01 April 2012

Palm Sunday, listening to Thomas Weelkes

The choir sings ‘Hosanna to the Son of David’ by Thomas Weelkes at the start of the Palm Sunday liturgy in Christ Church Cathedral (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2012)

Patrick Comerford

Christ Church Cathedral was bathed in warm sunshine this morning as we began Palm Sunday by gathering in the Cloister Garth on the south side of the cathedral for the Liturgy of the Palms and the reading of the Gospel of the Entry into Jerusalem (Mark 11: 1-11).

As we processed out of the Cathedral with our palm branches and palm crosses, the choir most appropriately sang as a motet Hosanna to the Son of David by Thomas Weelkes (1575-1623).

Weelkes had a reputation as a notorious drunkard and blasphemer, who was in regular conflict with all at Winchester Cathedral, where he was the organist from 1602 until his death in 1623, the same year as William Byrd and Orlando Gibbons died. But whatever his personal flaws may have been, he was one of the most prolific composers of church music in his day. His music is sublime, and he is now regarded as one of the finest composers of Elizabethan and Jacobean church music.

We processed back into the cathedral singing JM Neale’s All glory, laud, and honour ... it seems almost impossible to imagine a Palm Sunday liturgy without singing this hymn and Samuel Crossman’s My Song is Love unknown. Our Post-Communion hymn this morning was Bishop William Walsham How’s It is a thing most wonderful, which was my choice for a Poem for Lent in this blog last Friday [30 March 2012].

We had a dramatised reading of the Gospel (Luke 22: 14 to Luke 23: 56), and the Post-Communion motet was O sacrum convivium by Thomas Tallis.

Sunshine in Dublin Castle this afternoon (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2012)

After lunch in the Silk Road Café in Dublin Castle and a short visit to Saint Patrick’s Cathedral ,where I am preaching on Good Friday [6 April 2012], I was back in Christ Church Cathedral this afternoon for Choral Evensong, at which I read the first lesson (Isaiah 5: 1-7). The setting for the canticles Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis was the Gloucester Service by Herbert Howells.

Later in the afternoon, I had a short stroll through Temple Bar, and paid a pastoral visit to the Mater Private Hospital before two of us went on out to Skerries for a walk on the beach.

Coffee at ‘Storm in a Teacup’ in Skerries was more than welcome this afternoon (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2012)

Caffeine levels were low and we first had a coffee at ‘Storm in a Teacup,’ which was doing a brisk business at the harbour despite the late hour and the grey clouds.

I was last in Skerries for a retreat on Ash Wednesday, and it was a delight to walk on the beaches after an absence of a few weeks. We walked close to the North Strand beside the harbour, before going in behind the Sailing Club for a brief brisk walk on the South Strand.

The tide was out and the sand was soft in Skerries this afternoon (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2012)

The tide was out, the sand was soft, and there were few people there in the dusky lights of late evening.

On the way back to South Dublin, through Rush, Lusk and on the M50, we listened to the new CD by the Choir of Sidney Sussex College Cambridge, directed by Sidney’s first Director of Music, David Skinner: ‘Thomas Weelkes Grant the King a long life, English Anthems & Instrumental Music.’

The chaplain of Sidney Sussex College, the Revd Dr Peter Waddell, sent me this new CD last week as part of his generous thank you for preaching in Sidney Sussex earlier this year.

The new CD by the Choir of Sidney Sussex College Cambridge, directed by David Skinner, is being launched later this month

After Easter, the Choir of Sidney Sussex, directed by David Skinner, is celebrating Evensong in the Quire at Westminster Abbey on Tuesday 17 April 2012 at 5 pm. After the service the Choir and members of Sidney Sussex will process to the tomb of the college foundress, Lady Frances Sidney, Countess of Sussex, where the choir will sing the College Grace. This new CD will be launched later that evening at a reception, hosted by the Sidney Sussex Society in the Oxford and Cambridge Club, Pall Mall, at 6.30 pm.

Despite the title of this new CD, the opening track on this collection is Hosanna to the Son of David. And so, Palm Sunday ended just as it began.

Canon Patrick Comerford is Lecturer in Anglicanism and Liturgy, the Church of Ireland Theological Institute, and a canon of Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin.

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