Monday, April 10, 2006

Sweet singing in the quire

On Friday I went to Salisbury Cathedral to sing evensong with a group organised by a friend. I've sung at Salisbury before, with Lyra Davidica, but I had forgotten what a beautiful acoustic the place has. Most of the settings Brian had chosen were unfamiliar to me, apart from the canticles*, which were Gibbons' Second Service, and included the "liturgical premiere" of Brian Moles' Drop, drop, slow tears (to be published by Boosey and Hawkes later this year). It is a lovely, unaccompanied piece, more accessible than some modern choral music.

We were a small and select bunch of singers - three sopranos, three altos, three tenors and two basses (though one of the basses is really a countertenor) - and although mistakes were made, partly due to sheer incompetence on our part and the limited rehearsal time, we made rather a nice sound.

Groups like ours often sing at cathedrals when their regular choirs are on holiday. I gather that the standard of visiting choirs is mixed, to put it kindly. Generally, most cathedral
precentors (it's usually the precentor or the organist who organises visiting choirs) ask for a tape or CD of the visiting choir "in action" - I've heard about the visiting choirs who were nothing more than a holidaying family who thought it would be nice to sing services at a cathedral, and evidently having no idea of the cathedral choir tradition of the Anglican church. Admittedly, even cathedral choirs vary amazingly in quality - a lot depends on the director of music - Peterborough, for example, aren't brilliant.

Although a lapsed Catholic and agnostic, I really like singing Anglican church services, particularly the choir-heavy Evensong and Mattins services (Eucharist is too much like a Catholic mass for my taste!). There's also something about cathedrals and the sound of voices and organ inside their vast spaces that invokes a spiritual feeling that isn't necessarily related to God. And as such, I can enjoy the service without needing to believe that it's worship.

* Canticles, for anyone unfamiliar with Church of England services, are the words of the Magnificat and Nunc dimittis, which are set to music and sung at the evening service of Choral Evensong.


At Mon May 15, 12:06:00 am, Anonymous Brian Moles (said composer) said...

What's this?

OK I admit surfing on Google under your own name is sad, but it's amazing what turns up.

It mentions my name and Spezzati, and I've seen the word Peterborough and Engineering in there as well.

Now who could this possibly be...?

Thanks for the comments. Drop Drop is a lovely piece (If I do say so myself) but there are many other nice pieces by said composer - watch out for a premiere at Wells Cathedral in late July (last tuesday of month), and Drop, drop will be performed by the award winning choir, Vasari, in August at Canterbury (Sunday before Bank Holiday.

Oh a shameless plug, but hey!


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