Live music returns to BBC Radio 3 Choral Evensong for the first time since lockdown today, Wednesday 29 July at 3.30pm, when the station’s much-cherished programme of choral services features the first broadcast of a month-long residency at the church of St Martin-in-the-Fields in London’s Trafalgar Square.
Led by clergy from St Martin-in-the-Fields, including the vicar, the Revd Dr Sam Wells, the services included in the residency feature four professional London-based choral groups performing in strict compliance with the current government guidelines in terms of social distancing and without a congregation in the church, marking the return of live singing inside churches for broadcast, for the first time since places of worship in England temporarily closed their doors and religious services were suspended in March.
Today, nine-singer-strong St Martin’s Voices – based at Trafalgar Square’s church – open the first broadcast post-lockdown with the hymn ‘Lord of all hopefulness’ sung to the traditional Irish tune ‘Slane’, which was the final piece of music heard in St Martin’s the night before the church closed due to the coronavirus pandemic. Also included is the much loved Magnificat and Nunc dimittis in B minor by T. Tertius Noble.
The second live Evensong broadcast (on Wednesday 5 August) features an octet from the church of Great St Bartholomew – adjoining St Bart’s Hospital in London – presenting music including Arvo Part’s haunting setting of the Beatitudes, and ‘St Bartholomew’s Prayer’ by Sir Peter Maxwell Davies.
On Wednesday 12 August, members of the BBC Singers, conducted by Nicholas Chalmers, sing a service which includes an anthem by the late John Scott – St Paul’s Cathedral’s much missed choirmaster, on the fifth anniversary of his death.
The final live broadcast (Wednesday 19 August) is sung by The Gesualdo Six, a vocal consort of young, UK-based singers. The service begins with the world premiere of ‘Night Prayer’ by the group’s Director, Owain Park.
After first broadcast, the performances will be available on BBC Sounds for 30 days.