Festival Final Events
Since the last issue of Grapevine there have been six more great musical occasions as part of our Festival of Sacred Music, including, of course, the fabulous closing concert.
The first of these was on Sunday, 22 February, when our evening worship featured music written for the Russian Orthodox liturgy and sung by the Russian Choral music choir: Russkaya Cappella. Our minister, Scott McKenna, opened the service by leading us in a time of silent prayer, encouraging us to use the prayer of the heart, the Jesus prayer, ‘Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner,’ as in the Orthodox tradition. The pieces which the choir then sang focussed on Lent and included Turchaninov’s ‘Let all mortal flesh keep silence’ and Rachmaninoff’s ‘To Thee we sing.’ Afterwards many comments were made about how listening to this very special spiritual music had been a truly inspirational experience.
On Saturday evening, 7 March, a substantial audience, many from outside our own congregation, gathered to hear Dr James Reid-Baxter lecture on A Garden in the North: Scottish Sacred Music up to the Reformation. The lecture was illustrated by Sang Scule, a groupwho specialise in singing early Scottish music, directed by James Hutchison, with Eric Thomas on lute. We were led on a fascinating journey as we heard how Scottish spirituality, history and poetry flourished from the evangelical mission of St Ninian in the fifth century, via the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, to the Reformation. Dr Reid-Baxter was an entertaining lecturer and the music he had chosen was extremely varied. In addition, the booklet he had provided was splendidly informative: a treasure to be kept.
On Tuesday, 10 March, the Choral Afternoon Service held in the upper hall was extremely well attended, in fact it was standing room only! The service was led by Sheila Bryer with a quartet from Mayfield Salisbury Chamber Group: Julie Morrice, Katrine Townhill,( technically not in the chamber group, just a pal of Walter’s) Henry Pemberton and Walter Thomson. There was hymn singing by the whole congregation, an anthem and the Lord’s Prayer from the quartet, but also a spoken psalm and a ‘workshop’ in which we all learnt to sing Gyorgi Kerenyi’s Dona nobis pacern in four parts! It was a rich and varied experience very much appreciated by the many there who find attending evening events more difficult.
Then on Palm Sunday, 29 March, the 10.45am morning service included a dramatic choral setting of the Gospel reading for Palm Sunday arranged according to the ancient plain-song together with music by the renaissance composer, Tomás Luis de Victoria, adapted to the English words by William Ratcliffe. The different roles: narrator, Jesus, Judas, Pilate, were assigned to different voices from the Chamber Group, while the Choir sung the part of the crowd. The full text was printed in the Order of Service thus allowing the congregation to feel fully involved in this most dramatic of Biblical readings. A long prayerful silence followed the final chorus, ‘Truly This was the Son of God’: the only possible response to such a moving rendering.
On the evening of Maundy Thursday, 2 April, a fully choral service of Holy Communion was held which included Victoria’s Lamentations for Maundy Thursday, Palestrina’s Missa Aeterna Christi Munera, andAllegri’sMiserere. The service was led by Scott with the Chamber Group singing from the balcony. Again the full text was printed in the Order of Service, which also contained explanatory notes on each composer. The whole service was not only extremely prayerful and inspiring but also had a wonderful feeling of connection with the long and continuing history of Christian worship.
Finally, on Sunday evening, 26 April, a large audience enjoyed the Festival Closing Concert: An Easter Celebration. This was a concert of celebratory music centred round Handel’s great Dettingen Te Deum. It was performed by the Mayfield Festival Singers and members of Jubilo, accompanied by an orchestra of local musicians, directed by Walter Thomson with John Willmett on the organ. The programme opened with another 18th Century work, Fracesco Durante’s Magnificat in B flat, a very personal hymn of praise centred on Mary, which provided a pleasing contrast to Handel’s grand celebratory work in praise of the nation. The evening ended with a very convivial get-together in the halls, where glasses of wine were enjoyed along with lots of talk between friends and acquaintances old and new, all brought together by their enjoyment of great music.
Mention must also be made of how, at the 10.45am service throughout the Festival, our Choir and Choral Group have sung specially chosen Introits and Anthems and John Willmett has played particular Voluntaries on both organ and piano. Background information about these special choices has been included in all the Orders of Service sheets which, week by week, have been very much appreciated by those attending.
So our 2014-2015 Festival of Sacred Music has finally come to an end, but the memories of the huge variety of wonderful events will surely continue to live with us and influence our worship for years to come.
‘For many, music enriches our moments of meditation and fills the soul with peace. Set to music, our liturgical texts point beyond themselves, to another, unseen, dimension of our reality’. Scott S McKenna