On Sunday 4 May Romsey Abbey Choir paid another visit to Sherborne Abbey to sing Choral Evensong with the Choir of Sherborne Abbey. The service was part of the Abbey’s annual Festival and drew a large congregation.
The service began with Bernard Rose’s Preces, which demonstrated the rich tone than an enlarged choir can deliver. This was followed by Psalm 47, the proper psalm for Ascension-tide – ‘God is gone up with a shout…’ – and the Old Testament lesson.
The Magnificat from George Dyson’s Evening Service in D is often sung at festival services. Beginning in affirmative mood, it subsided for a particularly magical verse for basses and altos, ‘And his mercy is on them that fear him throughout all generations’, before building once more to a truly rousing conclusion. Its companion Nunc Dimittis, although closely related in terms of musical material, was much more reflective in mood and concluded with a quiet yet satisfying Amen.
Charles Wood’s evergreen setting of verses by John Keble, Hail gladdening light , provided an opportunity to relish the Abbey’s generous acoustic. The choir, unaccompanied and split into eight parts, made an exciting sound, not least as the trebles sent their top C soaring to the fan-vaulted ceiling with the concluding ‘Thy glories, Lord, they own.’
There was no sermon – much to the boys’ delight! – and after the final hymn, Angel voices ever singing, the choir processed onto the green outside the Abbey for a photograph before a tea provided by Sherborne’s Abbey Choir. This link between the two choirs has been going strong since 2000 and is highly valued on both sides. The Choir of Sherborne Abbey will pay a return visit to Romsey in the Autumn.