The newest piece in the catalogue is by John Hosking. It’s an evening service for trebles and organ, written for the boys of Bangor Cathedral, and it’s called The Bangor Service. John, being who he is, hasn’t spared the organist in this piece. The trebles have an easier job, though even for them there’s plenty to keep them occupied.
The composer has striven to make the music suit the words, and it’s worth reading his programme note to get an idea of what he’s up to, and how he creates the colours, textures and atmosphere that make this piece stand out:
The opening depicts the quiet awe of Mary at being chosen by God, with the semi-quavers in the organist’s right hand illustrating the frantic fear that she may have initially felt. As the statements of the text grow bolder, so does the writing until the line “and his mercy”, where every undulating stop possible on the organ should be used, with the singers creating a sense of timelessness.
“He hath put down” begins a section of virtuosic writing; there are triumphant fanfares for the organist, a wide range for the singers and an awkward chromatic moment to ensure that the proud really are scattered! Once the organist has put the mighty from their seat with all the reeds, a small, agitated organ solo begins. It’s as if the contrasts of the text preceding it are almost too much to take in – “the mighty are put down… yet the meek are exalted…… what is happening?” – until a very happy hungry are fed and the rich are left empty, with just a thin reed stop to join them.
The semi-quaver figurations in the following section are slightly calmer than the opening; it’s like a massive piece of news slowly sinking in, and Mary’s sense that she isn’t alone, but her strong faith in God will guide her through the things to come.
The Gloria should be as loud and joyous as possible, although musical shaping should never be lost in the excitement.
In contrast, the Nunc Dimittis feels grand and stately, with plenty of space. My intention was that the word “light” should act as a “semi” climax. The change in organ registration helps to colour this with the addition of the mixture. However, the real drama happens at bar 25 when, for me, Simeon really realises that God has kept his promise to him.
Copies can be ordered from here.