Holy Week at the Abbey

Christ and His Apostles
as depicted on the ancient Reredos at
Romsey Abbey

The music list for April reveals a hectic schedule for the Choir, involving several major Services and a range of music, both familiar and new to the repertoire. Holy Week began on 8 April with the annual Palm Sunday procession from the South Garth, a garden in the grounds of the Abbey, into the Nave for the 10am Sung Eucharist. It included the dramatic Tudor anthem Hosanna to the Son of David by Thomas Weelkes (1575-1623), Organist in his time of both Winchester and Chichester Cathedrals.

A Solemn Sung Eucharist, incorporating the ceremonial washing of feet, was celebrated on Maundy Thursday (12 April). This year the Gentlemen Choristers sang the Mass for Three Voices by William Byrd (1543-1623), coupled with Vocem meam audisti, a motet for the Second Nocturn of Maundy Thursday by Alphonso Ferrabosco (1543-1588). A native of Bologna, he foundeda minor musical dynasty during his period of service at the court of Queen Elizabeth, his grandson John becoming organist at Ely Cathedral.

The theme of penitence continued on Good Friday (13 April) with an entirely unaccompanied Choral Evensong. This began with a haunting setting of the Crucifixus by the Venetian composer, Antonio Lotti (1667-1740).

The Easter Vigil (14 April), sung this year by the full Choir, commenced outside in the evening twilight with the lighting – despite a rather gusty breeze – of the Paschal candle. Plainsong psalms were interspersed with readings from scripture by candlelight until, with pealing of bells and a toccata from the organ, the Nave was flooded with light to symbolize the triumph of Christ over the darkness of death.

A full congregation atrtended the Sung Eucharist on Easter Sunday (15 April). The music returned decisively to the major key after several weeks of minor-key penitence – with the Missa Brevis in D, K194, by Mozart and an arrangement by Charles Wood of the hymn This joyful Eastertide. Sing we merrily, an exhilarating anthem by Sidney Campbell, will rounded off the day’s celebrations at Evensong.