Congratulations to the Boy and Girl Choristers and Vicars Choral who sang on yesterday's BBC broadcast. Matthew Owens had masterminded a wonderful programme, including music with an trans-Atlantic connection for American Independence Day.
The service opened with the premiere of Gary Davison's new anthem, Grant, O Lord, we beseech thee, written for the Cranmer Anthem Book. Davison (pictured below) is a great friend of our Cathedral Choir (they have recorded two discs of his works) and we were delighted that he was in attendance yesterday to hear this first performance of what was a beautiful setting of Cranmer's collect.
The Preces and Responses were sung to the setting by Howard Skempton. Written for the new music wells 77-17 festival, these received their premiere broadcast. We were also delighted that Skempton also made the trip down to Wells to attend the service.
The psalms were beautifully sung, with the choir's usual crisp enunciation ensuring that not a word was lost over the airwaves! The Walford-Davies chant for Psalm 23 was a real highlight.
Herbert Howells's late work, The Dallas Service, provided the settings of the Canticles. These were the last of over 20 settings of the Magnificat and Nunc dimittis that Howells composed. The choir's singing was electrifying throughout, with moments of great excitement and drama balanced by great pathos (the work was composed at a time of sadness for Howells as his wife was gravely ill and she died a few weeks after its completion). An innovation in the Magnificat, found nowhere else in Howells’ many settings is the repetition of the opening words, sung by a two solo trebles just before the Gloria - huge congratulations to both Jess and Harriet for their sublime singing here. Equally, mention must be made of the rich baritone of Vicar Choral Craig Bissex who sang the opening solo of the Nunc Dimittis.
The anthem was Eric Whitacre's soul-stirring setting of the American poet e. e. cumming's glorious text i thank You God for most this amazing day. The energy that the choir sustained in their singing was extraordinary given what had come before (and not to mention the heat of the day itself!).
There was one final choral treat to come: following the final hymn (sung to the tune Cloth Fair by John Scott - another American connection...), the choir sang Matthew Owens's gentle Holy Trinity Blessing with its dream-like organ part and gentle vocal lines.
And now mention must be made of the wonderful playing throughout the service of Assistant Organist, Jeremy Cole. He brought proceedings to a conclusion with a bravura performance of Duruflé's Fugue sur le thème du Carillon des Heures de la Cathédrale de Soissons.
Many congratulations again to one and all on a broadcast that reaffirmed Wells Cathedral Choir's well-deserved place on the world stage!