Singing returns to York Minster – with three world premieres

8 Sep 2020 @ 8.00 am
| Entertainment

World premiere performances of three specially commissioned anthems will signal to the world that choral singing is back at York Minster – after the first break in 360 years. 

The three anthems will be premiered at Evensong performances by the adult singers of the York Minster choir. 

It follows a six-month hiatus on the choir’s performances caused by the Covid emergency.

Tomorrow (Wednesday 9 September), the choir will perform O sing unto the Lord a new song by Cornish composer Becky McGlade.

Thursday (10 September) will mark the first performance of Now cheer our hearts this eventide, Lord Jesus Christ, composed by Philip Moore, organ emeritus of York Minster.

And Friday (11 September) will be the premiere of After this, we will return by Cambridge composer, Sarah MacDonald.

The boy and girl choristers will return to their singing in the Minster later this month.

Historic moment

The last sung service in the Minster was on 15 March 2020. 

Robert Sharpe, director of Music at York Minster said: “The last break in singing in cathedrals was 360 years ago – the period between the execution of Charles I on 30 January 1649 and the Restoration of the Monarchy with Charles II in London on 29 May 1660 – when the Puritans outlawed choral music in worship.

“The Act of Uniformity in 1662 restored earlier Church of England liturgical practice including choral singing. Singing in the Minster continued throughout both World Wars and even after the catastrophic fire of July 1984 when choral services sung by the York Minster Choir continued in our sister church, St Michael-le-Belfrey.

“Choral music is at the heart of worship in the Minster: the virus stopped everything.”
He added:

  • There is a real sense of anticipation and excitement at the Minster.

    After such a long time without singing, to come back with three remarkable new compositions is both a great honour and a great privilege.

Reserve your place

In recent weeks, the 11am congregation has numbered more than 100 and is expected to increase as soon as choral singing resumes. 

In order to safely maintain the guidelines for social distancing, a reservation system will be introduced from Sunday 27 September for the most popular Sunday services – Matins at 10am, the Eucharist at 11am and Evensong at 4pm.

Patricia Dunlop, director of visitor experience at York Minster, said: “Our priority is to enable everyone to keep safe as we return to worship in the Minster and to adhere to the social distancing guidelines currently in force.

“Covid-19 has affected virtually every aspect of our lives, and this change is just one more adaptation that we have to make in order to enjoy Sunday worship in a safe manner, as we welcome choral music back to the Minster.”