Orchestral Eucharist in Hereford Cathedral

Sunday 7th May
I attended the Orchestral Eucharist at the Cathedral. This is an annual Service for the Cathedral’s Feast of Consecration. Although there is some debate about the precise year in which the consecration of the Cathedral took place, the date of 11th May (or the nearest Sunday) has for centuries been the occasion of this celebration.
As always, the music was outstanding. The orchestra, led by Hazel Davis, accompanied the Cathedral Choir and soloists Lucy Bowen, Susanna Spicer, James Oxley and Alex Ashworth in Haydn’s Schöpfungsmesse or Creation Mass (so called because for the Qui tollis peccata mundi section Haydn re-used the music of Adam and Eve’s final duet in the oratorio The Creation. As the Dean told us in his sermon, this so scandalised the Empress Maria Theresa that she had Haydn re-compose that section for her own personal copy!
The Dean’s sermon centred upon the special place of cathedrals in worship and in communities. They are places of calm, peace and prayer, but they can also be catalysts for challenging assumptions and encouraging fresh thinking. As someone remarked after the Service, they cater for their regular congregations, but also for “entry-level Christianity” – you can go to a cathedral without being “labelled” as you might be in a small parish. As an assistant priest in an eight-parish benefice you would rightly expect me to be supportive of parish worship, but it is also right to celebrate our own wonderful Cathedral, its worship and its music.
And – before a drinks party hosted by the Hereford Cathedral Perpetual Trust in the Bishop’s Garden – it was music that ended the Service, with Peter Dyke performing a spectacular improvisation on the last hymn O Praise Ye the Lord – ten minutes of superb musical invention with the hymn-tune returning in the last few bars on the trumpet stop!