Sacred music in context

The West Coast of B.C. is graced with a plethora of high-quality choirs, and the Sunshine Coast is no exception. Many church, school, and community choirs have been thriving for years up and down the Coast, with new ones starting up every few years to fill various niches. Recently, there has been a surge in community choirs performing exclusively sacred music, and the next few weeks feature several offerings of their musical labours.

On Sunday, March 17 at 5 p.m., a service of Choral Evensong will be held at St. Hilda’s Anglican Church in Sechelt. The order for evening prayer – lovingly known as “evensong” – was developed by Thomas Cranmer in the 17th century to help make the monk’s prayers of vespers and compline more accessible to the common people. Vespersong will provide musical settings of these prayers by Thomas Tomkins and Herbert Howells, as well as anthems by Palestrina and Tchaikovsky.

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On Saturday, March 23 at 3 p.m., the prayers of the Rosary will be sung as meditation in an intimate, devotional setting. Using more personal language than is used in traditional church services, the music sung by MOTET Chamber Choir will mirror closely the emotional and heartfelt cries to God for assistance. This first event of its kind, dubbed The Rosary Project, will be held at St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Gibsons, and will feature a cappella music by Byrd, Duruflé, Sweelinck, Victoria, and more.

Johann Sebastian Bach wrote several monumental musical settings of liturgical texts, but they are generally regarded as being too unwieldy for use in church services; his Magnificat, BWV 243, is a prime example. This setting of the Song of Mary (“My soul doth magnify the Lord...”) enlists no fewer than three trumpets, two oboes, two flutes, timpani, and a full orchestra of strings, in addition to five sections of voices and soloists. The Coast Messiah Choir will be joined by instrumentalists from across the Coast and Lower Mainland to produce their first BachFest at St. John’s United Church in Davis Bay on April 5 at 7 p.m. and April 6 at 2 p.m.

Although Choral Evensong (a church service) and The Rosary Project (private contemplation with music) do not require tickets, BachFest tickets will be available from choristers and www.brownpapertickets.
com. All three events are sure to be nourishing for the soul, and a great way to escape from the busyness of everyday life.

– Submitted by David Poon

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