3 August, 2023
Singing Byrd joyfully!
Following on from the success and popularity of our Come & Sing events in Oxford in November 2022 and in March 2023 (with added evensong), another Come & Sing with evensong was held in Temple Church, London on Saturday 1st July. The event was part of Temple Music’s four-day William Byrd Festival marking the 400th anniversary of Byrd’s death. We performed our England’s Nightingale programme on the opening evening of the festival, and concerts followed by Fretwork, Mahan Esfahani and Westminster Cathedral Choir, alongside talks by Kerry McCarthy and Dr Tracy Borman and three choral services. All in all a wonderful celebration of our national treasure, William Byrd.
On Saturday 1st July, 55 participants gathered at 2.30pm in the stunning Temple Church to work through repertoire for choral evensong at 6pm together with Stile members Kate, Cara, Ben, James and me as well as Eleanor, Antonio, Charlie & Dom from the Stile Antico Youth Consort 2022 course, with organist Polina Sosnina and (now-ex) Stile member Will Dawes conducting. There was a lot of music to cover, all by Byrd, with the exception of the hymns by Tallis and Gibbons, and organ music by Howells and Gibbons. Some of the music was well-known to most of the singers, such as Sing Joyfully, the Preces & Responses and the Short Service Nunc Dimittis but the Great Service Magnificat, and the motets Miserere Mihi Domine and Ad Dominum cum tribularer were less familiar or indeed completely unknown to some, so they needed a little more work. It was quite a tall order to prepare everything in the three-hour rehearsal slot (including the all-important tea break!) and Will did an excellent job of making us work very hard without realising it!
When evensong started, the brief choreography rehearsal we’d had paid off, as we all seamlessly processed to the Round Church at the west end of the church to perform the introit in that wonderfully resonant and ancient space (consecrated in 1185), then again seamlessly processed to our seats at the east end of the church for the rest of the service. The level of singing and commitment to bringing about the best possible performances were very impressive, considering we had only come together on that day. It was also lovely to see everyone seeming to enjoy each other’s company in the breaks, and over a glass of wine at the end. We had participants from far and wide, including Scarborough, Paris, Antwerp, Boston, Washington DC and Bonn amongst other places. For those interested in minutiae, the full list of music is at the bottom of this blog.
A huge thank you to Roland Deller and Ellen Durkin of Temple Music and the Temple Church Verger Matt Power for helping to make it all happen. Thanks also to The Revd Robin Griffith-Jones, Master of the Temple, for leading the service and for the use of the wonderful building, a truly inspiring setting for performing such glorious music.
And thanks to the Stile Team: to Kate for kick-starting the idea and running with it, to Will for so cheerfully and efficiently putting us through our paces, and to our own Ben Hymas for his beautiful photos taken during the afternoon.
Before I sign off, I am delighted to say that we will be leading another Come & Sing with evensong at St David’s Cathedral in Pembrokeshire on 23rd September this year. We are performing our Byrd programme England’s Nightingale on the evening before. Please do come along to either or both events.
Evensong Order of Service: Temple Church 1st July 2023
Organ Prelude: Master Tallis’ Testament (Howells)
Introit: Miserere mihi Domine (Byrd)
Hymn: Eternal Ruler of the Ceaseless round (Gibbons)
Preces & Responses (Byrd)
Psalm: Sing Joyfully (Byrd)
Canticles: Magnificat from ‘Great Service’ and Nunc Dimittis from ‘Short Service’ (Byrd)
Anthem: Ad Dominum cum tribularer (Byrd)
Hymn: Glory to Thee my God this night (Tallis)
Organ Voluntary: A Fancy for a Double Orgaine (Gibbons)