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Music at Institution of Rev’d Vittoria Hancock on 28th February 2014

posted 11 Apr 2014, 00:41 by St. Thomas' Church Aboyne   [ updated 11 Apr 2014, 00:43 ]
The Choir - from four churches and more

This appraisal of the music at the institution of our new rector is liable to be biased as I sang in the choir. I don’t know what effect the music had on the rest of the congregation but it certainly impressed me. To my ears a very well balanced sound rose from the choir. This was contributed to by having the Holy Table in the body of the church a little way west of the chancel. This enabled the choir to be arranged in a very symmetrical and reasonably commodious way with the ladies sitting in the choir stalls, sopranos facing the altos across the chancel, and the men at the east end of the church facing west towards the congregation.

The introit “Praise ye the Lord” had been specially composed for the occasion by Sheila Maxwell, the organist of St Thomas’ Church, to words from Psalm 149. The music well captured the theme of praising God with joy expressed in the psalm. The clear and distinct harmonies provided a delightful commentary on the inspired poet’s exhortations. The choir were well held together by Marcus Marsh, the conductor, in what, though not a difficult work by the standards of modern choral music, certainly required the adeptness displayed by conductor and choir.

There followed two hymns translated from the Welsh. The first, “Guide me, O Thou great Redeemer” was sung to the deservedly ever popular tune “Cwm Rhondda” composed in 1922 by John Hughes (1873-1932) a member of the choir of St Illtyd’s Church, Llantwit Fardre, Glamorgan. The descant by Malcolm Archer, well sung by the sopranos in the last verse, seems currently to be gaining popularity. The next hymn was “Here is love vast as the ocean” sung to the tune “Dim ond Iesu” (Nought but Jesus or Only Jesus) composed by the American Robert Lowry (1826-1899). The basses revelled in the harmony which will have done much to secure the tune’s popularity in Wales and the Welsh name. This was the only hymn for which no descant was sung. All the descants were well delivered under the direction of Marcus Marsh.

After two more hymns, “Be thou my vision” sung to “Slane” and “Take my life and let it be”, sung to “Nottingham”, the choir sang the anthem “Blessed be the God and Father” , S.S. Wesley’s setting of a much loved passage from the first chapter of the apostle Peter’s first letter. Under the clear and thoughtful guidance of Owen Jenkins, who conducted this piece, the choir sang with close attention to the changes of mood through which the composer brings the words alive. The opening unaccompanied section was sung with great confidence and seemed to me to be an introduction, charged with drama, to the unfolding variety of the rest of the work which included the lovely melodies of the interplay between the solo beautifully sung by Lucy Bailey and the answering voices of the ladies of the choir.

After a blessing by the Bishop the choir sang a triple amen specially composed by Sheila Maxwell. Responding to the polished conducting of Marcus Marsh the choir interpreted this amen as an expression of awe-filled worship. The amen began in restrained volume and then, on the lines indicated by the composer’s markings, the sound swelled to some solemn, rich chords before dying away in a reverent hush, doing justice to a very beautiful composition. It was followed by the final hymn, the popular 'To God be the glory' which was sung with relish to its own tune.

Sheila Maxwell on the organ showed the qualities of a true accompanist engendering implicit confidence and security in the singers.

Victor F J Jordan