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Festival Marks WW1 Centenary

by Michael Ford last modified 29 Oct, 2018 05:11 PM

A report from a special edition of the annual Diocesan Choral Festival, by Chris Totney.

On Sunday 14 October, many choirs from across the Diocese came together in Salisbury Cathedral for a poignant festival to mark the upcoming centenary of the end of the First World War. Beginning with the rousing hymn ‘Lord of Lords and King Eternal’, the service was simple yet beautiful in its construction.

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The combined choirs performed a number of serene anthems, including Douglas Guest’s ‘For the Fallen’, a setting of Psalm 130 followed by an extract from Walford Davies’ Requiem, ‘My Eyes for Beauty Pine’ by Robin Walker, and James Whitbourn’s ‘This Is My Commandment’.

Interspersed among them were more lusty items, including the hymn ‘God Is Our Strength and Refuge’, sung to the Dam Busters March, and Sir Charles Villiers Stanford’s setting of the Benedictus in G.

The service concluded by acknowledging the late John Scott, whose folk-like tune ‘Cloth Fair’ accompanied Timothy Dudley-Smith’s words for ‘Christ be the Lord of All Our Days’, and the last word left to Martin How’s beautiful short anthem ‘Peace’.

During the service, the Bishop of Salisbury, along with the newly-installed Dean of Salisbury, presented awards to several choristers who had enjoyed success in their Diocesan Choral Awards over the past year.

The choristers represented Amesbury Abbey, St John’s Devizes, St Peter’s Parkstone, St Thomas’ Salisbury, and Salisbury Cathedral. It was a particular pleasure to be able to congratulate those who received Gold Awards, as they were the first such awards to be presented at the festival for a number of years. Very well done to everyone!

As always, we thank David Halls for his wonderful support, both in the work behind the scenes that goes on in preparation for the festival, and for his enthusiasm in conducting us all on the day itself. John Challenger played the organ with his usual aplomb and we are indebted to the whole team at the cathedral once again for hosting us.

Thank you too to David King, who does a marvellous job each year typesetting the book among other things, and the rest of the committee for their hard work throughout the year. Most of all, thank you and well done to all the choirs who took part in a most uplifting afternoon of singing, and congratulations on all the work you are doing in your parishes, as it really is something to be celebrated.

Although we will sadly be without the great Father Willis organ at next year’s festival, there will nevertheless be another cause for celebration, as the service will have something of a ‘home-grown’ flavour to it, with local musicians contributing specially-written and arranged items in a service of Choral Evensong – and what fan of the great English Choral Tradition doesn’t like a good one of those?

Chris Totney

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