Abbey Choirs join forces for festival Choral Evensong
Trinity Sunday, 22 May, saw our fourth visit to Sherborne Abbey for a Choral Evensong sung jointly with the Choir of Sherborne Abbey as part of the music festival held there every year. It was perhaps the most ambitious service yet in terms of music – both canticles and anthem were double-choir settings – and reinforced the position of this excursion as one of the highlights of our busy calendar.
Musical honours were again shared between our organist, Robert Fielding, who conducted the first half of the service. This included a spacious account of the Magnificat from Charles Wood’s Evening Service in F (or FF (fortissimo) as the preacher, the Bishop of Ebbsfleet quipped) written for the choir of Kings College, Cambridge.
Joseph Sentence, organist of Sherborne Abbey, took the Nunc Dimittis at a noticeably more urgent tempo, however, as was especially obvious at the return of the Gloria patri, also used in the Magnificat. He also conducted the centrepiece of the service, Sir John Stainer’s imposing anthem, I saw the Lord. A setting of verses from the prophecy of Isiah, it engages in some vivid word-painting and leading to a shattering climax at the words ‘And the house was filled with smoke’ before an extended quartet for solo voices, sung by members of Sherborne Abbey Choir, meditated most aptly on the words ‘O Trinity, O unity’. All voices returned for a brief and rousing conclusion.
The Vicar of Sherborne, Canon Eric Woods, again presided at the service and provided a real moment of humour before the sermon by announcing that the Bishop had left his notes in the vestry before going out to find them. A minute later he returned with said papers on a silver salver and presented them to the bemused prelate with somewhat exaggerated ceremony!
The Bishop, meanwhile, managed to ad-lib very engagingly and then delivered a powerful sermon. He would, we learned from the Vicar’s announcements, be succeeded in the pulpit a couple of weeks later by no less than the Archbishop of Canterbury. For our part, however, we look forward to welcoming our colleagues from Sherborne back to Romsey Abbey later this year.