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The Month's Music

The Crystal Ball

Music for September 2021

The kneelers and runners are back in the pews; the choir are back in the choirstalls. ‘God’s in his heaven, all’s right with the world.’ If only it were that easy . . . But let’s give thanks for what we have; and for some people at least the presence of John Rutter on the music list is cause for rejoicing, so they will be pleased that we begin our month’s music on 5 September with his popular setting of God be in my head. That will be followed, on 12 September, our Harvest Festival, by a performance of one of the two anthems for which Maurice Greene, contemporary and friend of Handel, is still remembered, his cheerful and tuneful Thou visitest the earth, in which the material of the opening tenor solo is taken up and developed by the full choir.

            A complete change of mood follows on the following Sunday morning, with Purcell’s sombrely beautiful Thou knowest, Lord, written for the funeral of Queen Mary in March 1695, used at the composer’s own funeral later the same year, and described by one writer as being similar in spirit to the Russian Kontakion of the Departed. Unusually, this month Choral Evensong will be sung that evening (19 September, the third Sunday of the month rather than the usual fourth), as certain essential personnel are departing for more singing in Wales the following week; so we shall have only a hymn from the virtual choir and a duet by Marcello from virtual versions of Pat and Emma on the fourth Sunday of this month.

            So what do we have for you at Evensong? In some respects, rather more sober fare than usual: the introit I will arise by the long-lived Robert Creyghton (or Creighton, 1639–1734) is a rather academic setting in canon of well-known words from the parable of the Prodigal Son; and the canticles will be sung to the Short Service by Thomas Weelkes, which, like all the Tudor settings, is rhythmically energetic, but is in what we would think of as a minor key. But the lively responses by Ayleward and Purcell’s celebratory Rejoice in the Lord alway (the ‘Bell Anthem’) will ensure that cheerfulness keeps breaking in.

            Finally, a note on the choir concert I mentioned last month. It now seems likely that this will take place on 21 November, the Eve of the Feast of St Cecilia, which is a very appropriate date for a church choir in particular to give a concert. Please make a note of the date; further details will, we hope, soon be available.