Services

The usual pattern of services is:

Sunday 

10.30am Choral Parish Eucharist 

We are currently worshipping in person in church as well as streaming the service over Facebook.  There is no singing at present due to virus risks.

 

Please note: the following events and services are currently suspended due to the Corona Virus pandemic.  Please check back for updates.

Monday 

6.30pm St Mark's Horizon Voices Community Choir (Term time) 

8pm Pints of View at the Elgin Pub, Maida Vale

Tuesday

10:00-11:30 Little Lions

12noon Eucharist 

12:30pm Coffee Hour

Thursday

7pm   BCP Eucharist 

In order to visit us

St Mark's Hamilton Terrace

St Mark's Church
114 Hamilton Terrace
London
NW8 9UT

Please call the Administrator on: 020 7624 4065 to enquire about bookings.

Office Hours:

Tuesday:   10am-3pm

Thursday: 10am-3pm

To discuss weddings, Christenings or to speak to a priest for any other reason Tel: 020 7328 4373 (vicar) Please note: the vicar is unable to help with hall bookings.

E-mail the parish office on: admin@stmarks.london

Or use our contact form.

Music Notes 

Check back here regularly to find out what music we are playing this week at St Mark's Hamilton Terrace.

Sunday 20th September

 

Hans Leo Hassler (1564-1612) - Missa super “Dixit Maria”

 

Hassler was, in terms of the development of music, one of the most important German composers of the late Renaissance/early Baroque. Born in Nurenburg, and given his earliest musical tuition by his father, he decided to continue his musical studies in Italy, moving to Venice. He arrived at the peak of the Venitian School, where styles like polychoralism (writing for two or more antiphonal choirs) were flourishing. Hassler was in fact the first German composer of note to study in Italy: many others followed, including Heinrich Schutz, leading to a strong Italian creativity in German composition. The use of styles picked up in Venice, (polychoral writing, concertante writing, and a freer compositional ethos based on emotion) would shift the German music from the prima prattica of the Renaissance (the old school - very structured polyphony) to the much more vibrant styles which characterised Germany in the era of JS Bach.

 

Hassler himself was a bit of a religious conundrum: he was Protestant, but worked, on his return to Germany, as a conductor and organist at a Catholic church in Augsberg. All of his choral writing of the time was dedicated to Christian Fugger, his boss at the church, and ended up being a mix of the Catholic and Protestant styles of the time.  Aside from allowing his music to be performed in both churches, this breathes real life into his writing: we end up with a composer who is combining the old school of Lassus and Palestrina, the austere Lutheran music of Germany, and the Protestant homophony and textual clarity with the free emotional writing and polychoral styles of Venice, the Italian madrigals of the day, and the resplendent melismatic writing favoured by the Catholics.

 

Sunday’s mass is a mixture of many of these styles. It is a parody mass based on his four-voice motet Dixit Maria (Maria said [to the angel…]). Various parts of the mass setting are taken directly from the motet itself (the very start of the Gloria, the end of the Hosanna, and the writing at Jesu Christe are the most obvious ones), but the rest is freely composed in the style of the stile antico of Palestrina and Lassus, on the surface at least. It is exceptional imitative polyphony. Whilst the stile antico may be the predominant influence on the mass, most of the other elements discussed above are here, too. The Protestant clarity of text is prevalent throughout, with the bulk of the work written homophonically, but there are moments of musical flourish where melismatic writing appears out of nowhere. The final section of the Gloria, for example, is full of cascading scales (at cum sancto spiritu), and the final amen, though much shorter, reminds me of the end of the Credo of Palestrina’s Missa Papae Marcelli. Flowing scales at the end of a work are also a thing of the Italian baroque - think of the end of most of the choral movements of Monteverdi’s Vespers, for example. 

 

The real interest for me, however, is in the rhythm: the mass is full of Madrigalian dance, alongside the more expected changes between phrases written in 2 and in 3 (a common device in the Renaissance, used frequently by the English Tudors). The crucial thing when performing is to forget, certainly with modern publishing, that bar lines exist at all. The only way to find all of the dance rhythms is to completely ignore the bar lines and focus solely on your own phrase - if you aim for the correct syllable of each word you will find the dance rhythms.

 

Here is a recording of the Gloria, sung by the Ensemble Vocal Europeen de la Chapelle Royale/Herreweghe: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PBw7R1f9gjY 


 

Sir Edward Cuthbert Bairstow (1874-1946) - Jesu, the very thought of Thee

 

Edward Bairstow was one of the most prolific British church composers of the Victorian era. Born in Huddersfield, he left Yorkshire to study at Oxford University (at Balliol College), and on graduating studied the organ at Westminster Abbey. His career in music began, as with many church musicians, in London (at the church of All Saints, Norfolk Square, held concurrently with his time at the Abbey), before heading to Wigan Parish Church. In 1906 he was appointed organist of Leeds Parish Church, and from then on spent the rest of his career in his native Yorkshire, his final appointment being at the wonderful York Minster. He was so ensconced in Yorkshire that he turned down the post of Organist of Westminster Abbey, instead recommending his friend Ernest Bullock for the job.

 

Bairstow was known as a slightly terse chap, very economical both in how he structured his days, and in how he performed. As an organist, he made sure that no energy was wasted, and all unnecessary movements were to be removed from his technique. This element of his personality makes its way into his written music: there is never anything of distraction in his music. It is all about the text, about the functionality of his music within the liturgy, and about bringing the tune out clearly, especially in those works of his which are based on plainchant melodies. Bairstow long railed against music which did not appear to have any meaning for the church, in particular the music of composers such as Arthur Sullivan, whose church music Bairstow called “Stupid nonsensical music [that] has driven thousands of people out of church”, claiming it was more suited to light opera. Stylistically, Bairstow’s music is rooted in the Germanic style, the melody often in the top part with the lower voices accompanying, or simply in unison with organ accompaniment. His harmony is rich and romantic, but never stretches too far -  I hear a lot of Brahms in Bairstow’s music. Bairstow focused on liturgical music for almost his entire career: He did write a little instrumental music, but the chamber music he wrote is long out of print: the only surviving instrumental music we have of his is for the organ. 

 

This Sunday’s anthem is a bit of a rarity within Bairstow’s oeuvre: it is an unaccompanied miniature, and it shows off Bairstow’s mastery of both text-setting and writing for a particular building. The opening page has three tenuto markings (notes which are held slightly) on the word “thought”, arguably the most important word in the first sentence. In a smaller building it is easy to get the text across without too much effort, but in a larger building (it was written during his time at Leeds Parish Church) the tenuto would allow the choir to linger on the word long enough to allow the echo to carry it across the church. The music begins semplice, only starting to grow at the word “sweetness”, where Bairstow introduces a little more harmonic richness to go alongside the change of dynamic. As the piece heads towards its apex, it is the tessitura which Bairstow uses to shape the work. From the moment the choir begins singing “but sweeter far Thy face to see” the range of each individual part gets dramatically higher, before returning again as Bairstow brings the work to a calm and peaceful end.

 

Here is, appropriately, the choir of York Minster/John Scott Whitely: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2zcmA-s6SQ0  very

 

 

Dan Collins
Countertenor - The Sixteen 
Director of Music (interim) - St, Mark's, Hamilton Terrace.

 

 

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