Search form

You are here

Cathedral Music during Lent

Byrd - Civitas sancti tui
Posted By : John Challenger Friday 14th March 2014

Lent is such a musically rich time of year. Since Ash Wednesday, we have been anticipating the Passion of Christ through our music. The repertoire sung by the choir and played on the organ becomes more sober and solemn through these days; but in many ways it is the most powerful and sublime season of the Church’s year.

On Monday 3 March the choir sang Berkeley’s Chichester Service, a wonderfully haunting setting; in a sense, Berkeley’s sparse writing reflects the simpler and more sober way in which the liturgy is conducted through these days of Lent. On Sunday 9 March, the choir sang Leighton’s ‘Missa Brevis’: a wonderfully solemn and intense setting of the Mass, particularly the Agnus Dei.

There is much more to hear still: Henry Purcell’s sublime and penitential anthem ‘Let mine eyes run down with tears’ will be sung at Evensong on Monday 17 March (1730). Purcell’s rich and, at times, tortuous harmonic language partners the words of Jeremiah sublimely.

As last year, the Three Chorals by César Franck are being played as organ voluntaries; the first at Evensong on 9 March (1630), the second on 16 March (1630), and the third on 13 April (1630) to conclude worship on Palm Sunday.

At the Service of Reconciliation on Monday of Holy Week (14 April, 1930), you can hear the Chamber Choir sing the first part of William Byrd’s anthem ‘Ne irascaris, Domine’; the second part – ‘Civitas sancti tui’ – was performed by the Cathedral Choir on 9 March. This is one of the great masterpieces of the English renaissance, composed at a time when Byrd, as a Catholic, was under great oppression in a Protestant country. The words not only reflect those of the Lamentations of Jeremiah, but speak for Byrd on a personal level as an outcast Catholic under Protestant reign.

One of the undoubtable highlights of this season will be on 16 April at 1900, when the Cathedral Choir, Chamber Choir and orchestra Charivari Agréable will give a performance of Bach’s St John Passion – a chance to hear one of the greatest sacred works ever written.

So many things to anticipate...