A NEW take on choral evensong took place last week at Salisbury Cathedral, when it played host to “Evening Songs”.
The service was a collaboration between Salisbury Cathedral, Salisbury Cathedral School, Exeter House School, and the music production company La Folia.
Co-ordinated by La Folia’s artistic director Howard Moody, along with the Salisbury Cathedral School Director of Music, Ian Wicks, the music was both devised and sung by Exeter House pupils and cathedral choristers. Their lyrics included: “O Lord open thou our lips; We shall if you sing our song,” and “Lord, have mercy upon us; Please notice who we really are”.
Discussing working with Exeter House, a local school for children with severe and profound and multiple learning difficulties, Marie Thomas, of Salisbury Cathedral, said: “This evensong — or ‘Evening Songs’, as they call it — isn’t some cosy, easy, give-them-a-chance project, but more of a storming of the citadel. . . The result is rambunctious and vivid.”
“The really exciting thing about this service,” the Canon Precentor and head of the cathedral’s department of music and liturgy, Tom Clammer, said, “is the way in which an ancient and prayer-soaked text has been explored and re-expressed by the young people of Exeter House. . .
“The reinterpretations of the Magnificat and the Nunc Dimittis are similarly both innocent and profound, and ask a number of questions about fairness, equality, and what it is that faith is supposed to excite in us.”
After the performance on Tuesday of last week, Salisbury Cathedral Choir posted on Twitter: “Thank you. It was the most amazing experience, & the children were just fabulous.” Many others used the hashtag #powerfulvoice.
The cathedral’s Director of Music, David Halls, believes that this could be one of the most important pieces of work the cathedral has created. The initiative has sparked interest among other cathedrals, and Salisbury are keen to roll out the project more widely in the future.