For our re-broadcast of Evensong – the last in the current series of re-postings – we have chosen the service from Sunday, February 9, 2020. This afternoon’s music centers around two great composers of English Church Music: Herbert Howells and Sir Hubert Parry. Following the success of his morning and evening services written for King’s College, Cambridge, Howells soon began receiving commissions from other collegiate chapels and cathedrals. His evening canticles of the Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis written for Gloucester Cathedral have remained immensely popular amongst choirs today both in England and the United States. Specifically written for the notable acoustics of Gloucester Cathedral the opening soprano duet and soaring lines of the Gloria Patri are hallmarks of this remarkable setting translating beautifully to the acoustics of Duke Chapel.
Sir Charles Hubert Hastings Parry wrote Hear my words, ye people for the Festival of the Salisbury Diocesan Choral Association and was first performed in Salisbury Cathedral in 1894. The text, taken from the books of Job, Isiah, and the Psalms is characteristic of Parry’s creative and masterful use of biblical texts. From beginning to end the words trace a message of hope and comfort and continuous working of the Holy Spirit throughout all things. Parry brings this brilliant combination of biblical passages to musical life through virtuosic organ writing, and alternating combinations of full choir, semi chorus, and baritone and soprano solos. Originally scored for brass as well as organ, the work builds towards a triumphant climax in a stirring tune paraphrasing Psalm 150 which today is frequently sung as the popular hymn Laudate Dominum.
Erik Routley set John Raphael Peacey’s wonderful words to music in the hymn, “Go forth for God” sung to the tune Litton. Tying together the themes of Pentecost and comfort in the Holy Spirit the final stanza says it best:
Go forth for God; go to the world in joy;
to service God’s people every day and hour,
and serving Christ, our every gift employ,
rejoicing in the Holy Spirit’s power.