...and the busy world is hushed

Under the direction of Colin Lynch, the Choirs of St. Paul's School sing music for eventide, featuring music which is an integral part of the SPS experience. With a strong choral heritage, St. Paul's is a fully-residential school founded in the Episcopal tradition for grades 9-12.

 

 

The unsurpassed architectural splendor of the Chapel of St. Peter and St. Paul and the music performed in it have done much to define the sacred purposes and special ethos of St. Paul’s School. This recording permits us to listen again and again to the hymns and anthems and other works associated with St. Paul’s, especially those sung at evening services.

And the Busy World Is Hushed takes it title from a prayer by John Henry Newman:

O Lord, support us all the day long, until the shadows lengthen, and the evening comes, and the busy world is hushed, and the fever of life is over, and our work is done. Then in thy mercy, grant us a safe lodging, and a holy rest, and peace at the last. Through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.

Choosing a phrase from Newman’s beautiful prayer has particular resonance at St. Paul’s. It was customarily said at Sunday Evensong, a fixture of School life for generations. Graduates over many decades recall hearing it spoken by the Rector at the time, each pronouncing Newman’s words with unique sonority and cadence.

The prayer was heard less frequently after the 1960s (because Evensong was no longer a weekly requirement) yet was given new life at St. Paul’s by a choral setting commissioned by James A. Wood, who, as Director of Music in the Chapel and Head of the Music Department, greatly shaped the School’s music for over two decades. The composer from whom Wood requested the setting, Robert Powell, was one his predecessors. Powell thus brought an appreciation for the musical forces that would realize the work and the extraordinary setting in which it would be sung. His serene miniature became a favorite of SPS singers and listeners beginning with the first performance, in 1979, from photocopies of the handwritten manuscript.

Charles Scribner ’69, looking for a distinctive way to mark the School’s sesquicentennial, also called upon Powell, commissioning a choral setting of the School Prayer, which begins, “Grant, O Lord, that in all the joy of life we may never forget to be kind.” Scribner was steeped in St. Paul’s culture and also an author, editor, and publisher. With an eye toward widening the anthem’s appeal beyond SPS, he suggested the anthem’s title, “The Joys of Life.”

SPS favorites include the School hymn, James Carter Knox’s irresistible tune for “Love Divine, All Loves Excelling,” here heard with the entire School singing; this recent arrangement by Boston-based composer Richard Webster preserves a fine descant by Channing Lefebvre, another former organist and choirmaster. The Last Night Hymn, “Savior, Source of Every Blessing” is sung, as is the School anthem, Knox’s “O Pray for the Peace of Jerusalem.” Knox was in the SPS Form of 1865 and went on to formal musical training. Returning as a master and School organist, he spent a total of a staggering 65 years in Millville. His “Pray for the Peace” is a Victorian composition of eclectic parts held together by reverent custom: it has been performed at Anniversary each spring since the 1880s.

Pieces from the School’s Anglican musical heritage include Tallis’s Te Lucis Ante Terminum, Parry’s “Never Weather-Beaten Sail,” and an evening canticle by Dyson. But Chapel music draws on other idioms, too, and these are refreshingly represented by “Lay Me Low” and “Abide with Me.” An organ voluntary is also properly offered. It is played by Colin Lynch, the latest in a long line of accomplished musicians who have served the School.

Evening Chapel services, in a variety of forms, have long cast a spell at St. Paul’s. These include Sunday Evensong, when it was weekly; the Last Night Service at the end of term; the Christmas services – Lessons & Carols and the Pageant; and Evensong today, though occasional rather than weekly, remains cherished. St. Paul’s is now more socially and religiously diverse than it once was, and these services help the institution hold fast to its founding ideals. The School also admirably sustains a firm commitment to the musical and other arts.

And so, find a way to hush the busy world, and listen to this collection of time-honored music rendered with skill and fervor.


- Brian Regan, May 2010
Mr. Regan, a master from 1978-86, also assisted James A. Wood in leading choral music.

Album notes