Here is the recording of my sermon for Remembrance Sunday, given in Hertford College Chapel, Oxford, on Sunday 10 November 2013. In the context of an Oxford college, I touch on a couple of philosophical issues about war, something I most probably would not do in a church. I find this subject difficult, and am still not sure I put this in the best way I could.
Last night, I had the great privilege of celebrating our annual requiem mass here at Hertford College Chapel, Oxford. The Chapel Choir, Soloists and Players, conducted by Senior Organ Scholar Ed Whitehead performed André Campra‘s Messe de Requiem. Listen to the recording below.
Because of it themes of death and mortality, risen life and immortality, many composers have set the liturgical texts of the requiem to music. The requiem takes its name from the first line that is sung in the service: Requiem æternam dona eis, Domine, ‘Give them eternal rest, Lord’. The second line is et lux perpetua luceat eis, ‘and let light perpetual shine upon them’, and Campra focuses on the repetition of luceat, ‘shine’, as his keyword for the entire work. These two lines begin the introit, or entrance antiphon, but are repeated at various points in the service.
André Campra (1660–1744) was variously maître de musique in Toulon, his home town of Aix, Arles, Toulouse, Montpellier, Notre Dame de Paris and the chapelle royale of Louis XV. He excelled in composing opéra-ballets, and this musical style influenced his sacred music, much to the ire of his ecclesiastical patrons.
Campra’s Requiem is scored for a baroque chamber orchestra, choir and at vocal trio consisting of haute-contre, tenor and bass. Its movements include the usual ‘ordinary of the mass’: the Kyrie, Sanctus and Agnus Dei. Alongside these staples, he set the four proper antiphons for a requiem mass: the Introit, Gradual, Offertory and Communion antiphons. Strikingly, Campra omitted music for the lengthy requiem sequence Dies Iræ, with its fire-and-brimstone vision of the day of judgement, which had come to be seen as pastorally inappropriate. Neither did he set an excerpt from it, such as Lacrimosa or Pie Jesu. Instead, Campra’s glorious Offertory antiphon — the Domine Jesu Christe — takes centre stage, with surging, uplifting music as the priest goes to the altar and prepares bread and wine.
Here at Hertford College, Oxford, we sing Passion Carols on the last Sunday of term before the Easter vacation (Sunday of 8th Week of Hilary term, in Oxford-speak). We call them ‘Passion Carols’ because we insist that ‘carols’ are more than ‘Christmas carols’, and that Lent and Passiontide have elicited much popular devotional music on the suffering and death of Jesus Christ. Below, you can listen to the five choral pieces sung at that service. During the last piece — the African-American Spiritual Were you there? — the clergy remove their white robes and strip the altar and sanctuary of all furnishings and decoration.
As a Westcountry lad, and one rather taken by our folklore, I am gladdened to hear that Samantha Cameron has named her baby girl Florence Rose Endellion after the North Cornish village of St Endellion where the family were holidaying.
Endellion was a 6th century ascetic who lived her life in isolation with only a faithful cow for company. She subsisted entirely on her cow’s milk. Endellion came from a large family of saints, children of King Brychan: including Nectan who carried his head after being decapitated by cattle rustlers, Morwenna who carried a stone on her head to build her church and Clether who was an unremarkable hermit. One day, Endellion’s cow wandered off, trespassing on the lands of the Lord of Tregony, who killed the cow for the damage it did. On hearing this, Endellion’s godfather, King Arthur (yes, he of the Round Table), slew Tregony in a rage. Overcome by the slaughter, Endellion wept over the corpses of Tregony and her dear cow, and they were both restored to life. At her death, Endellion requested that her cow pull her funeral sled, and that she be buried where she stop, and that is where St Endellion’s Church stands today. There’s also an old chapel dedicated to Endellion on Lundy Island, opposite her brother Nectan’s stomping ground of Hartland. Cambridge’s famous Endellion Quartet is also named in her honour.
If you enjoyed the story of St Endellion, you might just like the story of St Sidwell of Exeter, and her sister St Juthwara who rubbed cheese on her breasts!