Sarabande for the Morning of Easter

One of the glories of Herbert Howells to wish all my readers a happy Easter. I will shortly be going to my chapel to restore the Blessed Sacrament to its place in the hanging pyx above the altar from where it has lain in the Sepulchre since Good Friday (Use of Sarum). That little ceremony will be followed by Mass.

May this Easter bring us all increased faith and hope in these times of uncertainty and the continued scourge of the coronavirus.

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12 Responses to Sarabande for the Morning of Easter

  1. Stephen K says:

    May this Easter bring us all increased faith and hope in these times of uncertainty and the continued scourge of the coronavirus.

    Perhaps we might rather say, May this Easter bring us all increased faith and hope in these times of the certainty that our political leaders will try to perpetuate the scourge they have made of the coronavirus.

    I suppose there is always some good that can be seen in the darkest of places. I like to think more people have had their eyes opened to the pretensions of our leaders. But there’s a long way to go, before it gets better.

    Speaking of Jesus though, how attractive he seems at this moment in time (like all other moments!). I call to mind the beautiful hymn;


    Jesu dulcis memoria
    dans vera cordis gaudia:
    sed super mel et omnia
    Ejus dulcis praesentia.
    Nil canitur suavius,
    nil auditur jucundius,
    nil cogitatur dulcius,
    quam Jesus Dei Filius.
    Jesu, spes paenitentibus,
    quam pius es petentibus!
    quam bonus te quaerentibus!
    sed quid invenientibus?
    Nec lingua valet dicere,
    nec littera exprimere:
    expertus potest credere,
    quid sit Jesum diligere.
    Sis, Jesu, nostrum gaudium,
    qui es futurus praemium:
    sit nostra in te gloria,
    per cuncta semper saecula.

    (Sigh!)
    There is nothing more that needs to be said.

  2. David Llewellyn Dodds says:

    Belated thanks for this – new to me! And, written gloriously though at a tense and troubling time (whether before or after Easter 1940 my attempts at searching could not discover). Hoping you have had a joyful Easter week and after, despite these oppressive times

    • World War II must have been a dreadful experience at any level of life, whether for the soldiers, airman and sailors, or for the prisoners being so inhumanly treated and killed, or for the lonely organist and choirmaster doing what he could with many of his men called to active service. Evelyn Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited describes Charles Ryder after the end of his halcyon days, the failure of his marriage and the incertitudes of his service in the Army.

      Today, we relive something of the Spanish Flu years and the social alienation this disease has caused us. I could not imagine the dreariness of going to church with the masking and distancing. The only reason my own worship is “normal” is because I am alone at Mass. I have no congregation. In many ways, we seem to be reliving the 1920’s without the elegance of Les Années Folles. This time it will not be with memories of the Victorian and Edwardian eras but our time of nihilism.

      In spite of this mal-aise or dis-ease, Easter brings hope, faith and love into our cold and indifferent hearts, into our failed certitudes and the hopeful threshold to a “new world”.

  3. David Llewellyn Dodds says:

    I can’t remember if we discussed this, or you even introduced me to it, sometime, but it sprang to mind reading your description of “the lonely organist and choirmaster doing what he could with many of his men called to active service”:

    https://film.britishcouncil.org/resources/film-archive/message-from-canterbury

    Let us hope, humbly!

    • Since my childhood, I have been fascinated by the war. My grandfather was captured at Dunkerque in 1940 and spent the next 5 years in an Oflag near Linz. He suffered too much to talk about his experience at length. I have read a number of books about the rise of the dictators, especially Hitler, and how civilisation finally defeated them. On a philosophical level, I recommend Alan Jacobs, The Year of Our Lord 1943: Christian Humanism in an Age of Crisis. It was one thing to defeat the Nazis, another to find our humanity in the rubble. They must have been horrible days to live through. My mother saw planes shooting at each other over her home in Surrey in 1940. My father was at school and saw York railway station marshalling yards bombed. They were both lucky to be so young. Fr Montgomery Wright related a lot about his time as curate at Holy Trinity Hoxton during the war and going down to the air raid shelter with his flock. Brideshead Revisited beautifully describes the ending of an old world and the grimness of wartime.

      • David Llewellyn Dodds says:

        Thank you for this!

        I only lately learned there were two versions of Brideshead, and am now looking forward to reading the original.

        Have we ever talked about William Hilsley, who composed music while in IIag VIII in Silesia? This is the only performance I can find online of a part of the Ordinary of the Mass he composed, there for some priests with whom he was interned:

    • There is a Herbert Howells Appreciation Society on Facebook. Another thing to understand this fine gentleman was that he never really recovered from the loss of his son Michael (his hymn tune to All my hope on God is founded is named after Michael). I briefly met Howells in Worcester at the 1979 Three Choirs Festival and he signed a book of his music for me.

      • David Llewellyn Dodds says:

        His motet, ‘Take him, earth, for cherishing’, made me think of him as ‘recent’, but I had not registered how long-lived he was, nor, until I looked at the Wikipedia ‘List of compositions by Herbert Howells’, how active he was composing into the late 1970s, despite his enduring sorrow.

      • Here is an essay on Howells by Richard Lloyd, former organist of Durham Cathedral, who died today. Rest in peace. The Church Music of Herbert Howells.

      • David Llewellyn Dodds says:

        Belated thanks!

      • David Llewellyn Dodds says:

        What a fine address, with a vivid wealth of historical detail in little space about a living tradition of music, and succinct discussions of inidividual works that leave me wanting to embark on a course of listening to all I can find on YouTube while rereading them. And I am left wanting to know much more about Richard Lloyd, as well. Repeated thanks!

      • I think I once met Richard Lloyd when I was an apprentice at Harrisons. This gives some idea of him. The English church music world is unique in the world, rivalled perhaps only by Germany and Austria. It was a great privilege to have sung in choirs and to know the repertoire and the routine of Anglican services.

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