Music for trebles-only evensong

With the recent publication of Laurence Caldecote’s All Saints’ Service, we now have no fewer than four sets of evening canticles for use at evensong when you only have a soprano line. Here’s a little walkthrough of which one might suit you best.

We’ll start with Laurence’s new setting. He wrote it on his appointment as Assistant Organist at All Saints’ Church in Northampton, for the girls’ choir there. It’s a very singable setting, mainly in unison but with some optional divisions and one or two other challenges along the way. Laurence has thoughtfully taken the opportunity to use the work as a teaching tool for the singers, “for work on intervals and musical notation, containing most of the basic notation which choristers will need”. I’m sure the girls of Northampton are grateful to him for that!

Hb15-20-001 St Patricks C of I Cathedral, survey of building 2014

St Patrick’s Anglican Cathedral, Armagh (© Crown Copyright, Historic Environment Division, Open Government Licence v3.0)

Peter Thompson’s St Patrick’s Service is the simplest of the four services on offer. It was written for a massed ‘come and sing’ evensong in Armagh Cathedral in 2017, the aim behind which being to enthuse parish choirs to sing choral evensong again, and to give them a service which they could take back to their parishes and use there. For this reason the vocal part is very straightforward and is doubled in the organ, and even the organ part is not taxing, and can be played on a single manual organ, with or without pedals. So this attractive service is ideal if you are wanting to dip your toe in the water and can’t afford too many challenges.

Next is Ben Costello’s Shrewsbury Canticles. These are nominally for trebles and organ, but they can be used by any unison group including mixed adult and children’s voices. It was originally written for the choir at Shrewsbury House Preparatory School in Surbiton, and given its world premiere just recently by the Girl Choristers of Gloucester Cathedral under Nia Llewelyn Jones. This one is a bit more of a challenge, especially perhaps for the organist, whose role is to colour and dramatise the text. And if you’re interested in music typography (no reason why you should be), you may be interested to read more about the preparation of this piece using Dorico in Daniel Spreadbury’s blog post here.

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Bangor Cathedral

Finally we come to John Hosking’s Bangor Service, written for the trebles of Bangor Cathedral. It’s a very programmatic setting, with plenty of word painting and story telling going on, including the sublime part in the Nunc where, in the composer’s words, “the real drama happens at bar 25 when, for me, Simeon really realises that God has kept his promise to him”.

As always, just ask if you want to see a sample score of any of the pieces mentioned.

We also have three settings of treble-voice Responses, by Ben Costello, John Hosking and Gareth Hemmings. I’ll write those up in a bit more detail soon.

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About Neil Sands

Director of the Chichester Music Press. Astronomer.
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