Building on a busy Easter last month, May is proving to be a musical and rewarding month. On Sunday 6 May, we paid our annual visit to Sherborne Abbey, where we sang a joint Choral Evensong with Sherborne Abbey Choir as part of the Abbey’s annual music festival. With music comprising Stanford in A, Balfour Gardiner’s Evening Hymn, the Rose Responses and Psalm 136, it was an exciting and joyful service. We enjoyed the tea laid on by Sherborne’s Womens Institute, too!
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Stanford in A received a repeat performance in Romsey a week later, partnered by Patrick Hadley’s evocative setting of the Song of Solomon, My Belovèd Spake. We concluded this Rogationtide Evensong by processing down to what the Vicar called the most blessed field in Romsey, where he offered prayers for a fruitful harvest. A small herd of timid young cattle in the field stole the show, however, being by turns curious about and frightened of the strange gathering of people on the other side of the gate!
Last Thursday was the Feast of the Ascension, for which we sang Francis Jackson’s festive Communion Service in G and Gerald Finzi’s anthem God is gone up, a setting of verses by Edward Taylor in which rousing fanfare-like outer sections frame a tranquil evocation of music in Heaven.
Most recently, yesterday was the Abbey’s celebration of the 350th anniversary of the Book of Common Prayer. All services were said and sung according to its rites – a novel experience for the boys in the choir and an opportunity for rediscovery enjoyed by older members of the sizeable congregation. We sang Purcell and Tallis at the 10am Holy Communion and, for a special Choral Mattins at 11.30am, gave a rousing account of the Howells Collegium Regale Morning Service. The girl choristers joined us in the evening for more Purcell and our first time singing the Nunc Dimittis from Pelham Humfrey’s rarely heard Evening Service in E minor.
There will be more to come in June – not least celebrations of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee – and then on 14 July we stage a concert as part of Music in Romsey’s annual season, building towards our visit to Gloucester Cathedral in late August.