As residents of Salisbury, this album has special
significance for us and, in fact, we attended this particular
Evensong earlier this year. Salisbury Cathedral Choir enjoys one
of the finest reputations in the country for the excellence of
their singing. Indeed choral music at Salisbury Cathedral has
a fine tradition spanning the past seven hundred years. The cathedral
choir has sixteen boy choristers and six lay vicars. Since 1961,
there has been another set of choristers – the girl choristers
– who now share the duties of the cathedral choir. This recording,
of course, includes the full Evensong service including Lessons,
Psalms, Hymns and Prayers.
After David Hall’s opening organ improvisation,
we hear Walton’s Set me as a seal written to the same text
from the Song of Solomon that inspired John Ireland’s Greater
Love Hath No Man. Whereas Ireland’s setting is overtly
romantic, Walton is more measured and more conventionally devotional.
The quiet rapt singing beguiles and their articulation is exemplary.
Richard Lloyd was assistant organist at Salisbury Cathedral before
moving on to Hereford Cathedral and later Durham Cathedral. His
marvellous setting of the Magnificat begins in gentle beauty
before the power of the organ and the choir reaches upwards and
swells majestically around the Cathedral. Lloyd’s setting of the
Nunc Dimittis is equally beautiful, beginning very gently
with a lovely melodic line sung by the basses. The gradual entry
of the upper voices reaches a glorious climax with the entry of
the trebles at the words "And to be the glory of thy people
Gerald Finzi set Richard Crashaw’s versions of
the hymns of St Thomas Aquinas, Adoro Te and Lauda Sion
Salvatorem as his Lo, the full final sacrifice. This
is one of Finzi’s masterpieces. Its quiet dignity, intimacy, slowly
evolving melodic lines and powerful emotional climaxes are deeply
moving. The Salisbury Choir respond most affectingly.
This Evensong concludes with Geoffrey Bush’s
Organ Voluntary: Triumphal March which, despite
its name, is a comparatively gentle and restrained celebration,
contemplative rather than boastful.
When our treasured English traditions are threatened
by the corrosive values of today’s dumbed-down, multi-cultural
society, the beauty of the famous Salisbury service is balm indeed.
Grace and Ian Lace