The beauty and range of our music in Church makes us a very rich parish. Every Sunday we experience choral and organ music which is drawn from the established repertory of the best in classical sacred music - from the contemporary Arvo Part to medieval Hildegard von Bingen, all the bases are covered week by week with flair.
Our occasional ‘big music’ Sundays also serve to remind us of a range of full length church music in a liturgical context. The clergy and musicians devise ingenious ways of linking words and music, artfully tying together movements of choral music with Te Reo, the forms of the prayer book and our own prayers, hymns, and poetry. In this regard there is generally a lovely balance of ‘transporting music’ and the ‘reality’ of our intentions as parish.
The Schubert's Mass no 2 in G major (D167) performed recently was a shining example of this. This piece is very versatile: intended to be performed by singers and strings, it is more often accompanied with an organ. This was the version we enjoyed, performed by with Tom Chatterton (Music Director of St Matthew’s) conjuring up soft string-like sounds and thunderous roars (Credo) with the drawing of handfuls of stops and the flicker of swell pedals. It was one of those occasions when, in Tom’s skilled hands, the size and complexity of the Willis organ sounds both controlled and extravagant.
St Matthew’s Voices fully exploited the acoustics of St Matthew’s, performing in astationary half circle. The balance of voices within the ensemble was beautiful, with effortless solos achieved by subtle projection of chorus voices. The trio of the Benedictus was an enchanting example of the subtleties achieved by singers used to working with each other on a weekly basis.
On St Matthew’s Day we will have another major choral work within the liturgy. Gloria by Francis Poulenc (1961) will blend the vast colour of an orchestra, here played by organ and brass, with the chorus and solos taken by the small ensemble of singers. This is an enormously colourful work with six movements, mixing energetic rhythmic dance and haunting pathos. A great sacred work by Poulenc, a composer who was once described as “part monk, part rascal” and a perfect celebration of our Saint’s Day.
Tim McWhannell was organist of St Matthew's (1993–2000) and is currently a parishioner who delights in the liveliness of our parish music and liturgy. He is an organist for Auckland Rainbow Community Church.