The Cathedral Music Department needs very little excuse to celebrate the artistic inspiration that is our Cathedral Church. Each year, the musical programme is always trying to explore new avenues of repertoire to engage, stimulate and, perhaps most important of all, be relevant, and so the opportunity to mark 175 years of music making here in the Cathedral was too good to pass up.
Our performance of Spem in Alium back in March was the first of our events, designed in a way to really use the Cathedral building to its maximum and to encourage the audience members to explore the parts of the building you can’t see from the back. Smaller motets were sung in the Lady Chapel and Blessed Sacrament Chapel, to great effect, before the Choir engulfed the audience in full surround-sound for the 40-part motet itself. The following morning saw the first performance of Amy Summers’ Missa Brevis, which was an important acknowledgement of our commitment to supporting new music and showcasing underrepresented female composers in order to reflect the society we live in.
Holy Week is always a highlight in the choral calendar, and the Chrism Mass, in particular, is a very important platform to demonstrate what the Music Department is all about. Traditionally, the music is lead by the Diocesan Choir and our Cathedral Choral Scholars, who this year sang a range of motets, from Brahms’ ‘How lovely are thy dwellings fair’ from his German Requiem, and the atmospheric ‘The Deer’s Cry’ by Arvo Pärt. They were joined this year by our Vivace and Cambiata groups who combined specially for the occasion to sing a new setting of ‘Blest by the sun’ by our Director of Music, Alex Patterson, during the Procession of Oils.
For the Cathedral itself, the focal point in celebrating the 175th Anniversary was on St Barnabas Day – Tuesday 11 June 2019, when our Youth Choir and Choral Scholars joined forces to lead the Mass, singing motets by Christopher Tambling, John Rutter, Amy Summers, Bob Chilcott, and a new ‘Mass of St Barnabas’, again written by Alex Patterson. Also featured was the hymn ‘A man to Christ committed’, Timothy Dudley-Smith’s hymn about St Barnabas, set to a new hymn tune composed by Robert Gower, who finished the Mass with Handel’s ‘Overture from Saul’. The occasion was a great celebration and the singers were on top form. The previous Friday, 7 June, the Cathedral held Ecumenical Choral Vespers led by the Cathedral Choir. Parry’s ‘I was glad’ opened the Vespers with great fanfare, with Howell’s ‘Behold, O God, our defender’ providing suitable intimacy and reflection on Psalm 84 – ‘for one day in Thy courts is better than a thousand’.
Our choral celebrations continue through to the end of 2019, with notable highlights being An Evening of Britten on 22 November (both composer Benjamin Britten’s birthday and St Cecilia’s Day) and our popular Carols by Candlelight on 13 December. Hopefully see you there!