We don’t know whether it’s a world first, but it’s surely not often that a music magazine ‘reviews’ am Evensong, but Limelight magazine did just that for a recent service at St Peter’s Cathedral.
The occasion was as Te Deum Laudamus (A Thanksgiving for Victory) by Arthur Sullivan, of Gilbert and Sullivan fame, featured in the Choral Evensong officiated by The Rt Rev’d Chris McLeod.
The musical anthem was first performed in 1902 at St Paul’s Cathedral in London to mark the end of the Second Boer War.
While better known for his work with Gilbert in comic operas, Sullivan began his career as a celebrated church organist.
“He composed such sacred works as the oratorio The Prodigal Son in 1871 and theFestival Te Deum to mark the Prince of Wales’ recovery from typhoid a year later,” Jansson J. Antmann notes in Limelight.
Six hymns by Sullivan were sung in the service including O Gladsome Light, part of Sullivan’s setting of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s The Golden Legend, Sullivan’s only chant, Psalm 66. 1–8, written for St George’s Church in Berlin and rediscovered in 2007. The order of service notes that the only other copy of the chant can be found on a postcard sent by Sullivan in 1887.
The service also featured conductor Preces by Anthony Hunt, who is both the Cathedral Choir Director and State Opera Head of Music. The Evensong formed part of a G&S Festival by the State Opera, which included H.M.S Pinafore and The Pirates of Penzance. and Trial by Jury.
But music was not the only review material in Limelight. The sermon attracted attention as well.
“The Rev’d Canon Jenny Wilson delivers a poignant sermon, quoting Sullivan’s song The Lost Chord with lyrics by Adelaide Anne Proctor, and calling on the diverse congregation to seek out its own creative expression, whether it be playing the organ or through any other means,” Antmann wrote.