Sunday, March 1
Today I attended the last two cathedral services of my sabbatical; the 11:00 am Eucarist and 4:30 Evensong at Christ Church Cathedral (Anglican), Victoria, British Columbia.
The cathedral is a large neo-Gothic structure, portions of which were completed as recently as the 1990’s. Thanks to the soaring stone and brick arches, the acoustics are favorable for both choral and organ music. On this particular Sunday, the 11:00 am Eucharist was performed according to the 1959 Canadian Book of Common Prayer, which is essentially the 1662 English BCP. The choir provided the sung portions of the mass (the Kyrie, Sanctus and Agnus dei of William Byrd’s Mass for Five Voices), and an anthem by Orlando Gibbons. We in the congregation sang Merbecke’s 1660’s setting of the Creed and Lord’s Prayer. From the perspective of a church musician it was an intellectually and artistically satisfying pairing. For those interested, Merbecke was one of the earliest to set the new English texts of the Church of England’s Book of Common Prayer to music.
Evensong was a special service honoring the early 17th-century poet/priest George Herbert. Several of his poems were read during the event, and the hymns and anthem were sung to texts by him. Service music was by Thomas Tomkins (his Second Service). The choir sang from the front of one of the side aisles, where there is an old organ by Harrison & Harrison (England). Here they are rehearsing before the service.
There are three organs in the cathedral: the Harrison & Harrison in the above photo, a small 19th century organ in the opposite side aisle, and a grand organ in the west gallery by Helmut Wolff.
The Wolff organ (above) is an exciting instrument, both visually and aurally. It has room-rumbling gravitas (as we heard in the postlude), as well as colorful, quieter sounds suitable for accompanying voices. The congregation’s singing was also well supported by the rich sounds of the principal chorus. I found the pairing of the organ and the room to be extremely successful. Well done, people and musicans of Christ Church Cathedral!
Stained glass in the cathedral was interesting. A series of windows depict historical and biblical figures, which is normal practice. However, the lower panels of these same windows were dedicated to the industry and arts of British Columbia. Here are three of the windows.
1. note the lower panel dedicated to Music (sorry it is out of focus – lens troubles that day)
2. Archbishop Cranmer, with a lower panel dedicated to higher education.
3. St Matthew/Poetry window
My time spent walking around the cathedral and attending its liturgies served as a fine conclusion to this two-month overseas sabbatical. Between this cathedral church and the others I have been able to visit, I managed to get my fill of great architecture, music, and liturgy. I’m ready to get back to work!