult life as a Lloyd’s underwriter, but continued to follow his musical instincts until he felt able to support himself exclusively from composition. It was the continuing commissions from choral societies which enabled this change. He taught at the Royal College of Music and was Professor of Music at Oxford University.

There is a second setting of the evening canticles in D by Parry, known as the ‘Great’ service. It was written for Stanford at Trinity College, Cambridge in 1881, but apparently not performed for another ten years, when it was taken up at St Paul’s by john-stainer-172John Stainer (1840-1901), the composer of our harvest anthem, ‘Ye shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers’. The words of this anthem come mostly from Ezekiel chapter 36, but the piece ends with a setting of the last verse of the Chatterton Dix’s hymn ‘To thee, O Lord, our hearts we raise’ (524 in HON). This anthem, which dates from about 1880, appears to have been in the repertoire at Redbourn for some years: the copy I’m looking at cost 3d and is well used. The piece offers solo opportunities for bass in the Ezekiel section and soprano in the hymn, with largely chordal comments from the choir enlivened by enough, but not too much, spicy harmony.

The final voluntary is Paean by Percy Whitlock (1903-1946). Whitlock held organist posts in Rochester and Bournemouth, where he was also municipal organist at the Pavilion. This “song of praise” is something of a trumpet voluntary, with extensive use of the solo stop. A comment on this piece that I saw recently on YouTube regretted the lack of a 32-foot reed stop at Wells Cathedral. Well, Redbourn doesn’t have any 32-foot stops but we have every confidence in Jonathan bringing proceedings to a rousing climax.

Can we hope for ‘Come ye thankful people, come’ and ‘We plough the fields and scatter’ among the hymns?

Damian Cranmer


Choral Evensong at St Mary’s: Sunday 3rd July

The organ is an integral part of evensong and we shall hear it used in several different ways at Choral Evensong on Sunday 3rd July.

William ByrdThe Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis will be sung to the 2nd service of William Byrd (c.1540-1623).   This is a verse service, that is it has sections for one or more solo voices alternating with sections for full choir. The organ, then, provides an essential part of the texture, though relatively low-key throughout.
Lincoln_Cathedral_Nave_1,_Lincolnshire,_UK_-_DiliffWe don’t know – well, let’s be frank, I don’t know – details of the organ in Lincoln Cathedral where Byrd was organist from 1563 to 1570 and may well have composed this service. The problem with the early history of organs in England is that they were removed from churches and destroyed during the Commonwealth, when, far from being integral to the service, they were regarded as heretical. But the Lincoln organ would have had gentle flute-like stops, easily reproduced on modern instruments.

I find it quite surprising that Byrd, now regarded as one of the greatest, if not the greatest, of 16th-century English composers, has not always had such a reputation. In the late 19th century he was known by only three or four pieces, many fewer than Tallis or Gibbons. It’s not all explained by his continued adherence to catholicism (the same is true of Tallis) or the relatively few of his compositions found in Boyce’s Cathedral Music. These days, even his Latin masses (along with those of Palestrina and Victoria) are part of the staple diet of cathedral services.

Samuel_Sebastian_Wesley_EngravingFor the anthem, we shall sing one of SS Wesley’s extended cantata-like anthems, which also has many sections using solo voices. Samuel Sebastian Wesley (1810-1876) was the son of Samuel Wesley, a noted composer, and grandson of Charles Wesley, the great Methodist hymn-writer. SS Wesley began his career in the London theatre world, but then took several posts in cathedrals, never quite finding an ecclesiastical or choral set-up to match his aspirations: as I said last month, cathedrals in the 19th century did not have the quality and professionalism in their music which we cherish today. But Wesley wrote many impressive pieces for the church, perhaps the greatest in the repertoire between Purcell and Stanford. He chose his words carefully and ‘Praise the Lord, O my soul’ takes text from Psalms 103, 3 and 5. The care he took with the setting of the words is illustrated in the very first phrase of the anthem where, for musical reasons, he omits the “O” (Praise the Lord, my soul), restoring it in later passages – the cause of some variety in the work’s title.

Perhaps the most interesting point in the anthem is that, during an angelic treble solo, the organ suddenly takes off in a flight of fancy; the piece was written for the opening of, and to show off, the new organ at Holy Trinity Church, Winchester, in 1861 when Wesley held the organist’s post at the cathedral there. Wesley, unlike Byrd, wrote for an organ with a pedal board, but, apart from this one passage of exhibition, the organ mostly provides a harmonic accompaniment.

If the Byrd and Wesley are about 300 years apart, it was around half way between that JS Bach (1685-1750) was writing for the more advanced organs in Germany. It requires the whole of the modern St Mary’s organ to exploit Bach’s great “Dorian” fugue which is the final voluntary of this service. In May we heard Mendelssohn’s answer to Bach fugues. Here is the real thing and impressive it is too.

stopsA copy of this music in my possession is full of a previous owner’s pencil additions: ‘add to great’, ‘add to swell’, ‘full pedal by hand’. So come on, Jonathan, for the final entries of this fugue “Pull out all the stops!” Actually our organ has tabs, but somehow “flick all the tabs” doesn’t have quite the same ring about it. Incidentally, the knobs or tabs which are the means of accessing additional sounds on an organ are called stops because in the early organs they were a method of stopping rather than increasing sounds. In other words, unlike modern organs which are off until you draw a stop, these early organs were fully on until you stopped something.

We’ll also sing Responses by Kathy Goodchild, a member of our choir. Kathy says she wrote these in response (no pun intended) to a request by David Forbes and so, if you don’t like them, please blame David!

This music together with some rousing hymns will be a fine way to bring to an end a year of choral services at St Mary’s.

Damian Cranmer