01 May 2021 Evensong

Recorded on
Saturday, 1 May 2021

This webcast features as its canticles the Evening Service in G (1952) by Dr Francis Jackson CBE, which appears on The Choir's latest CD release, Magnificat 2. Please click here for more information about the disc: https://www.sjcchoir.co.uk/listen/releases/magnificat-2

In his booklet notes for Magnificat 2, Andrew Nethsingha writes the following:

Jackson’s music is in G, but not G major. There is no F sharp in the key signature, creating a sense of the mixolydian mode. This is like a major scale but with a flattened seventh note, which lends a bluesy tinge to some of the writing. The first organ phrase and the initial treble phrase generate much of the material for the work; the first four melodic organ notes (containing rising fourths) get squashed into a more lyrical version of the shape at 'and his mercy' (with the fourths becoming seconds.) Jackson uses identical material for 'And his mercy' and 'He remembering his mercy', highlighting parallels in the text as God protects his people throughout all generations and for ever. Jackson comforts us at 'He remembering'; the music relaxes into the warm security of B flat major, as God shows his tender feelings towards his people—the first section of the work in a true major key. A beautiful picture is painted by trebles and basses in canon, accompanied by shimmering chords from the organ and inner voices.

'World without end' has an apocalyptic quality not found in the earlier settings on this disc, but perhaps influenced by the canticles Howells had written for St Paul’s Cathedral in 1950. This phrase’s distinctive broken-chord figure is transfigured into a distant memory as the organ opens the Nunc dimittis. Jackson assigns particular importance to the words 'depart in peace': the tension of F sharp minor is released into a G major chord, with the resolution underlined by the first use of organ pedals in the movement. The slow harmonic movement of 'To be a light' suits the immensity of York Minster, as the music gradually builds towards the Gloria. In his autobiography Jackson writes that at the time of its composition he hoped the Evening Canticles might be 'another ‘Coll-Reg’ in the Wood-Howells line: "I don’t think I got as far as proposing its dedication to King’s, but I did play it to Boris Ord on one of his York visits and well remember his noticeable wince at the final cadence of the Gloria with its jazz-influenced chromatics, and his stern injunction that there should be no such thing … Perhaps my trying it on was an earnest of things to come, when so-called jazz invaded the sacred precincts."

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