Chorworks Annual Summer Workshop
The Elizabethans - Part Four -
Albeit the entire group was to present a final performance Sunday afternoon, Chorworks had arranged a farewell luncheon in the Bishop’s Garth at noon. There we traded email addresses and phone numbers with new friends, enjoyed a traditional “ploughman’s platter” meal, and swapped stories and impressions of our remarkable week.
Dessert consisted of an enormous sheet cake featuring the likeness of Queen Elizabeth in full royal regalia, around which were etched in chocolate “The Elizabethans.” It seemed almost too beautiful a creation to carve up.
Our final choral prelude and evensong took place at the High Altar and in the Great Choir at 3:40 p.m. The four ensembles participated collectively and separately. The Morley Responses were repeated; the Magnificat and Nunc dimittis were Byrd’s Short Service; Psalms 114 and 115, set by three modern composers, George Garrett, Gerald Knight and Ivor Atkins, were sung; and the anthem was an old Lessons & Carols favorite of TAS: Gibbons’ “This is the record of John,” with countertenor Steve Rickards taking the alto recitative.
Final goodbyes were said at the end of the service and we all went our separate ways.
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The Anglican Singers contingent would probably agree that our experience with Philip Cave and his colleagues, and with our fellow choristers, was not only unforgettable but profoundly valuable to our growth as individual and ensemble singers, to the development of our sight-reading skills, and to the quality of our vocal output. We would probably also agree that what we learned will help us to contribute meaningfully to the program of The Anglican Singers.
I believe we are in accord, too, that the musical curriculum which Chorworks presents each summer – particularly this most recent workshop – is one that more of us in TAS might consider. In the area of “continuing ed.” for musicians, it is tops, in my book.
For me personally, the experience intensified my esteem for the valiant composers whose lives and works we studied. As Michael McCarthy eloquently expressed it, regardless of one’s religious affiliation or non-affiliation, true apprehension of the beauty and meaning of music of “recusants” like Byrd and Tallis must derive from recognition of the circumstances under which these compositions were written. Sixteenth-century England was a violent, dangerous place for people of faith with the courage of their convictions, whether they were Catholic or Protestant. There are martyrs aplenty, musicians and otherwise, from both faith traditions throughout that period.
So while the Catholic William Byrd and Thomas Tallis may have been personally popular with Queen Elizabeth, they were looked upon with severe disfavor by many of her subordinates. Defying the law of the land and persisting in writing for the Catholic underground invests their music with an imperishable poignancy.
It is a singular privilege for The Anglican Singers to boast membership in so inspiring and enduring a tradition as that begun by the “fathers of English music.”
Anne Carr Bingham
July 25, 2009