With our new assistant organist, Dr. Brian Campbell, and as a group fully vaccinated (more than two weeks past our final doses), the Calvary Choir is delighted to offer a live stream service of Choral Evensong at 5:00 p.m. on Sunday, May 2. In a bittersweet staff transition, our associate rector, Amber Carswell, will preside as officiant on her last Sunday at Calvary. Amber will be leaving to serve as Rector of Christ Church, Warwick, New York.
To mitigate the risks of COVID-19 and be able to sing safely (with approval from our bishop and health and safety task force), the choir has been meeting weekly since last fall, either on Zoom or rehearsing masked and distanced for only thirty consecutive minutes in a room.
The music we are singing tonight is music we learned during the pandemic. The anthem, “Lord, thou hast been our refuge,” by Ralph Vaughan Williams, was chosen in particular because it reminds us that God has been our sustainer and provider for generations. Vaughan Williams wrote it in 1921, and having served on the battlefields of World War I, it no doubt reflects the tragedies he witnessed. While our present grief, trouble, anxiety, and isolation have caused us all to ask “Why, God?” at times throughout the last year, it is somehow lessened when examined within the continuum of the Church. We are not the only ones to have endured suffering, and despite our lessened faith at times, God remains with us just as God sustained the generations before us.
Vaughan Williams uses the hymn “O God, our help in ages past (tune: St. Anne)” as the framework for this piece. The hymn text and the text of this anthem are both based on the words of Psalm 90. The hymn tune is first heard sung softly underneath a chant-like passage that explores the frailty of humankind sung by a semi-chorus. The first half ends with the petition to “be gracious, satisfy us with thy lovingkindness so that we may rejoice and be glad all the days of our lives.” Suddenly, the organ comes in and builds to the entrance of the full choir singing in unison with newly found conviction, “Lord, thou hast been our refuge from one generation to another,” leading to a triumphant conclusion as the hymn tune, played on trumpet, soars above the voices.
Our new assistant organist, Dr. Brian Campbell, will frame the service with Bach’s Prelude and Fugue in E-flat Major, BWV 552. The fugue is based on the hymn tune and is frequently called the “St. Anne” fugue.