On Sunday 5 May, having been invited just a couple of weeks previously, we joined our counterparts from Christchurch Priory and Sherborne Abbey to sing Choral Evensong in Sherborne Abbey. The service formed part of the Sherborne Abbey Festival and recalls a very enjoyable service in November 2000 when the Choir of Sherborne Abbey visited Romsey to sing Evensong with us.
The Evening Service in B minor by Thomas Tertius Noble begins with an exhilarating ascending flourish for trebles alone on the words My soul, my soul doth magnify the Lord. The boys of the three choirs needed little encouragement from Jeffrey Williams to set it ringing around the ornate fan vaulting of the Nave, one of the earliest such examples in the country. The men, for their part, rendered the the contrasting passage For he hath regarded the lowliness of his handmaiden with sensitivity.
Perhaps the most impressive aspect of the companion Nunc Dimittis was the control and richness of tone evident in the diminuendo on the concluding Amen. This was equally true of the Lord’s Prayer part of the setting of the Responses by Bernard Rose conducted by Andrew Post, Organist of Christchurch Priory.
John Padley, Organist of Sherborne Abbey, directed the anthem, Zadok the Priest, composed by Handel for the Coronation of George II in 1727. Our boys have greatly enjoyed learning this piece and the explosion of sound, of which justly-famous, hushed introduction on the fine organ in the North Transept gave no premonition, was indeed thrilling. The music chosen for the occasion displayed the abilities of the combined forces some fifty voices in total to telling effect.
After Fred Pratt-Green’s hymn God is here, to the rousing tune Blaenwern, choirs and clergy were led outside onto the green for the final dismissal, in hazy evening sunshine, by the Vicar of Sherborne, Canon Eric Woods. Tea was provided after the service and proved to be far even more than thirty-two ravenous choristers could demolish.
Singing with other choirs on such occasions is beneficial for all concerned, providing experience of blending vocal tone, adapting to different conducting styles and, not least, giving a morale boost from the sheer pleasure of making music expressively in a spacious acoustic. We look forward very much to the next combined service.