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Germany Tour - July 2018

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The world-famous Choir of Trinity College Cambridge performs musical gems in St Paul’s Church, Worms 

The Choir of Trinity College Cambridge, which appeared as a guest in St Paul’s Church on Tuesday, is regarded as one of the finest choirs in the world. Since 2006, the choir has been directed by Stephen Layton, one of the most sought after conductors of his generation. Thus it comes as no surprise that the Dominican church was almost bursting at the seams on Tuesday evening. The ministers at the church even put out all the extra chairs that they could find!

In actual fact, that was not so necessary as the congregation was invited to remain standing for the majority of the pieces and to kneel for the Lord’s Prayer. The performance was not a sacred concert but rather a sung service of choral Evensong, which was established in 1549 in the Anglican Church and more or less corresponds to the Roman Catholic service of Vespers.

As the congregation entered the church and took to their seats, the prelude in E flat major by Johann Sebastian Bach sounded from the gallery. Then just over 30 of the young singers made their way through the nave and, as established by tradition, lined up on both sides of the altar. The service opened with a paraphrase of Psalm 150, ‘Laudibus in sanctis’, composed in 1591 by William Byrd; the beautiful, full-sounding voices filled the church with almost heavenly song, ‘echoing the firmament’ as described in this particular text. The choir’s conductor, Stephen Layton, remained seated on the balcony, whilst his two Organ Scholars, Alexander Hamilton and Asher Oliver, directed the choir.


Voices scale radiant heights

The varied liturgy, based on the 1662 Book of Common Prayer, which represents the continuity of God’s faithfulness to his people from the Old to the New Testament, gave the conductor and choir an opportunity to display their great talents. Antiphony, alternating singing between two parts of the choir, framed chorales like Psalm 122 and the triumphant anthem ‘Faire is the Heaven’, in which the voices artfully intertwined and reached radiant heights. Full of depth, the singers crafted the wonderful Magnificat of Palestrina as well as the gentle, peace-filled prayer of Simeon’s Nunc dimittis (‘Lord, now let your servant depart in peace’).

Between the musical treasures, mostly composed by English musicians of different centuries, Prior Ralf Sagner read the touching prayer of King David (1 Sam. 7:18 ff); After the Magnificat, the commandment of love in the Gospel of John was heard in English: ‘This is my commandment that you love one another, just as I love you’ (Jn 15: 9 ff.). The apostolic creed and the Lord’s Prayer were said together. With the peaceful hymn ‘O Love, how deep, how broad, how high’, arranged by Johann Sebastian Bach, and the Fugue in E flat major by Bach, the Evensong came to an end. The congregation thanked the choir, conductor and virtuoso organists for this outstanding musical experience with sustained, enthusiastic applause.