Wednesday 18 January 2012

Solemn Evensong: for the First Anniverary of the Ordinariate: Some Patrimonial Reflections

Fr Mark Woodruff writes:

Just after the New Year, I went to the Cotswolds to visit a retired evangelical Anglican archdeacon friend of mine. Without hesitation I would say that he is western Catholic, a true churchman, to his finger tips. The retreats for priests he used to give were pearls of the Wisdom of the Scriptures and the Church’s Tradition he had received in the Church of England and was passing on to those who had ears to hear. One of the things that has united the Anglican archdeacon and the Catholic priest, grateful for his own roots and formation in the Church of England, is our love for the rites of the Book of Common Prayer, with its daily rhythm of Morning and Evening Prayer, the pastoral offices and the “noble simplicity” of its Office of Holy Communion. Once, he asked Graham Leonard, the retired bishop of London, whether there was anything he regretted about becoming a Roman Catholic. “I don’t regret anything for a single minute; but the one thing I really do miss is Evensong. We have nothing quite like it.” My archdeacon friend said he had always regarded Evensong as a perfect tool for pastoral mission, with its near perfect structure of reverent beauty, music, preaching, Scriptures and prayer, for drawing in those who were moved to worship but not yet ready for the sacramental life. “The Catholic Church should really give some thought to adopting Anglican Evensong,“ he said. “But it has!” I replied; “and I am going to Choral Evensong as a service fully of the Catholic Church next weekend.” He was as moved as I was to think that this peerless liturgy, increasingly difficult to find even in Anglican parishes, has been embraced as a treasure by the Catholic Church from the Anglican tradition, as a foretaste of the unity of all Christendom in which all our churches will own the gifts given to each other for the Universal Church.

18 years ago I gave away my surplices, scarves and hood to friends, as I prepared to enter into the fullness ofcommunion in the Catholic Church. I was one of many who was told by Cardinal Hume to “bring your Anglicanism with you”; but there were some aspects of it that lamentably I was leaving behind - “friends I have loved long since and lost awhile,” you might say. One of these was classic Anglican worship. From now on, I participated in it as an ecumenical guest. It was my tradition, yet it wasn’t. As a former Anglican cathedral precentor, this was something I loved inside out, but could never really contribute to or participate in from my place within Christ’s Church as a Catholic. Until now.

On Sunday, I joined over a dozen priests, his excellency the Ordinary of the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham, Bishop Peter Elliot of Melbourne, Australia, the Abbot and several of the brethren of Farnborough, a dozen Knights of Malta and a congregation of hundreds for Solemn Evensong at the Westminster diocese’s Church of St James, Spanish Place in London to give thanks for the first year of life of the Ordinariate of our Lady of Walsingham. St James’ was the perfect setting. It may have a venerable history as the Chapel of the Embassy of Spain in origin; but it is also a neo-Gothic English church in the Early English style (with some transitional-Norman features) and you could be forgiven for thinking you were in a corner of Westminster Abbey, Salisbury Cathedral or Christ Church, Dublin. It felt like this was Anglican Evensong on home territory.


As the liturgy progressed, a profound sense visited me, that something that I had laid down for the sake of Catholic communion was being restored to me. It took me back to my teenage membership of the choir at St Paul’s Marton in Lancashire, which somehow integrated a Roman-oriented feel to the conduct of worship with the traditional services and music of the Church of England – Ireland in F, and Stanford in B flat (under the gently but impassioned direction of Mr Ray Fishwick).I had suggested to Fr Christopher Pearson of the Ordinariate, who organised the celebration, that to be truly Anglican he and his brethren should wear surplice, scarf and hood. Of course, not many of them had either possessed or used this vesture in their Anglican days. So, here we were, nearly forty years later, processing into Evensong in cassock and cotta to the strains of Anglican choral music, just like Fr John Cayton and Fr Maurice Haigh in Marton of yore. Of course this was Solemn Evensong and it struck me how like in dignity and simplicity the ceremony was when I was a student at the College of the Resurrection at Mirfield. I was deeply inspired; I knew every word by heart and every note of the music, down to the harmony of the chants and hymns. Afterwards, speaking to seasoned Catholics, to generous Anglican friends who had come specially - in support and out of affinity – and to many newly made friends among the faithful and clergy of the Ordinariate, we discussed time and again the point that had dawned on us: that there was nothing distinctive of Anglicanism that could not be lived in communion with the Catholic Church as it now is. Nothing that is true of the classic Anglican tradition, its orthodox teaching and its liturgical and spiritual treasury, requires separation for protecting its integrity or principles.

Prior to Evensong, the organist, Iestyn Evans, played Herbert Howells’ Psalm Prelude Set One, Number One (opus 32). This is perhaps the most famous, soul-searching and best loved of his organ pieces. Howells’ music for the organ and the services of the Anglican Church has such a distinctive voice that, beyond the cornerstone laid by the music of Charles Villiers Stanford, it has set the tone for what we now instinctively recognise as the characteristic style of Anglican liturgical singing and organ improvisation. He was a student of Stanford, Hubert Parry and Charles Wood at the Royal College of Music, following earlier training under Herbert Brewer at Gloucester Cathedral. It is a nice coincidence that one of his earliest pieces of liturgical music, the Mass in the Dorian Mode, was first performed at Westminster Cathedral soon after he arrived at the College, thanks to the interest of Richard Runciman Terry, the cathedral’s great first director of music. The first set of Psalm Preludes dates from 1915-16; and the first piece especially betrays the profound effect on him of Vaughan Williams and his Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis that had so moved him at the 1910 Three Choirs Festival. Dating from the First World War, each Psalm Prelude in this set, arguably, should be considered alongside the war poets, with the events at Ypres, Gallipoli and Verdun. Set One, Number One is a meditation on Psalm 34.6: This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him, and saved him out of all his troubles.

Then came George Thalben-Ball’s Elegy. Thalben Ball was a fellow student of Howells’, a prodigious pianist, who gave the first English performance of Rachmaninov’s Third Piano Concerto at the Royal College of Music at the age of 19. He became organist of the Temple Church, taking its choir to international fame with the recording of Mendelssohn’s Hear my Prayer and its solo, O for the wings of a dove. The BBC’s daily service on the radio during the Second World War came from the Temple and the Elegy began as an improvisation when the service ended a few minutes earlier than expected one day. It was an immediate “hit” with the public.

Then the procession of the Ordinary and other clergy made its way into church with Sir Hubert Parry’s Introit for the Coronation of King Edward VII in 1902, I was glad when they said unto me, We will go into the house of the Lord (Psalm 122, Laetatus sum). The striking introduction and the interplay of choirs and organ or brass fanfares were actually written for a new version, for the coronation of King George V. Parry’s original was more reverential in tone. The rewritten piece, however, has been used time and again to match national and local services of joyful celebration ever since. It is known to be a great favourite of the Prince of Wales’, who urged it be used for the Bridal Procession at the marriage of his son, now HRH the Duke of Cambridge, to Kate Middleton.

The responses (which are vestiges of the recitation of Psalm 51 (the Miserere) at a dawn vigil and Psalm 70 (Deus in adiutorium) as an introductory psalm at offices) were sung to the setting by Bernard Rose written for Magdalen College, Oxford (which will figure again later). Since publication in 1961, their popularity has never waned. Strangely, they were intoned by a member of the choir, not the Officiant or another precenting priest.

Psalms 114 (In exitu Israel) and 115 (Non nobis, Domine) followed, sung exquisitely to familiar Anglican chants. The choice was a perfect match for the words, as the writer cannot remember which chant was used: possibly the Reverend Sir Frederick Gore Ouseley’s double chant in A flat. If so, Ouseley is an embodiment of the nineteenth century nineteenth century English church music and Anglo-Catholic patrimony. A baronet, he was ordained to serve as curate at St Paul’s, Knightsbridge, and its foundation to exemplify the ideals of the Tractarian and Ritualist revival, St Barnabas’, Pimlico. He rose to be Professor of Music at Oxford and founded St Michael’s College, Tenbury Wells, his school for the renewal and revival of English choral church music. His chants and other settings of the Anglican liturgy were thus written to bring that revival about. His most famous student and disciple was Sir John Stainer, his organist at St Michael’s for a while, who not only eventually succeeded him as Professor of Music, but also raised standards in cathedral worship from his influential posts as organist at Magdalen College, Oxford and then at St Paul’s Cathedral. His researches into early music began to establish in English liturgy the treasures of Tudor composers, unheard for centuries. He was also a champion of the adaptation and revival of plainsong in Anglican worship. Thus he was at the heart of a movement, led from the cathedrals he influenced, to bring high aspirations even into small parishes for excellent choral leadership of psalm-singing, hymns and anthems.

In a slight departure from the order of Evensong, the lessons were introduced and ended in the same way as in the new Roman Missal (“A reading from….” and “The Word of the Lord: Thanks be to God”). This is not the custom even at Roman rite Vespers or Readings. Let us hope that at future Evensongs the classic and familiar forms will be allowed their rhythms: “Here beginneth the seventh verse of the fifteenth chapter of the Book Deuteronomy” and “Here endeth the First Lesson.” The second lesson was from II Thessalonians 2. 13-14.

Although in Anglicanism, both in the Catholic tradition and in the Cathedrals, it can be customary to sing an office hymn after the first lesson and before the Magnificat (a tradition consolidated with the publication of the English Hymnal in 1906, which gave a complete set for Morning and Evening Prayer, mostly translated by John Mason Neale and set to the Sarum form of the tunes), this practice was not followed at St James’, even though it was a Solemn Evensong and incense was to be prepared for the Ordinary to cense the altar. Monsignor Newton was attended throughout by two deacons, one transitional and the other permanent, each vested in dalmatics.

The canticles were to a setting by Sir Charles Villiers Stanford, from the magnificent Service in C from 1909. This is Irish Anglican patrimony. A Dubliner, he studied at Cambridge, Leipzig and Berlin. His orchestral music is strongly influenced by his German experience, and owes a debt especially to Brahms. His attitude to the Anglican Church to which he belonged, in comparing it to the Lutheran churches he encountered in Saxony and Prussia, would have been shared with many of his ordinary Anglican contemporaries in the second half of the nineteenth century: that the Church of England was a Protestant Church alongside and essentially like those of Germany. He had no Anglo-Catholic inclinations, but may have seen the need for Anglican liturgy to aspire to the musical standards and artistic traditions so vigorous historically in the Lutheran church-world. This interplay with the culture of fine Protestant sacred music was a factor in the creativity of some of the Renaissance and Baroque Catholic composers (as we have noted before); so it is interesting to note the musical absorbency of Anglicanism, too, in the century of the rediscovery of Bach’s music, and the long forgotten works of the first composers for the English liturgy. The craftsmanship of Stanford’s writing marked a turning point in the English tradition of church music and set high new standards. His pupils included Gustav Holst, Herbert Howells and Ralph Vaughan Williams; their calibre may have surpassed their master’s, but there is no doubt as to the debt they owe him for the skills he passed on to them. And even with their very different compositional styles and inspirations, it is still Stanford whose music seems to provide the familiar terra firma on which other forms of sacred Anglican church music, some earlier and some later, can stand and excel.

After the Third Collect, the rite of Evensong as authorised for use in the Ordinariate revealed a small detail that showed the effect of fullness of communion in the Catholic Church: as it is a custom to commemorate the dead at Vespers, the Ordinary greeted all the faithful and said, “May the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace.”

The anthem was Henry Balfour Gardiner’s lush Evening Hymn. This great favourite is one of the few compositions of his that survive. He was highly self-critical, probably destroying much of his own work while generously promoting that of others, both financially and as a conductor. Gustav Holst and Frederick Delius owed much to this man’s benefaction. Evening Hymn is really a sumptuous setting of the Compline hymn, Te lucis ante terminum and comes from the period he was teaching music at Winchester College.

The Ordinary’s glad and thoughtful sermon, a reflection on Newman’s thinking as he responded to the call of God to become a Catholic, and ending with an act of trust in God for the future and what may be called of the Ordinariate, may be found on the Ordinariate website.

The hymns – and their tunes - were all chosen by Mgr Newton himself. Thus Newman’s Praise to the Holiest in the height from the Dream of Gerontius was sung to Sir Arthur Somervell’s Chorus Angelorum. See our earlier post on this tune.

Ready for the Procession of the Blessed Sacrament, the choir sang O Salutaris Hostia by Edward Elgar. For a century and more, Anglican Catholics took devotion to the Blessed Sacrament to their heart. By them it was sung in English long before Roman Catholics followed suit, and by them it was maintained long after it practically disappeared from many Catholic parishes. So Benediction was in English, but O Salutaris and Tantum Ergo were in Latin. Elgar’s Catholic church music is remarkable because it belongs to the tradition of English Cathedral church music, for which he also wrote. Once again, here we see, long before the Decree on Ecumenism and Ut Unum Sint, an exchange of treasures and gifts, or at least giftedness, between the Anglican and Catholic churches. By the same token, both motets form part of the regular repertoire of Anglican choral foundations – far from just being Latin and Roman Catholic they have been warmly embraced as part of the Anglican patrimony for years. Tantum ergo was to the setting by Déodat de Séverac, the Provençal composer of operas and piano music, the promise of whose mature, melodic style was cut short at 49 in 1921.

The hymns for the Procession of the Blessed Sacrament, at which the Knights of Malta provided an escort and over which they carried the canopy, began with William Chadderton Dix’s Alleluia, sing to Jesus. Many of Dix’s hymns were conceived during a time of great depression, following a serious illness of which he almost died aged 29. It is thus a hymn of the deepest hope and confidence, and the phrases, “not as orphans are we left in sorrow now,” “shall our hearts forget his promise, “I am with you evermore?”” and “Earth’s Redeemer, plead for me” are thus especially poignant. But it did not come to public attention until publication in 1867, after which it was immediately snapped up for inclusion in the Anglo-Catholic Hymns Ancient and Modern as an Ascensiontide and Communion hymn. The tune, Hyfrydol, was by Dix’s mid-nineteenth century contemporary Rowland H. Prichard. The wedding of the verses and the perfect tune for them seems not to have come about until the inspired editing of the music of the English Hymnal in 1906 by Ralph Vaughan Williams, who rearranged the harmonies in the form familiar to most choirs today.

The second hymn was George Hugh Bourne’s Lord, enthroned in heavenly splendour from 1874. This is another Ascensiontide Communion hymn, perfectly fitting a Procession of the Blessed Sacrament into the Holy of Holies, the sanctuary. Vaughan Williams set this to another Welsh tune of rare and powerful melody in G minor, Bryn Calfaria; but most people prefer a Victorian tune in a major key; so at Evensong we followed the Ancient and Modern tradition and used Sir George Clement Martin’s St Helena from 1889. Martin followed Stainer as organist of St Paul’s Cathedral. He wrote the Te Deum that was sung on the steps of St Paul’s for the famous Diamond Jubilee open air service, celebrating Queen Victoria’s 60 years on the throne. 

After a prayer for the Pope, we joined in saying before the Blessed Sacrament exposed the beautiful General Thanksgiving from the Book of Common Prayer. Generations of Anglican confirmation candidates had to know this, as well as the Commandments and the Creed, by heart. It was written not by Cranmer in the sixteenth century, but in 1661 by Edward Reynolds, a gentle Puritan, who had succeeded John Donne as Preacher at Lincoln’s Inn and later submitted to what looked like the final Presbyterian settlement of the Cromwellian Commonwealth. Yet he did not accept Presbyterianism as the sole doctrine or system to the exclusion of others, and did not differ from the teaching and order of the Church of England, provided it might rightly be governed. He believed, for instance, that bishops were acceptable as long as they were not prelates and sole rulers, but fellow-presbyters with the other ministers and governing in council with them. (This is not so dissimilar from the synodal form of governance provided by Anglicanorum Coetibus for the Ordinariates – or indeed from the spirit of Lumen Gentium!) Others were more resolute in their defence of the old order of the Church of England and lost their livings and office. Reynolds benefited from his moderation and equivocation, becoming Dean of Christ Church and Vice Chancellor of the University of Oxford, although he advocated mitigation and reason in the application of the Commonwealth Solemn League and Covenant, rather than intolerance and severity. It was his opposition to the Commonwealth’s later test of allegiance to the English state, so as finally to exclude the monarchy, that finally lost Reynolds his position of influence from the University of Oxford. He returned to his parish at Braunston and was soon given the living of St Lawrence Jewry in the City of London. With further change and uncertainty in church life, as well as the burden of an unstable constitution, sustained not, after all, by Parliament but by force of arms and dictatorship, it was Reynolds who preached before Parliament in April 1660, condemning the uncertainties and wrongs of the preceding years and calling for a settled constitution to be brought back in its old form. In May he was sent by Parliament to Breda in the Netherlands to ask King Charles II to return to England as monarch and accept a moderate form of episcopal governance in the Church. Upon the king’s Restoration, such was his renown for learning, preaching and personal holiness, Reynolds was appointed a Court preacher with nine other Presbyterian divines. On the basis of the king’s Royal Declaration calling for conciliation between the Anglican and Presbyterian parties, he accepted episcopal ordination and the see of Norwich. But his conciliatory efforts at the Savoy Conference (that had resulted from the Declaration) were to no avail; and Parliament, now solidly Anglican and in no mood for accommodating the Presbyterians, refused to back the King’s efforts at a settlement. He continued at Norwich, seeing himself as a chief presbyter among other presbyters, tireless in the relief of the poor and conciliatory to those who were now cast as Dissenters and Non-Conformists. A Puritan, he was not a Calvinist. He did not preach a narrow doctrine of election but an Evangelical proclamation of the gospel that is open to all. Of the Father, he wrote, “Adam looks on Him as a judge, and hides - the prodigal looks on Him as a father and returns”. The magnificent General Thanksgiving he wrote conveys his spirit of God’s generous love that provides freely “the means of grace and the hope of glory”. Its sense of relief at the restoration of order in society and government after years of strife, turmoil and bloodshed is expressed in blessing the Father of mercies. Its hope for unity and peace in the Church is found in the typically Puritan resolve on a simple, thankful life in God’s service and the pursuit of holiness. More or less the same sentiments were voiced by Fr Paul Couturier in the 1930s, when he called all Christians to pray that they might become united in their hearts and outdo each other in aspiring to an ever greater holiness that would inevitably bring them closer in union to Christ and thus each other. It is amazing that this prayer by a Presbyterian, Puritan, Evangelical bishop is now a prayer cherished in the Catholic Church. Perhaps Reynolds, if he had lived in the mid twentieth century would have readily recognised his own faith in the Church of Christ as it was expressed in the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church at Vatican II, Lumen Gentium. So perhaps this miracle in the lex orandi is nothing more than the natural outcome of the lex credendi we all held together all along.

Before the Blessed Sacrament we stood for the Te Deum, to the setting in B flat by Stanford. At the Coronation of King Edward VII in 1902, choirs up and down the land chose to sing Sir George Martin’s Te Deum composed for Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee. But at Westminster Abbey, it was Stanford’s Te Deum in B flat that was chosen. Stanford composed a new fanfare and introduction for the occasion, based on the solemn intonation of Gregorian canticle verses in tone eight.

We genuflected, as I just about remember doing as a child, at “We therefore pray thee, help thy servants, whom thou hast redeemed with thy precious Blood”. After the Te Deum, we knelt at de Séverac’s Tantum Ergo, the versicle, response and Collect (in English), before the Ordinary gave us Benediction with the Blessed Sacrament. The Divine Praises were followed by Psalm 117 (Laudate Dominum) with its antiphon, Adoremus in aeternum, to the Roman (not Sarum) tone six.

The final voluntary was the Finale from Louis Vierne’s First Organ Symphony. Vierne was organist of Notre Dame de Paris from 1900 to 1937. He was a man who, throughout his life, suffered – from the almost full loss of his sight, the loss of his wife in a divorce, the loss of his two brothers in World War I and an organ in a terrible state of repair. He raised the funds in America to restore it and this kind of determination and patience deeply impressed his many pupils, who recognised it in his kindness and patience with them. This persevering and imperturbable faith, enduring life’s troubles, reveals itself in his music. In the Finale there is the joy and exultation, but also an air of vigorous effort and even some hint of anxiety. Perhaps it was the perfect piece to choose to end this magnificent and so gratifying celebration. As Mgr Newton said in his sermon, quoting Dag Hammarskjold, surveying an exhilarating and challenging first year, slightly daunted by what may lay ahead, but confident that all has been and will be in God’s hands, “For what has been, thanks; to what will be, yes.”

Fr Keith told me they originally doubted whether people would come up to London on a Sunday and that the special Evensong would only attract a few. The Church, however, was packed with members of the Ordinariate and its friends, both Catholic and Anglican. At the reception afterwards, the Ordinary was generous in his thanks to all those who had helped and encouraged him and the Ordinariate in the past year, including the Catholic League. But what the strong body of support showed was more than money and good will in the past: here was the strong desire to sustain this initiative into a brave future by the grace of God.

It also showed that there is not only an urgent need for the Ordinariate to obtain its own buildings as the focus and bases for its unique mission, life of worship and thus a vitally needed witness. There is evidently determined and reliable support that could help to bring this about – and clearly, judging by the hundreds who came, there is a need in people that is seeking to be met.


  1. You must go to the Sung Evensong at Tintern Abbey held annualy, wonderful!
    I grew up singing Matins and Evensong as a chorister in High church Parishes, its so profound and a wonderful education for a young soul.

  2. "... a profound sense visited me, that something that I had laid down for the sake of Catholic communion was being restored to me."

    "all thou dost count as lost, I have stored for thee at home ..." (Thompson, "The Hound of Heaven")

  3. Thank you, Father, for a masterly account of a lovely evening.

  4. A fascinating and most informative account; thank you.
    I agree with you about Bryn Calvaria, a wonderful tune.
    A shame that most of the Ordinariate clergy ditched their choir habit years ago because it wasn't Roman. Will they now become more fond of their own traditions?