The more discerning amongst you will have noticed that the BBC's weekly broadcast of the Church of England's greatest contribution to world culture has reverted (after being 'mucked about' for years during which it appeared at one time - if at all - in the wee small hours of a Monday morning) to a weekday slot: Wednesday, at 4p.m. Of course, this cannot be other than 'good news'. For cathedral musicians, weekday evensong is the 'magnum opus' of their offering. True, Sunday morning Eucharist might liturgically be more important, but there is nothing to match the musicality of evensong nor - in my untrained opinion - the theology.
Consider the structure, dear reader: an opening plea to the Almighty to 'open Thou our lips' followed by the chanting of psalmody (a practice pre-dating Christianity) and a reading from the Old Testament of the Bible. Then, we get the news of Jesus's arrival in the form of Mary's hymn - magnificat - followed by a reading from the book inspired by His ministry, and the thanks of Simeon (set, of course, to music) for being thus enlilghtened, after which it is seemly to recite the Creed. Prayers follow, and an anthem, and the service ends in the glory of a mighty organ voluntary. It never fails to move, dear reader, even when the choir outnumbers the congregation by a ratio of two to one, or when the congregation on a winter's evening consists merely of a couple of drunkards sheltering from the elements and clanking empties every time they kneel to pray. For 'whenever two or three are gathered together...' and all that. And it is right for such a service, glorying as it does in some of the finest of this country's musical offerings, to be broadcast by the BBC, and on a weekday, too. I have no problem with that. Far from it, if I had my way I would insist that the service was once more broadcast on a Friday, too, as was the case not so very long ago.
These days, sadly, we only get one 'crack of the whip' so-to-speak. And that, as ill-fortune would decree, is on our dumb-day (our day off, in other words). So when the BBC descends with its miles of cabling and myriads of microphones (time was, you got one slung between the two sides of the choir and made the best of it) not only do we have to give up whatever ordinarily occupies our time in the middle of the week (in my case, teaching) but we have to go to the cathedral even earlier for rehearsals and for 'balance-testing' and then do the whole thing at four o'clock instead of the usual five-thirty. But worse, far worse, is the unworthy dross the DoM insists on bringing out of the music cupboard, the better to 'show off' his choir on the radio. Dear God, it is bad enough singing the stuff on the wireless, but we've already started to rehearse it and it's months before the BBC van will descend on the cathedral close. Vanitas, vanitatum (as the prophet said). Omnia vanitas.
Ronald Stevenson Piano Music: Volume 2 - I was confused. When I knew that I was receiving a CD of Ronald Stevenson’s piano music to review, I mistakenly assumed that it was a second volume to Murr...
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