English Music for Choir, Handbells, and Organ

Choral works by Parry, Stanford, and Gardiner

David Briggs’s “Praise the Lord, O My Soul” for Choir, Handbells, and Organ commissioned by River Road Church for this occasion

So many great moments in life result from placing several related components into context. As undergraduate organ majors at Manhattan School of Music, we eagerly attended senior recitals and graduate recitals of our brother and sister organ majors. Students of Fred Swann performed on the magnificent five-manual, 213-rank organ of the Riverside Church in New York. You can only imagine the grandeur of the whole thing. Nonetheless, I had difficulty enjoying the music of certain Baroque French composers, such as Couperin, Dumage, and Clérambault – even amidst the Riverside grandeur. It seemed remote: something must have been missing. A few years later, I spent a week at a master class in an old church in the village of Mitry-Mory, outside of Paris, working at an original, restored French organ that was just right for these same composers who were not able to grab my attention earlier on at Riverside. That old French organ was a revelation, for it had added some context to the music. Soon after that, I wanted to know more about the kind of church service that demanded these French pieces. A good bit of reading and research provided yet more context.

There is so much beautiful sacred music for our voices to sing and our ears to hear. Over the many years, our Chancel Choir has sung a host of inspiring anthems, motets, masses, and oratorios – some of them in morning worship and some of them in concerts. Rarely, though, have they sung within the context of the service of Evensong. Choral Evensong – with David Briggs – the last event in our 2012-13 concert series – will combine several components that should result in an inspirational evening – with music sung in the context of a carefully structured church service that has in roots in the English Reformation. Please join us on June 9 for a musical and spiritual event that places the beauty of musical creation within the context of worship, thereby adding that important dimension that goes beyond a concert performance.