This Sunday the Parish Choir will be singing Sir Edward Elgar’s ‘Light of the World’ from his cantata, The Light of Life with words by the Reverend Edward Capel-Cure (1860-1949). As the musicologist, Michael Kennedy (1926-2014), says in his book The Life of Elgar (2004): ‘…In the spring of 1895 Elgar was commissioned to compose a choral work for the 1896 Worcester [Three Choirs’] Festival.’ The subject was suggested to Elgar by the Reverend Edward Capel-Cure: both men played chamber music together. Capel-Cure was Rector of Holy Trinity Church, Worcester, and also chose the title Lux Christi. The work was first performed on 8 September, 1896 just as Elgar was on the threshold of greatness, and was well-received for the most part, though the Latin title was changed to The Light of Life on the advice of the publishers, Novello and Co., in case a Church of England cathedral might perceive it to have a Catholic bias. The work was intended to be the prelude to an uncompleted trilogy of New Testament oratorios that occupied Elgar or the first six years of the twentieth century (The Apostles, and The Kingdom).
The Communion motet is the Deodat de Sévérac’s (1872-1921) setting of St Thomas Aquinas’s hymn, Tantum ergo. Born into an aristocratic family, de Sévérac was profoundly influenced by the musical tradition of his native Languedoc. After leaving his native Toulouse, he studied in Paris but at the Schola Cantorum rather than the more conventional (and secular) path to the Paris Conservatoire.
This Sunday’s service begins with Handel’s famous hymn-tune MACCABAEUS to the words ‘Thine be the glory’. It is an arrangement of the chorus ‘See the conquering hero comes’ from Handel’s oratorio Judas Maccabeus composed in 1751. Handel is reported to have said of the tune to a friend: ‘you will live to see it [become] a greater favourite with the people than my other finer things.’ A recording of the hymn sung by the choir of King’s College, Cambridge may be found here:
We shall also be singing Sir John Goss’s tune LAUDA ANIMA to ‘Praise my soul, the King of Heaven’ in its original arrangement, where each verse is harmonised differently: for a version of the hymn sung at the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Service at St Paul’s Cathedral in London (with John Scott’s descant and last verse arrangement) see:
This Sunday’s hymns will be:
Thine be the glory MACCABAEUS
587 Light’s abode, celestial Salem REGENT SQUARE
208 Here, O my Lord, I see thee face to face PENETENTIA
282 Praise my soul, the King of Heaven LAUDA ANIMA