Music to End Sunday, 20 June 2021

Good evening, friends.

St John’s Gospel, chapter 14 provides wonderful words of comfort to sustain us through this great season of Pentecost.

‘If you love me, you will obey my commands; and I will ask the Father, and he will give you another to be your advocate, who will be with you for ever – The Spirit of Truth.’

John 14, 15–17

We are fortunate to have several fine musical settings of these words, and tonight we begin with the earliest of these – a setting by Thomas Tallis – in a performance by the Cornerstone Choir.

Prior to the English Reformation, English church music consisted mainly of settings of texts in Latin. As the Church of England broke away from the Roman Catholic Church, its Latin liturgy was related with scripture and prayers in English. These changes were reflected in church music, and during the reign of Edward VI, church composers who had previously written vocal music in Latin were required to use English texts and to write in a simple style, ‘to each syllable a plain and distinct note’. Tallis, a prominent musician of the Chapel Royal, was among the first to write sacred music in English

If ye love me, seek my commandments

From the early eighteenth century we hear now ‘Les Barricades Mystérieuses by French keyboard composer François Couperin (in a performance on the harpsichord in my music room at home). It is the fifth movement of his ‘Order bème de clavecin’ and a fine example of ’style brise’ (broken-chord style). The work is in rondeau form, with a recurring bass pattern. The four-part texture creates an ever-changing tapestry of melody and harmony, interacting and overlapping with different rhythmic schemes and melodic shape. The effect is shimmering and kaleidoscopic.

Les Barricades Mystérieuses

We conclude this evening’s music with the closing sequence of Part 1 of Handel’s ‘Messiah’. The beautiful aria, usually shared between soprano and alto soloists, and concluding chorus, focuses on Jesus’ great words of comfort in St Matthew’s Gospel, chapter 11:

‘Come to me, all who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.’

Matthew 11: 28–30

It is incredible to think that the whole of ‘Messiah’ was completed by Handel in just twenty-four days! The work was first performed in Dublin in April 1742 and received its London premiere nearly a year later. After an initially modest public reception, the oratorio gained in popularity and is now one of the best-known and frequently performed choral works in Western music. We were due to deliver the work at Cornerstone just a couple of weeks into the first lockdown. We so look forward to the day when the performance can be rescheduled and we can assemble together in the Worship Area to savour Handel’s masterwork! In the meantime, I hope you enjoy this recording from our performance in 2014.

He shall feed his flock like a shepherd; and he shall gather the lambs with his arm, and carry them in his bosom, and shall gently lead those that are with young.

Isaiah 40: 11

Come unto [him], all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and [he shall] give you rest. Take [his] yoke upon you, and learn of [him]; for [he is] meek and lowly of heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. [His] yoke is easy, and [his] burden is light.

Matthew 11: 28–30

Then shall the eyes of the blind… He shall feed His flock… His yoke is easy

Performed by Elizabeth Weisberg (soprano), Kate Symonds-Joy (contralto), and the Cornerstone Chamber Choir and Orchestra.

And so to prayer, based on Matthew 11: 28:

Dear Heavenly Father, I thank you for helping me and guiding me through the days.
There is a lot on my mind and many responsibilities on my list right now.
I ask you to give me rest for my tired body and mind.
Please lift the burdens from my shoulders.
Comfort me and give my spirit peace.


Goodnight, everyone.

Adrian Boynton