Lent term 2008 was the shortest ever for the Choir of Romsey Abbey – Easter does not fall again as early as it did this year until 2160 – yet a number of events were packed into its short duration.
It began on 5 January with the Epiphany Supper, the annual event that raises funds for the summer singing holiday, which will take us this year to Exeter Cathedral. Rob Gower and Joe O’Brien rather stole the show in the pantomime, staged after the meal, Snow White and the Seven Choirboys, with their rendition of the classic music hall song How do you milk a cow ?
Epiphany began the next morning with the Gift Service, for which three members of the choir dressed as the Magi. The boys enjoyed Dick Whittington at Romsey’s Plaza Theatre on 18 January and singing in a concert with the Winchester City Festival Choir on 2 February.
Candlemas was celebrated the next day and then, just three days later, Lent began. The Solemn Sung Eucharist that evening featured music of the Tudor period: William Byrd’s Mass for Four Voices and Richard Farrant’s motet Call to remembrance .
As well as being very early, it felt like Easter this year was the coldest such celebration on record. For the first time in over a decade, rather than beginning outside as is customary, the Palm Sunday procession took place indoors owing to heavy rain. Later in Holy Week, the wind swung around to the north-east and we even experienced a couple of brief snow showers over the weekend.
The music followed an established pattern, a Solemn Eucharist on Maundy Thursday sung by the men being followed by an unaccompanied Choral Evensong on Good Friday and the Easter Vigil service later on Saturday evening. The Girls’ Choir joined the men and boys on Sunday morning to sing Louis Vierne’s Messe Solennelle , as well as leading the large congregation in a number of rousing hymns. Ralph Vaughan Williams’ rousing anthem, O clap your hands, at Evensong concluded musical offering for the weekend.
Two days later, owing to Easter being so early, the boys returned to school for another fortnight and the usual choral routine does not resume until mid-April. On 22 April, we looking forward to singing for the induction of the new Vicar of Romsey, the Reverend Timothy Sledge.
In early May we join our colleagues at Sherborne Abbey to sing Choral Evensong and, a week later, are joined in Romsey by the choir of Wimborne Minster to do likewise. A musician’s lot is indeed a busy one…