Music of Aitken & Noble at Choral Evensong
St. Peter’s proudly offers the service of Choral Evensong every month on the second Sunday of the month at 5:30 p.m. St. Peter’s penultimate Evensong service of the season will be held Sunday, May 14 at 5:30 p.m.
Evensong is a traditional, candlelit service of evening prayer, sung, and it has been sung regularly in churches, chapels, and cathedrals since the sixteenth century.
Regular attendees of Evensong know and love the familiar canticles for the service, the Magnificat (the Song of Mary), and the Nunc dimittis (the Song of Simeon). The canticles for this service are the Service in B minor by the English-born organist and composer T. Tertius Noble (1867–1953).
Noble served as Organist and Choirmaster at Ely Cathedral, and then at York Minster before emigrating to the United States to assume the same post at St. Thomas Episcopal Church, Fifth Avenue, in New York City. St. Thomas occupies an interesting place in the Anglican musical heritage, and it helps tie the music of this country to the larger Anglican choral tradition.
This year marks the sesquicentennial of Noble’s birth, so this Evensong is not the first time music of Noble will be heard at St. Peter’s in recent weeks. You may recall that the St. Peter’s Choir sang one of Noble’s anthems, “Go to dark Gethsemane” on Palm Sunday. One of the Anglican chants to be sung for the psalms at Evensong is also written by Noble.
The anthem is by another composer with New York ties, St. Peter’s own Organist & Choirmaster Emeritus S. William Aitken (b. 1944). His anthem Te lucis ante terminum was composed in 1994. It uses short phrases of the original Te lucis plainchant melody (found at Hymn 44) to introduce each stanza of the text.
Speaking of American music, save the date for the upcoming choral Concert “An American Alleluia” on Sunday, May 21 at 5:30 p.m. This concert, which will be performed with orchestra, is free, and all are welcome.
At Evensong we usually include a proper Office Hymn which changes in accordance with the season. The Office Hymn at this service (Hymn 202) reminds us that we are in the midst of the fifty days of the Easter season – a season which is decidedly longer than Lent!
The Lamb’s high banquet called to share,
arrayed in garments white and fair,
the Red Sea past, we now would sing
to Jesus our triumphant King.
These words come to us from a Latin hymn from the 8th century. And Bill Aitken’s music comes to us from much more recently than that! The music sung at this service spans time as we seek to lose ourselves in wonder, love, and praise – God’s time.
Whether you make a habit of attending Evensong regularly, or you are still considering whether to attend for the first time, I warmly invite you to do so on May 14 at 5:30 p.m. There is something marvelous about hearing scripture, praying, and singing together to our God as “the day draws on with golden light” in this Easter season.
Alleluia. The Lord is risen indeed:
O come, let us adore him. Alleluia.