On Sunday 4 May Romsey Abbey Choir visited 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 Responses, which demonstrated the rich tone than an enlarged choir can deliver. This was followed by Psalm 136, O give thanks unto the Lord, for he is gracious, delivered with careful attention to the often colourful text.
The Magnificat was sung to Herbert Howells’ Collegium Regale setting. It began with a hushed organ figure that introduced the first verse sung by the boys, soon joined by the altos. After a brief organ fanfare, the tenors and basses made a dramatic, martial entry at He hath shewed strength with his arm. Agitation quickly subsided, however, as the contemplative mood of the opening returned before a sonorous Gloria.
The companion Nunc Dimittis began with an evocative tenor solo supported by the full choir, which sang initially very softly before building towards the imposing climax at And to be the glory of Thy people Israel.
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.
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 Mothers’ Union . This link between the two choirs has been going strong for nearly a decade and is highly valued on both sides. The Choir of Sherborne Abbey will pay a return visit to Romsey in the Autumn.