Music Notes and Choral Evensong

With morning and evening choral services this Sunday, there is a lot to look forward to!

In the morning, we will have parishioner Pedro Funes-Whittington and Leonardo Lima playing viols during the service. Viols are fretted bowed string instruments; they appear similar in shape to violins and cellos, but have frets like guitars and lutes, and a distinctive and beautiful sound. Much choral music of the Tudor era was written with viols in mind as accompanimental instruments; it’s appropriate that the anthems for the day are by the contemporaries Tallis and Byrd.

We will hear Tallis’ “A New Commandment,” a work in the straightforward, vernacular Reformation style recommended by Cranmer; as a foil to this, the florid Agnus Dei from William Byrd’s “Mass for Four Voices,” produced illegally in the 1590s (Byrd was a Catholic and writing music for the Roman church, which was considered a seditious organization). Holding copies of this Latin polyphony could and did result in imprisonment; culturally, it might therefore be the closest thing in sacred music to East German punk rock!

In the afternoon at 5 pm, we will have our first service of choral evensong since 2019!

At this service, we will admit our first young choristers as full members of the choir. You may have noticed, at services in which they have served, that our new choristers have been wearing cassocks but not surplices. A surplice, in our tradition, is a garment of service; for instance, in the 1552 Book of Common Prayer it is stated that a surplice should be worn by a priest “at all times of ministration.”

Children entering the choir begin as a probationers, until such time as they have developed the skills and focus necessary to take leadership in worship, and the surplice marks them as capable musicians in the worship of God. This is an exciting process to begin for our fledgling chorister program, and I hope you will join us at 5 pm to support them!