Turvey Evensong - 1 July 2007

Turvey ChurchSit back, relax, and imagine a Midsummer Sunday afternoon in a rural Bedfordshire village church together with tea, cake, scones with jam and cream; all washed down by Choral Evensong.

… Sounds idyllic, doesn’t it? Well, the weather over the last few weeks tried its utmost to thwart the plans of the RSCM Area Committee in providing such a treat in the guise of the latest Regional Evensong in Turvey, located just to the West of Bedford. Nonetheless, against all the odds, someone must have been looking after us, as the weather held off for the entire event. This was also quite fortunate in that sectional rehearsals were held both in the church and the Manor House a few hundred yards away up next to the Village Hall, and sodden robes would quite literally have put a dampener on the occasion.

Christopher Muhley put the choir of just under 100 choristers through their paces in a quite demanding, but nevertheless rewarding, selection of some of the best in English church music, which included Responses by Richard Ayleward, Psalm 60 (of deadly wine, Moab and washpot fame), Canticles by Stanford in the key of C, and that glorious anthem by John Ireland, Greater love. And, as if there was not already enough cake on offer, the icing was provided by Paul Edwards, organist and choirmaster at All Saints Turvey, in the form of a very singable introit based on words by Percy Dearmer from the English Hymnal, Holy God, we show forth here. Paul very generously allowed those attending to take copies away with them for use in their own churches. Despite a severe case of ‘frog-in-throat’, Paul also ensured he spent time in welcoming everyone to Turvey.

The Revd Jo Spray – officially Priest-in-Charge to give her formal title, but just ‘Jo’ to those who know her – officiated at the service, and gave a very uplifting and timely address on the positive role of choirs within the framework of the church’s mission in terms of nourishing the soul as well as enhancing the liturgy and illuminating the Gospel. Jo also stressed that part of a Christian’s duties which often gets overlooked; namely, praising God through active and regular worship. Music has a vital part to play in all these roles.

These Regional Evensongs have now become an established part of the Royal School of Church Music’s work in the St Albans Area, and it was really fantastic to see choristers from so many churches represented – the range of coloured robes on display was certainly very eye-catching, as the accompanying photographs reveal.

TurveyApart from the ladies who provided the refreshments (have I mentioned the cakes yet?) it is worth mentioning that the organist’s duties were shared by Paul Edwards, who played some organ miniatures expertly at the start of the service, and Andy Benoy, who accompanied the choir for the sung parts. Incidentally, it is unusual in a village the size of Turvey to find a four manual organ complete with Tuba stop on 11½ inches of wind pressure. Unsurprisingly, the temptation to use said tuba proved a tad irresistible. The result, for those not present, can best be summed up as “quite loud…” For those who were present, I trust your ears have now returned to normal.

Please take a look at the photographs that accompany this report, and also watch this space for details of the next Regional Evensong. Who knows – it could be in a church near you!

*** Event reviewed by Andy Benoy ***

Some photos taken at the event © Colin Scott - Sharnbrook St. Peter