Comments: Opinion - 18 April 2018

Nice little piece by Jonathan Arnold. Evensong is undoubtedly popular and, if I lived in Cambridge, Oxford or in a cathedral town, I would be a regular too.

Posted by Kate at Wednesday, 18 April 2018 at 2:34pm BST


It's hard to beat a really good choral evensong. I used to go sometimes in Oxford, where most of the colleges did evensong with good choirs. I remember one at Christchurch, where they sang the setting of David's lament for Absalom: 'Oh Absalom, my son, my son Absalom. Would that I had died instead of thee, Absalom my son.' We were in tears. It's the only time I've ever heard it. Does anyone know the composer?

Posted by Janet Fife at Wednesday, 18 April 2018 at 4:45pm BST

@Janet Fife, there’s two settings, one by Thomas Weelkes and the other by Thomas Tomkins. Tomkins was a royalist in the 1640s, which gives his version a particular freight.

Posted by Victoriana at Wednesday, 18 April 2018 at 11:38pm BST

The piece by Gerald McDermott is generally good, but it contains the curious remark that Anglican "orthodoxy" has moved to the Global South. This word (orthodoxy) is a popular buzzword in those circles; it is is really about the stance on same-sex issues. This otherwise reasonably balance article is written from the perspective of of ACNA and the Global South, who want to promote their version of "orthodoxy" and themselves as the purveyors of "real" Anglicanism.

Posted by Richard Grand at Thursday, 19 April 2018 at 12:07am BST

@Janet Fife There are many English settings of those verses, but perhaps the best and most famous is Thomas Tomkins' anthem from the early seventeenth century. It's usually known by its opening words "When David Heard."

Posted by rjb at Thursday, 19 April 2018 at 12:16am BST

Janet, I hope it was the version by Thomas Tomkins, one of the masterpieces of the English renaissance. My parish choir has sung it a couple of times for evensongs in Lent. It always brings tears to my eyes.

Posted by dr.primrose at Thursday, 19 April 2018 at 6:25am BST

Or, more recent settings by Joshua Shank and Eric Whitacre perhaps?

Posted by Father David at Thursday, 19 April 2018 at 7:51am BST

"When David heard ..." Those words are still on my heart 2.5 years after the death of my adult son. I too prefer Tomkins to Weelkes. I was formed in large part by cathedral music, but now I find it hard even to set foot in such places. The relentless smiley "relevance" information boards, the sometimes aggressive and snooty guides, the feeling that it's all about personalities of D and C and others, as evinced by the wearing of degree hoods by adult singers (banned, rightly so, at Carlisle in the 1960s/70s). Worst of all, the paucity of local accents and all that that implies. I know, I'm a prejudiced inverted snob ...

Posted by Stanley Monkhouse at Thursday, 19 April 2018 at 8:28am BST

Re Stanley Monkhouse and the accents thing. If what he means is not so much 'the paucity of local accents' but the preponderance of RP ones in cathedrals, I sympathise. God forbid that our cathedrals should be 'local churches for local people': it's good if the clergy and others represent different cultures and accents. But it is even worse if they are middle-class fortresses.

Posted by David Emmott at Thursday, 19 April 2018 at 10:29am BST

Thank you to the knowledgeable people who supplied title and composers for 'When David Heard'. I have listened to both of them on YOUTube and am pretty sure it was the Weelkes. They are both beautiful and very moving.

Reminds me of Ben Jonson's poem on the death of his 7-year-old son: 'O, could I lose all father now...'

Churches that only do positive hymns, music & readings miss so much of the richness of our tradition - and an opportunity. to minister meaningful to people for whom life is not all rosy. Sometimes lament really hits the spot.

Posted by Janet Fife at Thursday, 19 April 2018 at 10:36am BST

As a chorister and occasional conductor, I can only add that Tomkins' setting is so powerful that it is almost impossible to perform. If you start thinking about the words you will be unable to sing them.

Whitacre actually quotes Tomkins' great cry 'oh my son' in rising thirds in his setting.

Posted by Iain McLean at Thursday, 19 April 2018 at 12:28pm BST

The Reverend Canon Simon Butler, Prolocutor of the Province of Canterbury is advising us "facing up to clericalism." Where can I buy a new irony detector, as mine is now irreparably damaged?

Posted by ExRevd at Thursday, 19 April 2018 at 6:11pm BST

McDermott says “Late medieval Catholicism distorted all these things. It taught semi-Pelagianism, the idea that our unaided works cooperate with Christ’s works to save us.” It is definitely not true that “late medieval Catholicism” taught semi-Pelagianism. I’m not even aware of significant figures who did?

Posted by Russell Dewhurst at Thursday, 19 April 2018 at 6:55pm BST

I am trying to find the piece on Google Music. Are we talking about When David Heard?

Posted by Kate at Thursday, 19 April 2018 at 11:07pm BST

It's a great sadness and loss that so many churches have abandoned Prayer Book Evensong. I'd guess that the vast majority of C of E churches now have no Sunday evening BCP worship on offer.

Posted by Father David at Friday, 20 April 2018 at 8:30am BST

Kate: yes. When David Heard by Thomas Tomkins or Thomas Weelkes.

There may be bootleg copies of When David Heard by Eric Whitacre, which is in copyright.

Posted by Iain McLean at Friday, 20 April 2018 at 11:17am BST

ExRev: I’m not quite sure why you find it difficult to accept my remarks about clericalism. The use of my title and post in the article is a choice of the editor of Via Media - a lay woman - and nothing to do with me. Perhaps you might temper your cynicism and accept that people are sincere in what they say.

Posted by Simon Butler at Friday, 20 April 2018 at 4:43pm BST

Kate, here's a link to the Weelkes. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tRA52VS8a-Q

Posted by Janet Fife at Friday, 20 April 2018 at 5:32pm BST

Simon: sincere apologies that my cynicism (with which I wrestle constantly) has hurt you. My attempt at wit was rather crass.

The structures of the church are part of its own problem (and I used to be part of the problem myself - a lot of what you wrote hit home). Yet they have to be part of the solution too, and your essay shows how that is held in tension. I wonder what the answer is. Beyond my cynicism, I really don’t know, and I feel sad too to be far reminded from dedicated and patient attempts to walk in the way. Thanks for your words and sorry for mine.

Posted by ExRevd at Friday, 20 April 2018 at 7:12pm BST

"The use of my title and post in the article is a choice of the editor of Via Media - a lay woman - and nothing to do with me. Perhaps you might temper your cynicism and accept that people are sincere in what they say."

Simon, thank you for clarifying that as I found your piece refreshing but, like ExRevd, felt the use of the "Reverend Canon" in the byline undermined everything. I suggest you take up the issue with the ViaMedia editor. I am pleased to hear that you genuinely meant what you wrote.

Posted by Kate at Friday, 20 April 2018 at 9:43pm BST

Simon, my sympathies. I didn't use my title in a recent letter to the Church Times, but they put it in anyway. Clericalism won't be easy to beat.

Posted by Janet Fife at Saturday, 21 April 2018 at 8:59am BST
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