Renowned choir celebrates Taylor’s birth with Northern Ireland tour

Tuesday June 25th 2013

The Choir of Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge, directed by Dr Geoffrey Webber, will visit Northern Ireland on tour from July 5–7.

St George’s Parish Church, Belfast, Diocese of Connor, will host one of the choir’s engagements, a Service of Eucharist at 11am on Sunday July 7. The celebrant and preacher at the Eucharist will be the Dean of Caius, the Rev Dr Carolyn Hammond.

The choir has visited Northern Ireland on several occasions, and in the choir this year there are four Northern–Irish choral scholars so a visit this summer felt doubly appropriate!

Another reason for the choir’s visit on this occasion is the quatercentenary of the birth of Jeremy Taylor, one of the College’s most distinguished Fellows. The Dean of Caius has written: “Jeremy Taylor is among the most distinguished of all Caians, who began his College life as a sizar (a poor scholar), and afterwards became a Fellow.

“His intellectual and spiritual gifts made him one of the most influential Christian writers of the seventeenth century.His outlook was, in its time, remarkable for its ecumenism and support of religious toleration. Despite periods of difficulty both during the civil war (in which he was imprisoned for a time) he wrote tirelessly to commend Christian faith through devotional works remarkable for their practical usefulness to ordinary people.

“He composed the first English life of Christ, The Great Exemplar, mixing the story with reflection and prayer, as well as the two extraordinarily popular manuals of prayer, Holy Living and Holy Dying.”

Jeremy Taylor became Bishop of Down and Connor in 1661 (to which was added later the See of Dromore) and remained there until his death six years later.

The choir’s visit to Northern Ireland will be the culmination of the College’s Taylor celebrations, particularly in the form of a Choral Evensong recorded for BBC Radio 3, with a specially commissioned anthem setting words of Taylor.

The choir’s full schedule of engagements in Northern Ireland (one concert, and two church services) is as follows:

Friday 5 July, 7.30pm – St Peter’s Cathedral, Belfast BT12 4BU
To include Vaughan Williams’ Mass in G minor; anthems by Tallis, Blow and Purcell; Folksong arrangements; and organ music from Howells and Mulet.
Admission (payable at the door): £10 (£6 under 16s and concessions)

Sunday 7 July, 11:00am – St George’s Parish Church, Belfast BT1 2AG
The Choir will sing at the main Eucharist at St George’s on the 7th. The service lasts approximately 70 minutes.
The celebrant and preacher at the Eucharist will (by kind invitation) be the Dean of Caius, the Revd Dr Carolyn Hammond.

Sunday 7 July, 6:30pm – St Malachi’s Parish Church, Hillsborough BT26 6AE**
The Choir sings Evensong in the beautiful parish church of Hillsborough, with which Taylor was associated during his episcopate.
The music for the service comes largely from Taylor’s era of the early Restoration (John Blow, William Turner etc), which will allow us to make use of the church’s fine G P England (1795) chamber organ.
However, the anthem will be a setting of Taylor’s prayer O holy and ever–blessed spirit, composed by recent music graduate (of Emmanuel College) Joel Rust. This anthem was one of two commissioned by the College in celebration of the 400th anniversary of Taylor’s birth. The other, which shall not be sung at this service, was by Robin Holloway, a Fellow of Caius. Rust’s anthem sets a text written by Taylor in thanksgiving for the Annunciation, and it was premiered at Evensong in the College chapel on 5 May 2013. The theme of the text is particularly appropriate to be sung by the Choir, as the Annunciation (normally celebrated on 25 March) is the College’s feast of title.

**NB: The service at Hillsborough will be recorded by BBC Radio 3. The congregation should therefore be seated by 6.10pm. The service will be broadcast on Radio 3 on Wednesday 10 July at 3.30pm, and repeated on Sunday 10 July at 4pm.

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