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.
The fourth Sunday in the season of Lent is sometimes called "Laetare Sunday," getting this name from the traditional Latin Gregorian Chant introit "Laetare Jerusalem" (Rejoice, O Jerusalem). Typically a day of celebration and brightness amidst the penitence of Lent, the music from the Choral Evensong service shown below from May 5, 2019, exemplifies this short "break in the clouds" of not only Lent, but also the new isolated normalcy in which we currently find ourselves.
Several points of relevant intersection present themselves in the music from this service. As we have turned the corner into spring here in Durham with recent beautiful days, the modern organist and composer Healey Willan’s “Rise up, my love” illustrates a glimpse of joy amidst seclusion with a text the Song of Solomon:
For lo, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone. The flowers appear upon the earth. The time of singing of birds is come.
Perhaps most significant for Laetare Sunday and our current social context is the text of the Te Deum, an ancient hymn of praise to God. Over the next year Evensong services will explore different aspects of the Te Deum text through new and old musical settings. Of these settings, the one in this service by Anglican composer Herbert Howells is a staple. It originated in 1941 as a friendly bet between Eric-Milner White (dean of King’s College, Cambridge), Boris Ord (director of music at King’s), and Patrick Hadley (another British church musician) as to whether Howells could write a musical setting of canticles worthy of the King’s College Choir. Howells gladly accepted and without delay produced one of church music’s finest, enduring, and most beloved marriages of text and music. It concludes in heroic fashion on these words:
O Lord, let thy mercy lighten upon us, as our trust is in thee.
O Lord, in thee have I trusted. Let me never be confounded.
The same spirit is echoed in the service’s closing hymn “St. Clement,” with its third stanza setting the stage for the future hope and joy of Easter Resurrection:
As o’er each continent and island the dawn leads on another day,
The voice of prayer is never silent, nor dies the strain of praise away.
We hope the poetry of these words and the sublime beauty of this music might bring you comfort as we begin walking this new journey together.
To help follow and understand the service, here is the music in the order in which it is heard:
- "Rise up, my love"—Healey Willan
- Preces and Responses—Kenneth Leighton
- Psalms 66 and 67
- "Service in A"—Charles Villiers Stanford
- Te Deum (Collegium Regale)—Herbert Howells