Music at St Michaels (05/06/2022)
The motet at this morning’s Family Eucharist, “Lead me, Lord” by Samuel Sebastian Wesley (1810 – 1876) is a much-loved anthem with a beautiful melody and simple setting. The words are taken from two psalms, with each verse sung first by a unison semi-chorus or solo voice, then echoed in the four parts of the full choir. The words are:
Lead me, Lord, lead me in thy righteousness; make thy way plain before my face. For it is thou, Lord, thou, Lord only, that makest me dwell in safety. Psalms 5:8 and 4:9
Music at St Michaels (29/05/2022)
The motet this Sunday is “Come, Holy Ghost”, by Thomas Attwood (1765 – 1838). Attwood was the son of a musician in the royal band, and he clearly showed talent at a young age, as he was sent abroad to study music, becoming a favourite pupil of Mozart in Vienna! In the same year that he became organist of St Paul’s Cathedral (1796), he was chosen as composer of the Chapel Royal. He composed many choral pieces, including this gentle, accompanied anthem anticipating Pentecost that the choir sings today.
Music at St Michaels (22/05/2022)
Harold Darke (1888 – 1976) was an English composer and organist, particularly known for his choral compositions. The choir sings his Setting of the Communion Service in E (affectionately known as the “Coll. Reg.” as it was commissioned for King’s College, Cambridge). It is one of three that he wrote in his lifetime. The motet is Thomas Tallis’s “O Lord, give thy Holy Spirit”, which in this season of Easter, looks forward to Pentecost. The interweaving melodies sung by the four parts of the choir create a peaceful beauty that explain why this ‘genius of the English renaissance’ is still so loved today.
At the Evensong within the APCM (at 6.30pm), the introit is Anton Bruckner’s “Locus iste”, written in 1869, with words that remind us that where we meet to worship is “the Lord’s place, which he has made”. As at every evensong, the responses and canticles from the Book of Common Prayer are sung. This evening the settings are by Humphrey Clucas (b. 1941) and Herbert Brewer (1865 – 1928). The anthem is “O Saviour of the world” by Arthur Somervell (1863 – 1937) which calls on God to “save us and help us”.
On Ascension Day (Thursday, 26th, at 7.30pm) the motet is “O clap your hands” by Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872 – 1958), a setting of Psalm 47.
Music at St Michaels (15/05/2022)
‘In the heart, where love is abiding’, our motet at this morning’s eucharist, was arranged by John Barnard (b. 1948), and is a setting, to a beautiful plainsong melody, of words based on the medieval hymn ‘Ubi caritas et amor’:
In the heart where love is abiding, God is in that heart, And the love of Christ has made us all of one heart. Then with joyful and glad hearts let us thank him. Let us fear God and remember all his goodness. Let us love each other with a pure and clean heart. May no quarrelling or dispute come between us. Let us see your face, O Lord Christ, now among us. Let us sing with all the angels praise to Jesus, In a song of joy that wells up from a clean heart.
Music at St Michaels (08/05/2022)
The anthem at Eucharist is “The Lord is my Shepherd” by Howard Goodall (b. 1958), better known to many as the theme tune of the ‘Vicar of Dibley’. Goodall was a boy chorister at Stowe School and went on to read music at Christ Church, Oxford. He has received many accolades for his music, including for other TV and film theme tunes such as ‘Blackadder’ and ‘Mr Bean’.
The Psalm 23 motif continues at evensong (6.30pm), with the choir singing Brother James’ Air, arranged by Gordon Jacob (1895-1984). The tune itself was written by James Bain (1860–1925) who was a Scottish hymn writer, religious minister and author who became known to his peers as Brother James. The introit at evensong also has a pastoral feel. “I sat down under his shadow”, with words from the Song of Solomon, is by the Yorkshireman, Edward Bairstow (1874 – 1946). The preces and responses are by Gabriel Jackson (b. 1962), and the canticles by Ernest Moeran (1894 –1950)
Music at St Michaels (01/05/2022)
Our junior choristers lead the upper voices of the choir in this morning’s anthem, “The Call”, by the much-loved English composer Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872 – 1958). This is the 4th of Five Mystical Songs which Vaughan Williams wrote in 1911, with words from a collection of sacred poems by George Herbert called “The Temple”. Herbert (1593 – 1633) was a Welsh poet, orator, and priest of the Church of England. He is recognised as one of the foremost British devotional lyricists for his many hymns and poems on sacred themes.
Music at St Michaels (24/04/2022)
“Blessed be the God and Father” by S. S. Wesley (1810 – 1876), our motet at the Eucharist service, was written in 1834 for a service on Easter Day at Hereford Cathedral. It was a situation familiar to Directors of Music everywhere, when only a few singers were available, in this case the trebles and a single bass (who happened to be the Dean’s butler!) Nevertheless, he wrote a brilliant anthem featuring as it does many unison passages and interplay between the upper and lower voices.
In the evening (6.30pm remember!) the introit is “Cantate Domino” by Italian composer, Giuseppe Pitoni (1657 – 1743): “Let us sing unto the Lord” is based on the first two verses of Psalm 149. The preces and responses are by Bernard Rose (1916-1996), and the canticles (in C) are by Charles Villiers Stanford (1852 –1924). The anthem is by the English composer, William Mundy (1529 – 1591), the words of which begin:
O Lord, the maker of all thing,
We pray thee now in this evening
Us to defend through thy mercy
From all deceit of our enemy.
Music at St Michaels (17/04/2022)
Easter Sunday’s motet at the Eucharist is “Surrexit Christus hodie” by Samuel Scheidt (1587 – 1654) a German composer, organist and teacher of the early Baroque era. He was from the town of Halle, in Eastern Germany, went to Amsterdam to study under Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck, and later became court organist in Halle, and then Kapellmeister, to the Margrave of Brandenburg. His Easter anthem, rejoicing in the resurrection, is set for double choir, with first the sopranos then the tenors singing the theme to which the choirs respond in a joyous dance-like rhythm. It’s set many a foot tapping in the pews in the past four centuries!
Music at St Michaels (10/04/2022)
Palm Sunday’s motet at the Eucharist is Thomas Weelkes’ glorious anthem, “Hosanna to the Son of David”, based on verses from the Gospels of Matthew and Luke. Weelkes (1576-1623) was the organist at Chichester Cathedral from 1602 (though he was eventually dismissed from this position due to his alcoholism).
Choral Evensong is moving back to its old time of 6.30pm this Sunday. The music for it is drawn mainly from the 17th century, including the anthem, “Miserere mei” by Henry Purcell (1659 – 1695). This remarkable two-part canon in four voices is included as an example by Purcell in the twelfth edition of “An Introduction to the Skill of Musick” (London, 1694). It not only demonstrates the technical genre to music students, it manages to do so in a wonderful piece of music, with the harmonies from the interweaving melodies evoking the heart-felt emotion of the psalmist. He was after all a genius! The responses and canticles in the service are by Thomas Tomkins (1572 –1656), a Welsh composer who served Worcester Cathedral for fifty years, until the Civil War brought an end to the services there in 1646.
Another even more famous “Miserere” features in the music on Maundy Thursday. Composed around 1638, it was only allowed to be performed at the Sistine Chapel, which of course added to the mystery surrounding the piece. According to the popular story, it was Mozart, aged fourteen, who heard the piece and wrote it down entirely from memory. Since its publication in 1771 and the lifting of the ban, Allegri’s Miserere has become one of the most popular choral works now performed. You’ll almost certainly hear it on Classic FM this week if you can’t make the service on Thursday!
Other beautiful music to look out for during Holy Week includes the Reproaches (probably the setting by Palestrina) on Good Friday, and Haec Dies by Caspar Ett (1788 – 1847) on Easter Eve.
Music at St Michaels (03/04/2022)
At Family Eucharist this morning we welcome three new junior choristers who joined us following the last Half-term Singing Day. Since then, they’ve been working hard to learn all the music we sing at the family service (4 hymns, 3 movements of the mass, the meditation during the intercessions, and the anthem!) Do give them a warm welcome.
The meditation is the Spanish anthem, Nada te turbe (Nothing can trouble you), written in 1986 by the French composer Jacques Berthier (1923 – 1994) who wrote much of the music used at Taizé. The anthem is an arrangement of “Steal Away”, an American spiritual composed by Wallace Willis, a slave of a Choctaw freedman in the old Indian Territory, sometime before 1862. The song was popularised by the Jubilee Singers who toured the United States and Europe from 1871 to raise funds for a college, later Fisk University.
Music at St Michaels (27/03/2022)
The anthem for the Choral Eucharist on Mothering Sunday is “Stabat Mater” (first movement), composed by Giovanni Battista Pergolesi in 1736. The words describe Mary, standing weeping at the foot of the cross. This beautiful duet for soprano and alto is one of Pergolesi’s most well-known sacred works, expressing the heart-rending emotion of that moment. The mass setting during the service (in the Phrygian Mode) is by Charles Wood (1866 –1926).
At evensong at 4pm, there is music by three outstanding composers of the 16th and 17th centuries. Henry Purcell (1659 – 1695) provides the introit, “Miserere Mei”, based on the text of Psalm 51; William Byrd (1539 – 1623), provides the canticles and responses; and Italian composer Felice Anerio (1560 – 1614), the anthem, “Christus factus est”, a meditation on the words from Philippians (2:8-9):
“Christ became obedient for us unto death, even to the death on the cross.”
Music at St Michaels (20/03/2022)
The anthem at Eucharist this Sunday is “Call to remembrance, O Lord” by the Tudor composer Richard Farrant (1525-1580). Farrant was one of the Gentlemen of the Chapel Royal in the 1550s and sang there during the reign of Mary Tudor, taking up the post of Master of the Choristers at St George’s Chapel in 1564, during the reign of Elizabeth I, around the time he composed this anthem. The text is from Psalm 25 (vv. 5-6) which asks God not to remember our sins… but his own tender mercies.
Music at St Michaels (13/03/2022)
Evensong, at 4pm this Sunday, is dedicated as “A Prayer for Ukraine” which is also the title of the introit. The text was written by poet and writer Oleksandr Konysky (1836 – 1900), and the music composed by Mykola Lysenko (1842 – 1912), a composer who dedicated his career to conserving and encouraging Ukrainian music. Prayer for Ukraine was performed in Kyiv in 2001 at the celebrations of the 10th anniversary of Ukraine’s independence, and recently it has been part of many church services internationally, in response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine. The words begin:
O Lord, almighty and gracious
Always keep our Ukraine safe;
Give her the light of freedom,
Show her the way of goodness…
The English Renaissance composer, Thomas Morley provides the music of the canticles and responses at evensong. The Magnificat, as at every evensong, reminds us of the need for humility, for… “He has put down the mighty from their seat”. The anthem, “O vos omnes” by Tomas Luis de Victoria (1549-1611), calls us to remember that all suffering is shared by Christ: “O all ye that pass by the way, attend and see, if there be any sorrow like to my sorrow”. And the second collect is a prayer for peace:
Give unto thy servants that peace which the world cannot give; that both our hearts may be set to obey thy commandments, and also that by thee we being defended from the fear of our enemies may pass our time in rest and quietness.
Music at St Michaels (06/03/2022)
The motet at the Family Service this week, “O for a closer walk with thee”, is by Charles Villiers Stanford (1852 – 1924). The text was written by William Cowper in 1772, a hymn that reflects a longing for intimacy with God. Cowper himself battled depression and melancholy throughout his life, and yet wrote hymns of great serenity that continue to inspire Christians many generations later.
Music at St Michaels (27/02/2022)
The setting at Choral Eucharist this week is John Ireland’s Communion Service in C, written in 1914. The motet is a setting of “Ave Maria” by Jacques Arcadelt (1507–1568), a Franco-Flemish composer of the Renaissance, active in both Italy and France, who was particularly known as a composer of madrigals. His lesser-known claim to fame is that the music in Caravaggio’s famous painting, “The Lute Player”, is by Arcadelt!
At Evensong at 4pm the choir sings Charles Wood’s Oculi omnium as an introit and the anthem is William Harris, “Holy is the true light”. The Canticles (in D) are by Charles Wood, with responses by Humphrey Clucas.
On Ash Wednesday the choir is singing “Thou knowest, Lord, the secrets of our hearts”, composed by Henry Purcell for the Funeral of Queen Mary in 1695.
Music at St Michaels (20/02/2022)
There’s a much smaller choir at Eucharist this morning as our Director of Music, Andrew Hanley, and several other members of the choir are singing the services at Bath Abbey this weekend, along with the choir “Laudamus”. They’ll be singing some of the very beautiful music we’ve heard in St Michael’s over the last few Sundays.
The motet at St Michael’s this morning is “Thee we adore” a text by St Thomas Aquinas (1227 – 1274), set to a plainsong chant:
Thee we adore, O hidden Saviour, thee, who at this blessed feast art pleased to be; both flesh and spirit in thy presence fail, yet here thy presence we devoutly hail.
Thomas Aquinas was one of the early church’s greatest theologians and philosophers, whose impact on western thought has been profound. This hymn is one of several he wrote on the subject of the Lord’s supper.
Music at St Michaels (13/02/2022)
As we remember and give thanks for 70 years of the Queen’s reign this month, the choir’s motet at Eucharist, “O taste and see”, is appropriate. It was written by Ralph Vaughan Williams, for the coronation.
At evensong — at the earlier time of 4.00pm this week — the introit is “Eripe me”, by Latvian composer Rihards Dubra (b. 1964). The words, based on Psalm 142:9-10, mean:
“Deliver me from my enemies, O Lord, to thee have I fled; teach me to do thy will, for thou art my God.”
The anthem, “Sicut cervus” by Palestrina (1525 – 1594), is also based on a psalm (42) – “Like as the hart desireth the waterbrooks…” Other music includes canticles in D minor by Thomas Attwood Walmisley (1814 – 1856), preces and responses by William Smith (1603 – 1645), and the setting of the Lord’s Prayer by Robert Stone (1516 – 1613).
Music at St Michaels (06/02/2022)
At Family Eucharist this Sunday the motet is “Morning glory, starlit sky”, by Barry Rose (b. 1934), a composer and choir master who is perhaps most well-known for founding the choir and the pattern of daily worship at the new Guildford Cathedral in 1961. This anthem is based on a poem by William (Bill) Vanstone (1923 – 1999), who subtitled it “love’s endeavour, love’s expense”. The words speak of the open gifts of love from God to all, contrasted with their great yet hidden cost.
Vanstone was greatly respected within the ministry of the church. His obituary commented, “Both lay and ordained men and women who were lonely, questioning or deeply wounded found their way to his door and his lights often burned late into the night.”
Music at St Michaels (30/01/2022)
This Sunday we celebrate the Presentation of Christ (Candlemas) and the text of the motet, “Exultate justi”, by Italian composer, teacher, and Franciscan friar, Ludovico da Viadana (1560 – 1627), is a translation of Psalm 33, that would often have been sung in the temple. The words mean:
Rejoice in the Lord, O ye just; praise befits the upright.
Give praise to the Lord on the harp; sing to him with the psaltery, the instrument of ten strings.
Sing to him a new canticle, sing well unto him with a loud noise.
Rejoice in the Lord, O ye just; praise befits the upright
Music at St Michaels (23/01/2022)
Joseph Haydn’s ‘Kleine Orgelmesse’ (‘Little Organ Mass’), which the choir sings at choral Eucharist today, was composed in the mid-1770s for a chapel at Eisenstadt. It is unusual for its very short Gloria – the four voice parts sing the different sets of words all at the same! – and the very long Benedictus, featuring organ and soprano solos. Some in the choir may recall singing this in Chichester Cathedral, when the soprano solo was sung beautifully by Katherine Harper. In deciding not to sing the Benedictus today, we are following the advice now given by the cathedral to visiting choirs… it’s just too long for the standing congregation. The music throughout though is, as one reviewer wrote, ‘imbued with a quiet spirit of devotion, even of mysticism, that is most appealing.’
The motet is a treat of a different kind. “Ubi caritas”, is an ancient Latin hymn meaning, “Where charity and love are, God is there.” Ola Gjeilo, a modern composer from Norway, wrote the music for this piece in 1999, and he manages to blend plainsong melodies with complex harmonic progressions that perfectly complement this beautiful text.
Music at St Michaels (16/01/2022)
Epiphany gives us another opportunity to sing joyous carols and anthems! At Eucharist the choir sings “O taste and see” by Ralph Vaughan Williams, one of the last of his sacred pieces, written for the 1953 coronation of Queen Elizabeth II. In the evening, the Epiphany Carol Service (at 6.30pm) includes more twentieth century British music, with Benjamin Britten’s “A Boy was born”, composed in 1933, “Bethlehem Down”, written by Peter Warlock in 1922, and “Tomorrow shall be my dancing day”, by John Gardner (1965).
Music at St Michaels (24-25/12/2021)
There are three sung services over Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Firstly, a big shout-out for the junior choristers who will be leading the carols and singing the anthem at the Crib Service at 5pm. Congratulations to all of them, as for several it will be their first opportunity to sing with the choir. At 11.30pm, Midnight Mass, the motet is The Infant King (Sing lullaby), a Basque carol arranged by David Willcocks (1919 – 2015), a composer and choirmaster who was particularly well known for his association with the Choir of King’s College, Cambridge. On Christmas morning the choir sings “A maiden most gentle”, a carol with words by Andrew Carter (b. 1939) set to a traditional French tune which he arranged. The words paraphrase a text by The Venerable Bede (672 – 735).
Music at St Michaels (19/12/2021)
The fourth Sunday of Advent brings an abundance of Christmas music, especially at the Lessons and Carols at 6.30pm tonight. Among the highlights is this morning’s motet, “A tender shoot” by Otto Goldschmidt (1829-1907), which speaks of Christ, brought by the Virgin in the depths of winter, to “turn our darkness into light”. A favourite for many people at Christmas is John Tavener’s, “The Lamb”, which he wrote in 1979 using the text of William Blake’s well-known poem (published in 1789). The poem is a conversation between a child and a lamb, as they realise the one who made them was also called a Lamb. Tavener weaves a simple plainsong melody with its refection in a gentle piece of extreme tenderness. Another undoubted highlight is “Hodie” by the genius Dutch composer Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck (1562 – 1621) whose works straddle the end of the Renaissance and beginning of the Baroque periods. The words capture the joy of Christmas (they mean “Today Christ was born, glory to God in the highest”) and this is echoed in the interconnecting lines and responses of the different parts of the choir.
Music at St Michaels (12/12/2021)
The motet at Eucharist today is “There is no rose of such virtue” by the British composer, John Joubert. Born in South Africa, he lived most of his life in Birmingham and composed over 160 works in many different genres. Today’s motet is one of his most well-known and much-loved pieces. In 2019, the year that Joubert died, aged 91, and the last time there was a live carol service in St Michael’s, we chose to sing this piece twice, and we do so again this year for its beauty and simplicity. The words, in Middle English and Latin – sung to many different tunes over the centuries – refer to the Virgin Mary, and how she contained “heaven and earth in little space” and helped us to see “God in persons three”. Res miranda… it’s a wonderful thing. Pares forma… equal in form. Transeamus… let us follow!
Music at St Michaels (05/12/2021)
Today’s motet “Canite tuba” is by the Spanish Catholic priest, Francisco Guerrero (1528-1599) who was appointed music director at Jaén Cathedral at the age of eighteen, before moving to Seville Cathedral just three years later. The words of the anthem are taken from an Advent antiphon. They mean:
Blow the trumpet in Zion,
for the day of the Lord is nigh.
Lo, He comes to our salvation.
The crooked shall be made straight,
and the rough ways plain.
Come, Lord, and do not delay.
Music at St Michaels (28/11/2021)
It’s not yet the season to be jolly, but certainly is the season to sing carols! In all, the choir will be singing three carol services over the next 8 Sundays, with songs that evoke the longing of Advent (today), the joy and wonder of a unique birth, on the 19th December, and the revelation of that baby’s true nature, at Epiphany on the 16th January. Composers of today’s music include Adrian Batten (1591-1637), Otto Goldschmidt (1829-1907), Francisco Guerrero (1528-1599), John Joubert (1927-2019), Elizabeth Poston (1905-1987), Vaughan Williams (1872-1958) – whose anthem “This is the truth” also features in this morning’s Eucharist – and Peter Warlock (1894-1930). Perhaps you’ll find your favourite carol among them.
Music at St Michaels (21/11/2021)
The Feast of Christ the King is a relatively new festival in the Western church, becoming part of the calendar in 1925, when instituted by Pope Pius XI. The anthem sung today in celebration was written by Welsh composer, William Mathias (1934-1992) in 1969. “Lift up your heads O ye gates” is scored for organ and choir and is (as one reviewer put it) “perky, confident, wickedly militaristic, and full of Welsh dragons!” The words are from Psalm 24:7-9.
Music at St Michaels (14/11/2021)
The communion motet at our Remembrance Eucharist this Sunday is “They are at rest” by Edward Elgar, an elegy for unaccompanied chorus with words by Cardinal Newman. It was written to be sung on the anniversary of Queen Victoria’s death, and was first performed at the Royal Mausoleum in 1910.
At Evensong (6.30pm), the choir sings two pieces by the great English composer Henry Purcell (1659-1695), and also the Canticles in E minor, by his brother, (the lesser, but still great!) Daniel Purcell (1664-1717). The introit, “Hear my prayer, O Lord”, in 8 parts, sets words from the beginning of Psalm 102 in an exquisite complex of harmonies that evoke the heart-felt cry of the psalmist. “Remember not, Lord, our offences”, sung towards the end of the service, uses words from Thomas Cranmer’s Litany, found in the Book of Common Prayer. The Preces and Responses are sung to a setting by Thomas Tomkins (1572-1656).
Music at St Michaels (07/11/2021)
Peter Nardone is a contemporary conductor, singer and composer, born in Elderslie, Scotland. As well as the choir and congregation singing his Kilcreggan Mass today – Nardone wrote this during lockdown this year – the choir will also sing his motet, “I give to you a new commandment”. This song combines the words of Jesus, from the gospel of St John, with “Ubi Caritas”, a hymn written in 10th century France, the words of which mean, “Where charity and love are, there is God.”
Music at St Michaels (23/10/2021)
The motet for All Saints Day is by Tomás Luis de Victoria, the most famous composer in 16th-century Spain. “O quam gloriosum”, first published in 1572, is an antiphon for four voices. The words mean, “O how glorious is the kingdom in which all the saints rejoice with Christ.”
At the All Souls Service at 4pm, the anthem sung as the candles are lit is “Thou knowest Lord” by Henry Purcell, which was written for the funeral of Queen Mary in 1695. The choir also sing the Kontakion of the departed, to its ancient Kiev chant. This was sung by singers from the Chapel Royal at the funeral of Prince Phillip earlier this year.