There are three musical events taking place in our churches during April:- Sunday 9th April “Come and Sing Mozart’s Requiem”. This is a musical offering to lead us into Holy Week, as the music keeps reflects the triumphalism of Palm Sunday, but is tinged with melancholy, foreshadowing the events leading up to the crucifixion on Good Friday. See the poster for details,
Sunday 23rd April at St Mark’s Church (2.30pm) will be an opportunity to hear the International Theatre Organist, Byron Jones playing his own theatre organ. Byron is responsible for overseeing the removal and preservation of a large Wurlitzer-style pipe organ currently in the hall at Eden Grove Methodist Church Bristol (used for regular concerts), and Barbie and I have heard him play, and can vouch for his musicianship and showmanship! With the splendid St Mark’s tea to follow, I am sure this will be a most enjoyable occasion. If that’s not enough, St James’ choir will be singing Evensong to celebrate St Mark’s day!
Saturday 29th April sees the first of the new series of “Coffee Cake and Music” featuring the fine organ in St James’ church. As usual, coffee will be served from about 10.15am and the recital will begin at 11.00am until about 11.40.
This month’s recitalist is David Davies (no relation!) who was until recently Assistant Director of Music at Exeter Cathedral. He has played for us before, and I remember his last visit as it included some movements from Saint-Saëns Carnival of Animals!
Recently my attention was drawn to a report of a speech by Pope Francis entitled “Education is the key to the renewal of Sacred Music”. (Ironic at a time when music on the school curriculum in the UK state sector is being steadily eroded)
The Pope goes on to say that “while liturgical music has often struggled to live up to the quality and beauty the mystery of the Eucharist requires, we can promote its renewal by investing in a solid musical education for clergy and laity”.
The Pope continues saying that it was important to “safeguard and promote the rich and varied heritage inherited from the past, but avoiding the risk of a nostalgic vision that becomes a sort of archaeology”
Ironically, I read the report of Pope Francis’ speech after reading a nostalgic look back at “Youth Praise”. This green paperback volume of the mid 1960’s (and the orange Youth Praise 2) was supposed to be the “way forward”. But like all panaceas it feel rather short of the mark – indeed, hardly any of the tunes (meant to “invigorate” the faith) are in use some fifty years on, underlining the fact that for music to have lasting qualities it has to be memorable, well-crafted and be capable of repetition without tedium. Many of our “standard” hymns have just those qualities, and, of course those which do not, have fallen by the wayside. Take a look at a copy of the original Hymns Ancient and Modern and see just how many tunes/words didn’t last.
It is good to note that there are still composers who can write good memorable music, and those who can still write a fine hymn tune. One of the best recent examples has to be “Christ Triumphant” where the splendid tune gives the uplifting words a new dimension. Or what about John Mason’s words for “How shall I sing the Majesty”? Written when he was Rector of Water Stratford in the seventeenth century, the five verses in our hymn book (reduced from the original 12!) would have been forgotten today without Ken Naylor’s tune Coe Fen (named after a small fen in Cambridge when the composer was Director of Music at the Leys School).
I am glad that Pope Francis has emphasised the importance of liturgical music, and I hope his sentiments are heeded in the Roman Catholic Church. It would be good if our Bishops were equally concerned with the standard of church music as there are many places where the “quality and beauty the Eucharist requires” are sadly lacking. I like to think that we try our best to achieve this goal. Nigel Davies
Music for April
2nd am Out of the Deep (“Requiem”) – Rutter
9th am The Royal Banners – Ives
(Palm Sunday) Mass for Four Voices – Byrd
16th am This Joyful Eastertide - arr. Wood
pm Cantate Domino – Pitoni
23rd am The Strife is O’er – Ley
pm O Most Merciful – Wood Ireland in C Bertalot Responses Brewer in D
30th am Jubilate – Sanders Mass of the Creator – Sanders