Thursday, 2 February 2012

Merry rang the hymn

What I said yesterday about hymns for Candlemas notwithstanding, there is one piece of music which is supremely appropriate: any and all versions of the Nunc Dimittis, the Song of Simeon. For me - as, I imagine, for anyone who has sung time after time through the unchanging form of Choral Evensong - the words of the Nunc Dimittis and the Magnificat are 'graven within my heart' like nothing else.

This, from Gibbons' Second Service, is one of the first settings I learned, and my favourite:

And I'll include this one too, by T. Tertius Noble, not because I like it (though I do, very much) but for the Ely connection:

Today is, after all, the anniversary of The Carol of King Canute, sung (though not really) at Ely on the Feast of the Presentation in the year - let's say 1020. Noble was organist and choirmaster at Ely nearly 900 years later and set an adaptation of the carol to music.

Merie sungen ðe muneches binnen Ely
ða Cnut ching reu ðer by.
Roweþ cnites noer the lant
and here we þes muneches sæng!

O merry rang the hymn
Across the fenlands dim;
O joy the day!
When Cnut the king sailed by,
O row my men, more nigh
And hear that holy cry,
Sing Gloria!

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