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The Month's Music

The Crystal Ball

Music for June 2022

The first Sunday of June this year is what I still call Whitsunday, the feast of the Holy Spirit, for which we shall sing John Rutter’s setting of the RSCM motto, I will sing with the spirit; but before that happens, for reasons upon which I need not elaborate, Her Majesty’s representative and other dignitaries will enter the church at the beginning of our Sung Eucharist to the strains of Handel’s Zadok the priest. Make the most of it, as it’s not likely to happen again . . .

            But even before that, we shall be doing our civic duty on the previous Thursday evening, as we perform the Commonwealth Song A life lived with grace and the anthem In our service on Tod’s Piece at the lighting of the celebratory beacon; a bit of a change from our usual performing conditions, but this is a very special occasion.

            Whitsunday, of course, is followed by Trinity Sunday (and all the Sundays after – not ‘of’ – Trinity), when we shall give another performance of Purcell’s verse anthem O God, thou art my God, first heard at Choral Evensong in February this year. The setting of these verses from Psalm 63 is typical of Purcell’s very individual harmonic language, and there is much to enjoy in the interplay of full choir and groups of solo singers; but the piece is still best known for the final Hallelujah, which has given us the majestic hymn-tune known as ‘Westminster Abbey’.

            Another great master of the English tradition, William Byrd, provides our anthem on 19 June: his tender setting of Ave verum corpus never ceases to give pleasure however often it may be sung.

            Which brings me, finally, to this month’s Choral Evensong on 26 June, which will double as a patronal festival celebration. For the introit, we have Bruckner’s multum in parvo motet Locus iste, which packs an enormous amount of musical energy into its two pages; for the anthem, we have John Joubert’s powerful setting of the anonymous Tudor text O Lorde, the maker of al thinge, which still startles with its originality some seventy years after it first appeared; the canticles will be sung to the familiar and well-loved setting in B minor by T. Tertius Noble. The joker in the pack, as it were, is a new set of responses specially written (by request) for our choir by Succentor wearing his composer’s hat. Our singers have (so far) reacted favourably to this set; I hope our Evensong congregation will agree.