Good Friday this year fell exactly three months after Christmas Day, serving to emphasise the compressed nature of the choir term just ended. It began with the Epiphany Gift Service, for which three of the Lay Clerks moonlighted as the Magi. Candlemas, concluding the season of Epiphany somewhat early on 6 February, was celebrated with a Solemn Eucharist and the annual performance of Eccard’s When to the temple Mary went.
Ash Wednesday, just a few days later, launched a season of penitential services, with austere music such as Byrd’s Mass for four voices, Blitheman’s In pace idipsum and Wesley’s Wash me throughly programmed to suit the mood. The Lay Clerks also gave what is probably the Abbey première of Duruflé’s Messe ‘Cum Jubilo’.
Palm Sunday’s Sung Eucharist always strikes a note of premature and somewhat hollow triumph, reflected in a lusty rendition of Weelkes’ Hosanna to the son of David. Evensong, however, returned to the prevailing mood of anguish with Bairstow’s canticle The Lamentation.
Jeremiah also provided the text for Ferrabosco’s haunting motet Vocem meam audisti, sung by the Lay Clerks at Maundy Thursday’s Solemn Eucharist. They were rejoined by the boys for the other four Easter services which progressed from pathos, as expressed by Lotti’s Crucifixus, to joy. There are few better choral expressions of the latter emotion than the Gloria to Vierne’s Messe Solennelle, sung at the Easter Vigil. At Evensong on Easter Sunday, finally, we gave our first performance of John Rutter’s anthem Christ the Lord is risen again, typical of his syncopated yet very accessible musical style as also exemplified by his Gloria.
Yet it has not been only about music: the Epiphany Supper raised a useful amount towards this year’s visit to Ripon Cathedral and the choristers enjoyed a table tennis tournament, a visit to the panto and a ten-pin bowling evening.
After a short break we begin a longer Trinity term, during which we will be learning Charles Woods’ Collegium Regale evening service and Stainer’s rousing anthem I saw the Lord in preparation for our next joint service with our colleagues at Sherborne Abbey – an ‘away match’ this time. No doubt the choristers will take the metaphor literally with some impromptu football.
Before then, actually on May Day this year, one of the more idiosyncratic Romsonian observances takes place: the Rogation Sunday procession to the fields for the blessing of the crops at the end of Evensong. On seeing a fully robed choir leading the congregation on a stroll down to Saddlers’ Mill, townsfolk out walking their dogs at sunset could well be forgiven for appearing somewhat startled!
Social activities to which we can look forward include the Fun Day (Rounders and a barbecue) and the choristers’ outing.
One final highlight this term for the whole choir family is the marriage on 2 July between the son and daughter, respectively, of two Lay Clerks. David Hewett was brought by his parents on Choir Holidays even before he joined the choir. Having done so at a tender age, he progressed quickly through the ranks to become one of our youngest ever Head Choristers. After just a short break he sang as an Alto before becoming our first ever Organ Scholar.
An undergraduate in Mathematics at Warwick University, David is now Organ Scholar at Leamington Spa parish church. Meghann, his fiancée, was a founder member of the Abbey Girls’ Choir. She is now reading Religious Studies at Nottingham University prior to training as a teacher. We all wish them both well as they prepare for their new life together.