4 October 2010

Creaky Hinge, shakey Bracket; but Bourne Street is truly glorious

As I sat on the 'bus into London yesterday (trains are a problem on Sundays) in order to preach at S Mary's Bourne Street, I fell to musing upon Johnny Hind's Sodality of SS Wilfrid and Hilda. It occurs to me that names somehow achieve their own resonances, which are hard to shake out of one's mind. Is it just me, or is Wilfrid a rather 'wet' name with which few parents would now saddle their infant sons? And does Hilda have a decided old-fashioned sound, perhaps evoking visions of aged maiden aunts? I was planning, on that first Sunday in October, to preach on Our Lady of Victories ... I will not insult readers of this blog by explaining why ... and I found myself wondering if the Sodality would have a more virile sound to it if Johnny had called it the Legion of S Pius V, evoking memories of the resolute Pontiff who excommunicated Elizabeth Tudor and did a fair bit of no good to the navies of Ali Pasha.

What fun S Mary's Bourne Street is. For me it evokes the day after our Wedding, when we went to Mass there on Low Sunday 1967 ... and the learned, saintly figure of Eric Mascall, who lived in the presbytery during his retirement. The church is a glorious manifestation of triumphalist 1930s Anglo-Catholicism as expressed in the friendly and accessible baroque of Martin Travers. How good it was to hear the Asperges chant again; and, indeed, the music was truly superb (and varied) and the liturgy done with much love and care. Good, neat, correct, serving; and a large friendly congregation of all ages. As we sang the Angelus at the end, I wondered if this custom would be a distinctive piece of Patrimony and enrich other Christians. Incidentally, who was it that wrote that music which one hears so often in the C of E but never in popish churches? (Only the sermon was indifferent.)

Drinks afterwards with the congregation in the Library of the Presbytery (do RC presbyteries always have a large and well-stocked Library, or is this another piece of the Patrimony?). Then into the Dining Room; I can't remember when I last had such a Sunday lunch: fine fish, fantastic fowl, and fabulous pud. Or enjoyed such good conversation. I sat between two intelligent and distinctly fetching ladies; and there were a couple more across the table*. Intermittently two well-spoken and attractive young women relinquished the toys they had been left to play with in the Library and came to help eat chocolate. I disgraced myself thoroughly by failing to notice how time was flying; and was more than moderately horrified when finally I looked at my watch. I fled in replete and vinous embarrassment.


*Oops ... how one can give oneself away! Truly, the male company was pretty top class - urbane, witty, informed - too!


William Tighe said...

Werd ich zum Augenblicke sagen:Verweile doch! du bist so schon! Dann magst du mich in Fesseln schlagen,. Dann will ich gern zugrunde gehn!

TheOldCrusader said...

I think the problem is how English pronounciation has developed.

If one says "Wilfrid" or "Harold Godwinson" they sound rather tame.

But if one says "VILL FRRITT" or
"HAARRALD GOTTVINE'S SOHNE" they become much more virile.

Sir Watkin said...


Technically it's German pronunciation that has developed, at least in the the matter of the pronunciation of W (the key element in your argument).

English preserves the original; German has innovated. (Ditto for voiced final consonants.)

asshur said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Unknown said...

I too have wondered where the music of the Angelus comes from. Each church seems to do a slightly different version although the most florid and fun is that sung at Bourne Street (I was given a copy a couple of years ago!). Perhaps I am biased, but I think the next best is the one that I did in the early 1970s for St Barnabas Hove. It obviously originated somewhere but nobody seems to know where. Perhaps the exceedingly musical Fr Robert Meade of Worthing had something to do with it (his neice is Mrs Brotherton)? Does anybody know? I would love to have the answer.

The music of the Walsingham Acclamation I found some years ago in its orginal form as a setting of the Palm sunday "Lauda, Jerusalem" in the Officium Hebdomadae Sanctae et Octavae Paschae Sum Cantu.

Contributor said...

"but never in popish churches"

The Angelus is sung in just the same way one encounters it in Anglo-Catholic parishes at The Holy Name (RC), Manchester at the end of the 11.00 a.m. Solemn Mass (Novus Ordo, ad orientem, three Sacred Ministers, etc.)

Indeed, I sang it there, with the packed congregation, only this past Sunday.

Glorious stuff. I wonder, too, where it comes from.

Fr Daniel Lloyd said...

It is patrimony, because it's basically a short Anglican chant, innit?

There are two basic forms of anglican chant, short and long, and one of the ways to practise the longer ones is to sing "1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10:10,9,8,7,6,5,4,3,2,1". It doesn't lurk in the Cathedral Psalter, though, so it may as easily be a pastiche as a genuine dusty article of patrimony. I am unable to detect a Gregorian melody underlying it, though ears keener than mine may do so.

Perhaps it's the work of a doughty mid-Victorian like Henry Smart, whose Magnificat (which is in the Cathedral Psalter) was transformed to such scurrilous effect by Pete 'n Dud as Derek and Clive.

Adrian Furse said...

I've heard it said that it is the work of Samuel Webbe. Though I've only ever seen manscript versions on the desk of an organ, and cannot confirm or deny the attribution.

Shane Fletcher said...

As Director of Music at the time that we began singing the Angelus at St Mary's, (and, incidentally, MC last Sunday when Fr Hunwicke came to preach,) I recall that I remembered the tune from my young days at St Nicholas, Guildford in the late 1960s and added the harmonies and descant for use at St Mary's. Graham Leonard was always keen on it and spread it around the USA; I received various requests for copies in anticipation, or after, his visits there and I have a wonderful letter from Fr Peter Laister at St Clement's Philadelphia about the panic when Graham Leonard arrived and insisted it be sung at mass that day. For many years it was sung at Bourne Street only in May (or the bits of May after Eastertide) and October as well as on special feasts. The opening is indeed in the shape of a "single" Anglican psalm chant but I'm not so sure about what follows. Samuel Webbe is certainly a possible composer. (By the bye, I suppose all musicians reading these notes will know that his hymn tune "Melcombe", commonly used for "New ev'ry morning" was originally composed for "O salutaris hostia"?)

Unknown said...

The nearest I can find to an Anglican chant that even vaguely fits it melodically is that set to Psalm 8 in the Parish Psalter (Ouseley - who was involved with St Barnabas Pimlico) but it is very vaguely similar. William W gave me my copy of the Bourne Street version when I was having lessons from him. It has always puzzled me that it seems to exist only as a kind of "oral - or even aural tradition". I know someone else who has a server at St Nicholas Guildford so I'll ghave a word with him.

Pastor in Monte said...

Shane Fletcher:
Indeed it is news to me that Melcombe is used for anything other than O Salutaris! The Valle Adurni knows no other custom.
That Webbe set the Angelus would surprise me. The translation of the prayers is not that traditionally used in the (Roman) Catholic tradition where, as our host so rightly reminds us, the notion of singing the Angelus is strange indeed.
I can't imagine why the Holy Name started the custom, Contributor. Patrimonial, perhaps, but let each community retain its own patrimony.

Marylebone Ordinariate Group said...

Two videos of the Angelus being sung at S Mary's, Bourne Street to the tune mentioned by Fr Hunwicke may be watched by clicking on the following links. The videos were shot a couple of weeks before Father's visit. No sign up to Facebook is required to view them.