Lenten Evensong

by Derek E. Nickels, DMA, Director of Music

Our annual Lenten Evensong will be February 24th at 5:00 p.m.  This year's service will include the Magnificat and Nunc dimittis in F major by the English composer George Dyson, and Gabriel Fauré's Requiem, Op. 48.
Sir George Dyson (1883-1964) was a well-respected composer of choral and church music.  He was born in Halifax, Yorkshire, England and spent four years
(1904-1908) in Italy and Germany on a Mendelssohn Scholarship before beginning a career as a music teacher in the public schools of Wellington and Winchester.  He was once a student of the esteemed Charles Villiers Stanford at the Royal College of Music and later served as the College's director from 1937-1952.  Dyson's Magnificat and Nunc dimittis in F major was first published in 1945 and matches the serene and subtle character of Fauré's Requiem.

Composers have written settings of the Requiem Mass since around the 16th century when the austere beauty and polyphony of Renaissance reached its full flowering potential with the works of Palestrina, Lassus and Vittoria.  By the end of the 18th century, Mozart and Cherubini added a more theatrical flair to this genre, albeit within the context of the very sacred element.  The theatrical and operatic nature of the massively orchestrated Requiems by Berlioz and Verdi brought the development of this genre to a pinnacle.  Brahms added his genius to the repertoire with his unique German Requiem, a large, multi-movement work for chorus and orchestra based on Biblical passages and written in memory of his mother.

However, the Requiem written by the very influential French composer Gabriel Fauré (1845-1924) stands apart from earlier examples in this repertoire for its subtlety and serenity.  Unlike other Requiems by other composers which utilize the Dies irae Sequence, a very dramatic and often bombastic illumination of the day of wrath and judgment, Fauré concentrates on the idea of eternal rest.  Begun in 1887 after the death of his father, Fauré completed the first of three versions in early 1888.  Fauré, who served as organist-choirmaster at the very fashionable Madeleine in the Paris and professor of composition at the Paris Conservatory, conducted the first performance of this first version of his Requiem at the Madeleine in 1888.  In 1893, Fauré added the Offertoire and Libera me movements to comprise a second version.  Finally, a third version was urged by the music publisher Hamelle for a performance at the Trocadéro Palace during the Paris World Exhibition in 1900 that included a fuller orchestration.  We will be using the 1893 version with Fauré's original chamber instrumentation (organ, strings and harp), a project realized and edited by John Rutter.

While all of our Evensongs are presented as offerings to God, this particular Evensong will be unique since we will be presenting a setting of a Requiem.  This will be an opportunity to remember our loved ones who have gone before us.  Please feel free to contact me (denickels@holycomforter.org) with a list of names of your loved ones so we can include them in a List of Remembrances in the Evensong bulletin.