Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Evensong

Another unaccustomed dark and rainy afternoon in Melbourne. Time to tune in to choral evensong from the Temple Church in London, where my nephew James is a chorister.

This recording will be on the BBC website for just a week. Turn up your speakers and hear the sonorous voice of the Master leading the prayers from Cranmer's Book of Common Prayer (I heard him preach a 15 minute sermon in perfectly phrased sentences and cadences from a single tiny page of a notebook in April), and concluding with a detailed prayer for the Queen. Thrill to the beautiful introit by Thalben-Ball; and marvel at the extraordinary passion and urgency in the singing of Psalm 77 (... "Hath God forgotten to be gracious? Hath he in anger shut up his tender mercies?") in the setting by Day; hear the account from Genesis of Jacob wrestling with the angel and naming the place Peniel ("for I have seen God face to face"); marvel all over again at the incorporation of the Song of Solomon into the Divine Service with the anthem by Purcell, "My Beloved Spake". You can also shut the door of your room and sing along with the hymns: "Come Down, O Love Divine" and if you must, the rather unCranmerlike, "God is Working His Purpose Out".

Yes, I know that few of the readers of this blog will be Anglicans. But I reckon there'll be a few like me who are fascinated by this beautiful language and the extraordinary ritual of canticles and sung psalms and responses (even if they don't have a nephew or a grandson in the choir), and by the liturgy. It's hard not to identify with this, for example: "We have left undone those things which we ought to have done; and we have done those things which we ought not to have done."

I'm playing it now for the third time....

1 comment:

Philip said...

I am heading over to England for a couple of weeks, Stephanie, and shall think of you when the first notes of the first evensong break open all around me.

It is a strange and beautiful service.