Music News - February 2020

Img 2760-800November is always the start of a very busy period for music at St Mary’s, which can be testing for the stamina and patience of all participants in the choir, organ loft and brass group. However, we all recognise that the hard, collaborative work will produce rewards, ideally for the congregation as well as the participants, and this year has been no exception.

The first Sunday in November started with anthems composed nearly 450 years apart. The church celebrated All Saints in the morning with Victoria’s anthem O quam gloriosum written in 1572, followed at the moving All Souls service in the afternoon by 3 of Michael Tippet’s 5 Spirituals from the oratorio, Child of Our Time, which he started writing on the day the Second World War was declared.

The sombre war theme continued in the Civic Service of Remembrance Day, with a packed church listening to Guest’s They shall grow not old and Bainton’s And I saw a new heaven, with the service culminating as always in the haunting strains of The Last Post.

This year a further special event took place on 24 November, as more than 400 parishioners, a very full choir and the brass group joined to say farewell to the Rev’d Canon David Tomlinson. He has been a tremendous supporter of music at St Mary’s, and will be sorely missed by all of us. The choir sang the motet Jesu Joy of Man’s Desiring during the service, then wished David God Speed in the lovely words of the Irish Blessing with music by John Chilcott: “May the road rise to meet you, may the wind be ever at your back, may the sun shine warm upon your face, and the rains fall soft upon your fields. And until we meet again, may God hold you ever in the palm of his hand”.

Finally on 1 December St Mary’s was packed yet again for the Advent Carol Service. The transition from darkness to light is always moving, although somewhat challenging for the choir as they navigate the church clutching both music and tiny torches. I am always impressed by how well the Junior Choir navigate the space and the service, not least because they are generally leading the processions. Many pieces of music were familiar, but John Taverner’s spine tingling composition Angels was new to most of the congregation, and very testing for the organist, Jeremy Allen, a test which he of course passed with flying colours. Another highlight this year was the world premiere of Adam Lay Ybounden written by Oli King, the Director of Music.

At the time of writing the church musicians are now preparing for the Christmas Carol Service on 22 December, and the Junior Choir and Joyful Noise are also getting ready for the 2 Tree Services on Christmas Eve. A busy but enjoyable and fulfilling month ahead.

Ottilie Lefever