Easter At Ampleforth
A silver celebration of collaborative music-making.
This programme steers a path through the celebration of the Easter Triduum at Ampleforth Abbey in 2019, through the music that was performed as part of the liturgy over the course of five days in which The Arcadians Singers were resident.
We begin with Holst and his carol ‘This I have done for my true love’, written for the Thaxted Festival which he, and the vicar there Conrad Noel (to whom the piece is dedicated), began around the end of the First World War. Its lyrical, modal character led many to assume that Holst had used an existing folksong, but the tune was in fact his own. A fitting beginning for our path, as the old Cornish poem on which the piece is based tells the whole story: Jesus’ birth, ministry, betrayal and execution, followed by his resurrection and ascension to the Father.
The Maundy Thursday liturgy is here recalled in two very different settings of the first two Tenebrae Responsories for Matins set for this day. The first recalls Christ praying on the Mount of Olives: “Father if it be possible, let this cup pass from me” in a very simple homophonic setting by Anton Bruckner. This contrasts markedly with the florid style and complex harmonies of Gesualdo’s setting of ‘Tristis est anima mea’. “My soul is sorrowful even unto death. Stay here, and watch with me.”
Good Friday is a time of prayer and reflection on the Passion of our Lord, and what better than through the powerful words of the Reproaches, here in a fabulous setting by the organist of Gloucester Cathedral, John Sanders. The traditional alternation of the deeds of God and the continual inadequacy of man’s response is humbling in its power, and captured in the discord and resolution of Sanders’ music. Robert White’s ‘Christe qui lux es et dies’ was sung at the service of reconciliation, and reminds us of the power of trust in his name.