Webcasts Evensong, Saturday 9 October 2021 This webcast includes the Service in B flat by Henry Purcell and Benjamin Britten's anthem Rejoice in the Lamb, which sets a visionary text by Christopher Smart. The voluntary is Chant de joie by Jean Langlais. Open in pop-up player The texts of the psalms can be found here (opens in a new tab or window). Text of the anthem Benjamin Britten seems to have been drawn to unusual texts in his choral writing, and this is certainly true in the case of Rejoice in the Lamb, whose words are taken from the longer poem Jubilate Agno by the 18th-century writer Christopher Smart (1722–71). Smart suffered from what would today be called manic depression or bipolar disorder, but in those less enlightened days he was labelled a lunatic, and spent many years in an asylum. Even after his eventual release, his reputation for living beyond his means pursued him, and he spent the last years of his life in a debtors’ prison. Smart’s poetry describes his relationship with nature and God in a visionary, almost ecstatic way. His delight in the natural world can be seen in his numerous references to flora and fauna. After an opening chorus, where Smart links various figures from the Old Testament with the animal kingdom, Britten sets three solo sections: first, a delightfully sinuous portrayal of the cat (soprano); second, a jaunty depiction of a bravely defiant mouse (alto); and finally a beautiful and lyrical evocation for tenor of the wonder of flowers. Then comes an intensely personal chorus, where Smart identifies his suffering with that of Christ, and writes that ‘he that was born of a virgin’ will deliver him out of his ‘twelve hardships’. This is followed by a somewhat curious bass recitative where four letters of the alphabet are linked to different qualities of God. The last three, ‘king’, ‘love’ and ‘music’ are all equated with their initial letters, but the connection between H and ‘a spirit’ is rather less obvious, until one realises that this is a piece of word-play (something which clearly delighted Smart), and that the line can also be read as ‘for haitch is aspirate’. The work ends with Smart’s own ‘Hallelujah’ chorus – ‘from the hand of the artist inimitable’. After Smart’s death, his nephew, Christopher Hunter, wrote, ‘I trust he is now at peace; it was not his portion here.’ I Rejoice in God, O ye Tongues; Give the glory to the Lord, and the Lamb.Nations, and languages, and every Creature in which is the breath of Life.Let man and beast appear before him, and magnify his name together.Let Nimrod, the mighty hunter, bind a leopard to the altar and consecrate his spear to the Lord. Let Ishmail dedicate a tyger, and give praise for the liberty in which the Lord has let him at large. Let Balaam appear with an ass, and bless the Lord his people and his creatures for a reward eternal. Let Daniel come forth with a lion, and praise God with all his might through faith in Christ Jesus. Let Ithamar minister with a chamois, and bless the name of him that cloatheth the naked. Let Jakim with the satyr bless God in the dance.Let David bless with the bear the beginning of victory to the Lord, to the Lord the perfection of excellence.Hallelujah from the heart of God, and from the hand of the artist inimitable, and from the echo of the heavenly harp in sweetness magnifical and mighty. II For I will consider my cat Jeoffry.For he is the servant of the living God, duly and daily serving him.For at the first glance of the glory of God in the East he worships in his way.For this is done by wreathing his body seven times round with elegant quickness.For he knows that God is his Saviour.For God has blessed him in the variety of his movements.For there is nothing sweeter than his peace when at rest.For I am possessed of a cat, surpassing in beauty, from whom I take occasion to bless Almighty God. III For the Mouse is a creature of great personal valour.For – this is a true case – cat takes female mouse, male mouse will not depart, but stands threat’ning and daring. If you will let her go, I will engage you, as prodigious a creature as you are.For the Mouse is a creature of great personal valour.For the Mouse is of an hospitable disposition. IV For the flowers are great blessings.For the flowers have their angels, even the words of God’s creation.For the flower glorifies God and the root parries the adversary.For there is a language of flowers.For the flowers are peculiarly the poetry of Christ. V For I am under the same accusation with my Saviour – For they said, he is besides himself.For the officers of the peace are at variance with me, and the watchman smites me with his staff.For silly fellow, silly fellow, is against me, and belongeth neither to me nor to my family.For I am in twelve hardships, but he that was born of a virgin shall deliver me out of all. VI For H is a spirit and therefore he is God.For K is king and therefore he is God.For L is love and therefore he is God.For M is musick and therefore he is God. VII For the instruments are by their rhimes.For the shawm rhimes are lawn fawn moon boon and the like.For the harp rhimes are sing ring string and the like.For the cymbal rhimes are bell well toll soul and the like.For the flute rhimes are tooth youth suit mute and the like.For the bassoon rhimes are pass class and the like.For the dulcimer rhimes are grace place beat heat and the like.For the clarinet rhimes are clean seen and the like.For the trumpet rhimes are sound bound soar more and the like. For the Trumpet of God is a blessed intelligence and so are all the instruments in heaven.For God the Father Almighty plays upon the harp of stupendous magnitude and melody.For at that time malignity ceases and the devils themselves are at peace.For this time is perceptible to man by a remarkable stillness and serenity of soul. VIII Hallelujah from the heart of God, and from the hand of the artist inimitable, and from the echo of the heavenly harp in sweetness magnifical and mighty. Hallelujah. We are very grateful to the Perpetual Trust for their support of the music of Hereford Cathedral. To find out more about the work of the Trust or to make a gift to further support our choral foundation please click here. About our webcasts The recording of services began in the autumn of 2015, when a new sound system was installed in the cathedral. These were made available on an occasional basis on our Soundcloud page. Our current aim is to make a different service available each week and, in this way, we seek to allow those unable to be with us in person to participate in the worship that is central to the life of Hereford Cathedral. It is important to note that in these recordings, the listener hears exactly what they would have heard had they been present at the service itself. No extra rehearsal is undertaken beforehand, and no editing takes place afterwards. An order for Choral Evensong can be downloaded here. 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