The Parish Church of St John-at-Hampstead

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January 2015

Living the History - Music and Faith

James Sherlock

The Anglican Choral Tradition is unique in the world of music: musical styles from other countries have powerfully influenced English church composers, but the liturgy of the Anglican Church has fostered a tradition and repertoire that is exclusively its own. Indeed it was church music that, up until the latter part of the nineteenth century, provided the training for our country\'s most important composers in all domains, such as Byrd, Gibbons, Purcell, S.S. Wesley, Stainer and Sullivan.

Our history begins with the Reformation movement, shaped over the century and half between the Accession of Henry VIII in 1509 up until the completed Prayer Book of 1662, which newly called for Church Anthems and settings of specific Canticles, alongside chanted Psalmody. The music is indivisible from the liturgy: music and faith.
Next month we commence a traversal of this musical history, a journey which I hope you can join, one which will take us from the music of Byrd up until the present day over a period of two years. On the first Sunday of each month at evensong, we will explore a major figure in the history, followed up on each third Sunday of the month, going into a little more in depth by exploring composers or works perhaps lesser known. Progressing chronologically, over the next few months we will explore composers such as Tomkins, Weelkes, Gibbons and Humfrey, reaching the music of Purcell by the summer. Next academic year, we will continue with the eighteenth century and onwards through the Georgian, Victorian and Edwardian periods and the new worlds of 20th century composition.

On those other Sundays in each month we will continue to celebrate evensong with a wide and varied programme of music, and some of the composers we will be featuring heavily later in our History (Stanford, Wesley etc) are bound to come up: their music is the lifeblood of our tradition. By methodically working through on these designated Sundays, however, we can embrace the journey and receive the blessings of 500 years of composition dedicated to worship, a treasure trove of masterpieces unique to the Anglican tradition. Please do join the clergy, myself and the choir, and the many friends and supporters of our church and musical traditions. We begin on 1st February, and after evensong I will speak in detail about this fascinating project at the AGM of the Friends of the Music

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