On Sunday 3 April, we paid our first visit to Christchurch Priory for many years, where we sang Choral Evensong with its choir. A game of football in the grounds of Priory House kicked off the afternoon before a joint rehearsal, in which competitive rivalry was quickly put aside, under the energetic direction of Hugh Morris, Christchurch’s Director of Music. Afterwards, Christchurch Choir mums provided a splendid tea for all their visitors.
Led by the Vicar of Christchurch, the Reverend Christopher Mann, the service provided a rousing conclusion to Mothering Sunday. We processed in to John Henry Newman’s great Lenten hymn Praise to the holiest in the height and, after the opening responses, set by Humphrey Clucas, sang Psalm 31, to a chant by Sir Edward Bairstow.
The canticles were sung to Sir Charles Villier’s evergreen Evening Service in B flat; the boys projected their verses in the Magnificat such as And his mercy is on them that fear him with confidence, whilst the men clearly enjoyed their verses of the Nunc Dimittis. The final Gloria brought them to a satisfying close.
The boys also took the opportunity to shine in the anthem, also by Stanford: a setting of William Cowper’s hymn O for a closer walk with God. The music built gradually from a simple melody to a loud climax at A light to shine upon the road before fading away in the final bars.
After the final hymn, Shall we not love thee, Mother dear, both choirs processed to the west end for the final sung responses by Edward Naylor. We look forward to a return visit from our hosts at Christchurch. In the meantime, we are looking forward to our annual visit to Sherborne Abbey, less than four weeks away on May Day.
Meanwhile, back at Romsey Abbey, Evensong was sung by the Abbey Girls’ Choir and singers from St. Mary’s Church, Southampton. Music included Herbert Sumion’s Evening Service in G and the centrepiece of Sir John Stainer’s The Crucifixion, God so loved the world, as the anthem.