Whitsuntide at Thaxted

02 June 2017

June 1st, 1917.

IT WAS good to see so large a crowd of worshippers both at the Whitsun Day and the Whit Mon­day High Mass in the parish church of our Lady with SS. John Baptist and Lawrence, Thaxted, when the three-part Mass of Byrd, the great sixteenth-century Essex composer, was given for the first time as adapted to the words of the English service; and Mr von Holst, who conducted, should be con­gratulated . . . on the extraordinary skill with which he is able, where one full rehearsal is alone possible, to bring together singers and players from London and other parts of England, and, combining them with the Thaxted singers, to arrive at such great results in these Whitsuntide music festivals in the heart of the country. The per­formers give their services gladly, and pay their own expenses; every seat is free, and at the Masses both conductor and musicians are hid­den, and everything centres in the common Act of Worship. The brilliantly coloured veils worn in the procession, and the moving forest of many-hued blossoming branches and candles, add to the joyousness of the People’s Pro­cession. The . . . poem that has “caught on” beyond all others among the people, and is sung about the streets and lanes, is Clifford Bax’s “Our Church Bells in Thaxted”[*]. The music is an old Welsh air arranged by Mr von Holst, and to hear it, preluded by the firing of the Thaxted bells, and given with organ, orchestra, hand­bells, and voices, is an experience not easily to be forgotten.

[*Better known by its first line as “Turn back, O Man, forswear thy foolish ways”. Editor]


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