Holy Week, one of the busiest times of the year for the Choir, was once more marked with due solemnity. Commemorations began with the Procession and Sung Eucharist for Palm Sunday, at which the motet Hosanna to the son of David struck a note of rousing, albeit false, optimism. Bairstow’s haunting canticle, The Lamentation, absent from our repertoire for some years, made a welcome return at Evensong, when four probationer choristers also received their surplices.
The mood darkened on Maundy Thursday, when another extract from the Lamentations of Jeremiah, the motet Vocem meam audisti by Alfonso Ferrabosco, was sung together with Byrd’s Mass for three voices and, performed very effectively as an introit from the Retrochoir, Duruflé’s Ubi caritas.
Good Friday saw the Choir singing Evensong unaccompanied. This moving service began with the phrase Crucifixus rising through the scale as it is passed from one vocal part to the next in Antonio Lotti’s setting of part of the Nicene Creed. Other music included Morley’s short evening service of fauxbourdons alternating with plainsong and the only work in our repertoire composed by a monarch: Faithful cross (Crux fidelis) by John IV of Portugal.
The Easter Vigil on Holy Saturday began outside with the lighting of the Paschal candle and continued in darkness inside with readings interspersed with Plainsong Psalms sung by the Lay Clerks. Then, with an organ fanfare, the Abbey was flooded with light and a Gloria was sung. The service concluded with the renewal of baptismal vows. The services on Easter Sunday are always well attended and this year was no exception. We completed a busy week with a Choral Evensong featuring Stanford’s evergreen Evening Service in B flat.