A great weekend for choral music at St John's. The main feature was the first performance of a new commission, written for the Choir by Matthew Martin, a leading light in the country's future for composition, particularly in the world of sacred choral music. With huge experience in the choral scene both under Anglican and Catholic traditions, as an organist and a choir trainer, Matthew was a clear, ideal choice to write a new St John's Service for the Choir, following in the footsteps of Judith Weir, Philip Moore, and most significantly, Michael Tippett who wrote his iconic canticles for the Choir/College in 1961. The canticles drew inspiration from Tippett and a whole host of Johnian composers – even the odd three-note motif was a nod towards influential figures associated with St John's such as Robin Orr or Jonathan Harvey and a welcome homage to the rich tradition of choral writing which St John's has had the privilege to witness first-hand. See our Commissions page for more examples. Andrew and the Choir were thrilled to work with Matthew for the work's first outing on Sunday at Evensong and hope to continue a fruitful relationship with in future. With Evensong now the most common choral service in the Anglican church community throughout the world, fresh input into the repertoire of Evening Canticles is crucial for maintaining its vitality, interest and accessibility both for the passive and active partakers in its worship, all the better when presented on Faber Music's beautiful editions.
Meanwhile the long, fidgeting, silent queues at Sainsbury's, the early attendance at the Buttery and the tangible tension in the air around College can only mean one thing: exams. We're just heading into the thickest part of exam season and the Gents, along with all other students (and indeed the older Choristers) are being grilled on a year's work. Daily services actually become more important at this part of the year. The Gents find the regular singing keeps them sane and gives their brains a bit of a rest (or perhaps engages different parts of their brain...) and, if nothing else, places them in a situation where they can't possibly feel guilty for not working at that time! However, mindful of the stresses on students in these few weeks, Andrew gave the Gents Sunday morning off and the Choristers sang Britten's Missa Brevis as well as accompanying John Challenger's performance of Prélude, adagio et choral varié sur le 'Veni Creator' by Duruflé, with interspersed sections of the original plainsong.