Guilty pleasures #1
Posted March 11, 2013on:
We all tend to live life nowadays under such relentless pressure. Sometimes, we just need to turn down the world for a little while, or even, step off. Choral Evensong is where I do this, with incredible peace and enjoyment.
I’m a sucker for the quiet reflective space this service gives me. Beautiful music, and minimal audience participation, this service is one lead by the priest and choir, who sing the versicles and responses, Psalms and Canticles, Introit and Anthem.
Its my headspace each week; my time for just absorbing the stimuli, for thinking through my problems, enjoying the silences, and for strengthening my own personal connection to God
I’ve always had a thing for choral music. I think it’s one of the few good memories from a pretty awful childhood. My particular favourites are the composers from the last two centuries, particularly British, such as Charles Wood, Holst, Parry, Sumsion, Stainer, and particularly, Edgar Day (he was assistant organist at Worcester Cathedral for many years).
Unfortunately, we never hear anything by Day at my usual evensong haunt, which is St Mary’s Episcopal Cathedral in Glasgow (despite my occasional hints) , but there’s an eclectic mix of just about everything else there. Last night, a visiting choir from the Groton School in Boston, Massachusetts, sang the service with a wonderful mix of old and more recent works, including a wonderful glorious anthem by current Cathedral director of music, Frikki Walker. Lead Kindly Light is his own setting of Cardinal Newman’s magnificent words which still echo down the years as a marvellous proclamation of his final utter faith in God, as well as his periods of doubt. As a Church of England vicar and later, a Catholic convert priest, he spent time helping people with their own religious difficulties I think this hymn reflects this, and contains some beautiful words when read (as the poem, ‘The Pillar of Cloud’ )
I tend to seek out Choral Evensong opportunities wherever I travel. Recently, that’s included Ely and Newcastle Cathedral in the UK as well as St Georges in Cape Town. We all need a space in which we feel safe to think, reflect, meditate, problem-solve, or just to be. Perhaps this feeling of safety in this particular space was one childhood memory which has travelled with me down the years. And despite the passing of the years, the service itself has remained essentially the same.
My guilty pleasure #1.