On November 15 at 11:15 a.m. the musical portions of the Eucharist (Kyrie, Gloria, Sanctus, and Agnus Dei) will be sung by the choir. While these are customarily sung by the entire congregation at St. James’s, in many churches, and throughout the majority of Christian history, these portions of the liturgy have been sung by the choir alone. Musicians over the centuries have composed thousands of exquisite settings of the service. We will sing Mass in G minor by Ralph Vaughan Williams.
Vaughan Williams played a very important role in the history of music in Britain by collecting and studying old English folksongs and by exploring music of the sixteenth century. Drawing upon these new sources, he infused English music with a new vitality, helping English composers to break the German Romantic mold. In addition to composing symphonies, choral works, operas, and ballets, Vaughan Williams made a major contribution to the church’s hymnody. He was the editor of The English Hymnal (1906) and composer and arranger of numerous hymns, thirty-three of which appear in Hymnal 1982. Mass in G minor is one of Vaughan Williams finest compositions. Composed in 1922, it is one of the first English Mass settings since the sixteenth century – the era of William Byrd and Thomas Tallis. The work combines old and new musical methods, looking back to the 16th century and also ahead to modern composers as diverse as Arvo Part and John Rutter.