Another offering from CMP new boy John Hosking. This one is a set of responses called the Bangor Responses. You’re not probably wondering why they’re called the Bangor Responses. Well, it’s because they were originally written for use in Bangor Cathedral (Bangor Gwynedd, that is), and they’re dedicated to the cathedral choir there and to Graham Eccles, their Director of Music.
I sometimes feel, rightly or wrongly, that responses are the poor relation in evensong music. If you’re planning a big service, you probably spend a lot more time choosing a set of evening canticles and an anthem, that play to your choir’s strengths or that fit the occasion, than you do for the responses. Or is that just me?! And according to at least one director of music of a major English cathedral, responses just aren’t the sort of thing you want to spend a lot of rehearsal time learning. And sometimes you need to factor in the priest’s learning time as well, which, depending on the priest, could be immense.
John’s Bangor Responses are certainly worth looking at in this context. They are a very attractive and expressive set of responses, but they’re not difficult. The choir remains in 4 parts almost all the way through, and the harmony, while far from being basic, nevertheless doesn’t present the singers with any awkward leads or tricky intervals to manage. The priest’s part is lifted straight from the traditional plainsong ferial responses, and so will already be familiar to the priest.
There is a centerpiece setting of The Lord’s Prayer, which (I hope John doesn’t mind me saying) has a touch of Bruckner to it, and which dovetails nicely with the following music, like a little oasis of flowing lyricism inside the stop-start nature of the rest of the responses.
Above all, they shouldn’t take too long to learn, and once in the repertoire, they’ll be great to take out of the cupboard, either for special occasions, or just to take their turn in the rota.