The Choir of Romsey Abbey has returned from a successful week of singing at daily services in Norwich Cathedral. At a drinks reception given in the choir’s honour, Canon Jeremy Haselock, Precentor at the Cathedral, commented how much the Cathedral valued its contribution as a choir familiar with the way cathedral choir worked.
Its musical offering began with Choral Evensong on the Feast of St. Bartholemew. The evening canticles – Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis – were sung to the setting by Peter Aston, formerly Professor of Music at the University of East Anglia, located in the city. This was partnered with Elgar’s prologue to his oratorio The Kingdom, The Spirit of the Lord, a deeply-felt setting of words from Isaiah that gave the boys in particular ample chance to shine.
Evensongs on Friday are traditionally more meditative in character and the choir offered music to suit. Thomas Morley’s setting of the canticles interspersed austere plainsong with more elaborate polyphony – fauxbourdons – in a style that proved ideal for the building. It then offered a confident account of Almighty and everlasting God by Orlando Gibbons. The responses by William Smith completed the Tudor theme.
Saturday afternoon’s evensong was sung by the men, who paired Matthew Locke’s short yet dramatic anthem Let God arise with the evergreen setting of the canticles by Herbert Sumsion. The choir stayed at Hethersett Old Hall School and was very impressed by its facilities and, not least, the generous sizes of portions at mealtimes!
There was much to do and see in Norfolk. On the first day the choir and its supporters visited the coast at Sea Palling – lovely sand but rather cold – before enjoying a trip on a steamer on the Broads. The three narrow gauge railways at Bressingham Steam Museum and Gardens were greatly enjoyed by both the young and the young at heart and, for the rest, the gardens were very pretty too. A display of swordsmanship from the Eleventh to the Fourteenth Century at Castle Acre, near Swaffham, proved fascinating to the boys.