March begins with a Sung Eucharist for Mothering Sunday, when the girls, boys and men will be joining forces to sing George Malcolm’s Missa ad Præsepe, given its first outing so successfully at the Midnight Eucharist. The evening takes an Orthodox turn as we sing Bogoroditse Dyevo, or Ave Maria, from Rachmaninov’s Vespers; we’ll be joined by the Girl Choristers of Portsmouth Cathedral.
On Passion Sunday, the following week, Byrd’s Second Service gets an airing. A musical barometer of the Tudor era, Byrd set English texts when Protestants were in the ascendent and reverted to Latin when the political weather changed or when writing for private devotion. This piece is in English, yet shares many of the syncopations and other musical we enjoy in his Mass for four voices.
The Sung Eucharist on Maundy Thursday is French in character; we’re pairing Duruflé’s Messe ‘Cum Jubilo’ with Lugebat David Amsalon (David mourned for Absalom), an impassioned eight-part motet from the early Sixteenth Century by Nicolas Gombert. The next morning on Good Friday, the emotion deepens with The Reproaches by John Sanders, which alternates anguished eight-part harmonies with haunting antiphons by the men. For this service, the girls and men are also learning a motet by Alan Ridout, I turn the corner of prayer and burn.
The Gloucester Service by Herbert Howells is the centrepiece of the Choral Evensong on Easter Sunday. The amthem will be It is a thing most wonderful – a very mellifluous piece by former York Minster organist Philip Moore. Having sung Jonathan Dove’s hypnotic anthem Seek him that maketh the seven stars at Candlemas, we’re about to start learning his Missa Brevis for Easter Sunday morning, We’ll also be joined by the congregation in Handel’s Hallelujah chorus. It should prove to be an impressive finale to a very busy term.