The Chapel is currently closed to visitors, so our ministers and musicians have selected this Choral Evensong worship service to rebroadcast/re-post at the time when we would normally hold the service.
John Taverner’s remarkable setting of Dum transisset Sabbatum depicts the story of Maria Magdalena bringing spices and ointments to Jesus’ tomb at sunrise on Easter morning to anoint his disfigured body. In addition to the generally slow moving polyphony, Taverner’s writing over the word “aromata” is particularly poignant vividly telling this remarkable story of expectation and surprise to begin Easter Day.
Kenneth Leighton’s church music has long been a favorite of choirs to sing and organists to play. His organ accompaniments are independent and the choral writing fascinating on many levels: fierce counterpoint, jagged syncopations, twisting melismas, and off-beat accents that disrupt the natural flow of text. In an unsettling way he subjects even the most familiar poetry to fresh musical scrutiny thereby illuminating fresh perspective to familiar words. Quite frequently, and particularly throughout his Magdalene College Service heard this afternoon, rhythmic accents present phrases in new and unforgettable ways, churning up the music and our imaginations to listen to the text with greater attention and awareness.
Benjamin Britten’s relatively small but potent output of church music remains frequently sung by choirs all over the world. His Te Deum in C is a remarkable example of using a single chord of C major to shocking effect. For the first three pages Britten writes only the notes of a C major triad (C, E, and G) for the choir in thrilling rhythmic and textural combinations while the organ jabs syncopations at the listener. This musical effect over the text “We praise thee, O God” builds and builds until both choir and organ explode in a unified voice of praise over the words “Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God of Sabaoth.” After several explorations into new keys, including a remarkable soprano solo (“Thou art the king of glory”), Britten returns to the intense, hushed C major that began the piece for a chilling finish (“O Lord in thee have I trusted; let me never be confounded”) calmly entrusting these words and their meaning to us in Easter joy.
Music in this service:
- Dum transisset Sabbatum by John Taverner
- Preces and Responses by Kenneth Leighton
- Psalms 111, 112, 113
- Magdalene College Service (Collegium Magdalenae Oxoniense) by Kenneth Leighton
- Te Deum in C by Benjamin Britten