Elizabethan high jinks

02 November 2006

 TO LIVEN up one of those rural "dwindling congregations", the parishioners of Berry Pomeroy, near Totnes in Exeter diocese, observed last January the feast of Charles, King and Martyr, commemorating Charles I’s execution in 1649. They recreated the first commemorative evensong as it would have been held in 1663, and widely advertised it. The church was full.

While researching that service, Charlie Lewis of the congregation came across the old "Queen’s Day" thanksgiving that marked the anniversary of the accession of Elizabeth I on 17 November 1558, and they decided to give that a go. Queen’s Day was celebrated as a holiday for nearly 300 years, he tells me; and so they are holding the Elizabethan service next week. A bonfire and suitable refreshments will follow.

The service will include period music accompanied by the parish’s own Berry Band (photo). There will be "two anthems to Queen Elizabeth which have probably remained unsung since 1602, and a rare performance of Anthony Holbourne’s catchily titled Heigh-Ho Holiday — a piece written especially for one of the very first Queen’s Days". The original prayers will be used, though the Queen referred to in them will be today’s Elizabeth.

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