The Parish Church of St John-at-Hampstead

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June 2019

Musical notes for June

Peter Foggitt

There are a few departures this month from the normal schedule: the first thing to note is that the frequency of services sung by the Junior Choir on Thursdays is somewhat reduced, first by half-term (in the first week of the month), then by our new programme of training for the choristers, which greatly increases the amount of theoretical and aural practice in rehearsal time, the natural consequence of which is that less new music is learned (but that which is learned is learned more effectively). Secondly, there is one extra service, for the thirtieth anniversary of the Vicar's ordination to the priesthood, on the twenty-fifth, featuring the magnificent Mass Euge bone — based, aptly, on an antiphon setting the words 'Behold a true and faithful servant'. Thirdly: on the twenty-third, the evening service is our Curate's first celebration of the Mass — I am grateful to Ayla for her apposite and elegant choices of music for this service — and the morning service is Matins, which includes a rare chance to hear the complete motet Sicut cervus... Sitivit anima mea of Palestrina (the first part of which is frequently heard, but the second  rather less frequently).


Other fun things include the Ascendens Christus in altum of Vittoria Aleotti (an Italian nun of the late Renaissance), a setting by Caroline Lesemann-Elliott of the well-known text If ye love me, a Haydn-fest on the morning of Pentecost, and a broad survey of Tallis's various styles at Evensong that day: Tallis wrote both for the Roman and new English rites, so it is not surprising that his rather ascetic Responses sound nothing like his ornate settings of the Magnificat and Nunc dimittis in Latin, nor the famous seven-voice depiction of the Apostles' xenoglossia.


On the sixteenth, the majority of the adult choir's members will be in Cumbria for Jess Dandy's festival, SongPath. The evening service will be said, and the morning service will be sung by the Junior Choir and congregation. Earlier that week, the Junior Choir perform Walford Davies' exquisite setting of words by Richard Baxter, on the day of his commemmoration; later in the month, Cyril of Alexandria's work in asserting the true relationship between the Virgin Mary and her Son (in brief, that by merit of His divinity, Mary became the Mother of God, the theotokos) is marked on his feast day.


Lastly, Evensong on the thirtieth features music by both Iveses (the American Modernist Charles, and the English Grayston (aka Bill), formerly of the King's Singers and latterly of Magdalen College, Oxford), Tarik O'Regan's thrilling setting of Psalm 98, and Howells' anthem on the death of JFK, Take him, earth, for cherishing. I find it hard to imagine a set of music for Evensong that better displays the breadth of repertoire and profundity of emotion that is possible during one service: bring your friends, your families, your next-door-neighbours.

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