While attending the Royal College of Music, George Dyson received a scholarship to study abroad in Germany and Italy. For four years he read music in Germany and Italy before returning back to his native England as Master of Music at the Royal Naval School. While abroad in Dresden he wrote his famous Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis in D. Dyson’s compositional approach setting this familiar text is both imaginative and sensitive, particularly in the “Gloria Patri” of the Nunc Dimittis. His vocal writing is broad and expansive resulting in a powerful composition triumphant in Easter exultation.
Much like Dyson, William Harris’s music possesses an unmistakable elegance and sensitivity. His Easter anthem, Most Glorious Lord of Life, sets words by 16th century poet, Edmund Spencer. Written on Easter Day in 1594 Spencer’s poetry is part of a larger collection of sonnets known as the Amoretti. An astonishing cycle of poems these sonnets chronicle Spencer’s courtship and marriage to his beloved Elizabeth Boyle within the liturgical context of the Book of Common Prayer. Each of the 89 sonnets correspond to the liturgical order of scripture readings from that year; in the case of Most Glorious Lord of Life, it is the theme of divine love that captured Spencer’s imagination and speaks to us today through Harris’s music.
To mark this overarching theme of Spencer’s poem, Harris writes a delicate, a capella texture over the final words of poetry:
“So let us love, dear love, like as we ought;
Love is the lesson which the Lord us taught.”
On this Second Sunday of Easter this lesson to love one another echoes the Mandatum Jesus gave his disciples on Maundy Thursday: Love one another as I have loved you. As John’s Gospel tell us, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). And so through the crucifixion and resurrection of Holy Week and Easter, Spencer’s poignant words and Harris’s elegant music remind us that God’s love continues forever, beyond Easter, enveloping all creation.
Music in this service:
Easter Song of Praise by Richard Shephard
Preces and Responses by Kenneth Leighton
Psalms 96 & 113
Service in D by George Dyson
Most Glorious Lord of Life by William Harris