What a delight and privilege it was to sing a proper Choral Evensong in our ancient and lovely church! Especially wonderful was the fact that all the singers and the organist are our own church members. Soloists, cantor, ensemble -
Evensong as a service was formed from the ancient monastic Office of Vespers and Compline, and we used the order of service from the Book of Common Prayer 1662. The service offers the chance to reflect on the work of the day and look forward to the rest of the night to come. It is a service of thanksgiving and praise, petitions and prayers. The hymns were chosen to reflect this.
We tried to include beautiful music from all periods. The introit anthem by Gibbons (d. 1625) was given a modern slant by David Blackford, a modern composer, who still respected the style of the original. The anthem proper, "sung in places where they have quires", was also by a modern composer, Peter Hurford.
The main canticles, the Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis, were written by Thomas Attwood Walmisley, (d.1856). Walmisley, appointed Professor of Music at Cambridge at the tender age of 22, was a superb organist, choir trainer and composer. He sadly suffered badly from depression, and the world of church music reputedly owes a great debt to his friend, who rescued his "Evening Service in D" from the waste paper basket where Walmisley had "filed" it. He died 4 months later at the age of 42.
We used the setting of the Preces (petitions) and Responses by composer William Smith (d. 1645), a chorister, minor canon and Precentor of Durham Cathedral. He was much influenced by Gibbons, and gives away his Northern roots by giving the word "spirit" two syllables and notes. This is unusual as other composers of the period from London and the south usually only allow one "sprit".
We are very lucky to have an organist of Lawrence's calibre, and it was so atmospheric to begin the service with Parry's prelude "Eventide", better known as "Abide with me". We ended in very dramatic fashion with Olivier Messaien's "The Children of God". This was very difficult music, requiring great expertise and long fingers! Well done, Lawrence. Thanks must also go to Erles, who has practised patiently with us for weeks now, suffering some very unmusical sounds on the way. His ears have been much offended!
Thank you to the PCC and Tony for allowing us to do this service, to Annette for printing the booklets, to Ces for the lovely posters, to Jo for refreshments and Brian for reading and anyone who helped in any way, including attending! It was hard work but we hope you will agree it was worth it.
Coral, and the St Blasius' choir
23 July 2017
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St. Blasius Old Parish Church
Shanklin, Isle of Wight