The Edington Festival of Music within the Liturgy 18 – 25 August 2002
The Festival Director’s Introduction
Welcome to this year’s Edington Festival of Music within the Liturgy. However long or brief your visit, I hope you will be touched by this very special place and the inspiring worship and music making.
After the focus of last year’s Festival on Christ’s teaching and ministry, by way of the Beatitudes, I wanted to explore next the concept of discipleship. In many ways, the life of St Peter is the ideal vehicle for this. He discovers both the joys and costs of discipleship, and has both his moments of revelation and his flawed moments of dismal inadequacy and failure. In that sense, he is perhaps the most human and certainly the most easily related to of the disciples. He has an intriguing, almost charming, balance of faith and foolishness, exaggerated by his impetuosity.
He is also one of the closest followers of Jesus: he is present at the defining moments of Christ’s ministry and our Lord clearly attaches huge significance to Peter’s discipleship. He is the rock on which Christ will build his church, to whom the keys of heaven arc entrusted, and when he is reinstated after the Resurrection, he is instructed to feed Christ’s flock.
We trace his discipleship and his presence during Christ’s ministry as we move through the week. On Monday, we mark the beginning of Peter’s discipleship: his calling to be a “fisher of men” and to follow Christ. This calling is linked with the very significant giving of a new name to Peter – he who was Simon, son of John, is now renamed “Cephas”, that is Peter, the rock. This change of name is of particular interest because in the Old Testament a change of name often denoted a change in someone’s relationship with God. Thus, in Genesis, Abram became Abraham and Jacob became Israel. These new names reflect new lives, as if beginning all over again. In the gospel passage from John which we will hear on Monday evening, we are also told that Jesus looked at Simon Peter when he renamed him. This was not some superficial glance, this was a look right at what this man was to become. Jesus looked at Simon, a rather rough and ready Galilean fisherman, and saw Peter, the rock on which his church down the centuries would be built.
This calling has a further meaning, in that Peter is to be God’s agent in restoring people to life, and will (like Isaiah in the Old Testament reading) be the mouthpiece of the truth he has just learnt in experience. Peter’s response mirrors Isaiah’s, recognising in the events a revelation of Israel’s God. In a fascinating essay in the ‘Literary Guide to the Bible’, Edmund Leech alerts us to the biblical resonances of Peter’s ministry as fisher of men. This is in relation to the parable of the net (Matthew 13, verses 47-50) where the process of being caught in the net is considered in parallel with judgement and the weighing of souls. Thus, as Leech puts it, “the mythologic of the apostolic fishermen troupe is that the fish in the lake are the souls of men crossing over from this world to the other … those who are caught in the net are the elect, who are saved; those who are not caught are damned”. Leech goes on to suggest that the name “Cephas” for Peter (Rock) is in fact a reference to the rock in the Wilderness from which flowed the water of life teeming with fish. This proposed metaphor is speculative, though entirely convincing despite the lack of scriptural corroboration.
It is interesting that Edmund Leech should mention Matthew’s Gospel, as this contains a number of blocks of unique material about Peter such as his sinking whilst walking out to Christ (see Tuesday evening) and his entrustment with the keys of heaven (see Sunday morning). Peter’s calling is followed on Tuesday by his confession of Christ, the eagerness of which is balanced by his failure to grasp Jesus’ prophecy of His own suffering and death. Christ turns at this point and delivers a stinging rebuke to Peter, chastising him for having in mind not the things of God but of men. This exemplifies Peter’s impetuous faith and foolishness, as does the gospel passage on Tuesday evening, when Jesus calms the storm. Peter springs out of the boat full of faith to greet his Lord, but when he sees the strength of the winds his faith fails, and he succumbs to the waves. Once again he is weighed down by the weight of human life, and begins to sink in its troubled waters.
This passage closes with the disciples’ collective recognition of Jesus as the Son of God, and the Transfiguration is this glory put into action, the Word going out to all people. Peter is privileged to be up on the mountain to see all that is revealed, to witness God’s blessing on Jesus’ Passion and Crucifixion, and to receive this confirmation of the message of the prophets.
It seems entirely appropriate on Thursday and Friday to mirror Peter’s involvement in Maundy Thursday and Good Friday. Jesus’ exposition of service to one another, symbolised by the washing of feet, prompts Peter towards a deeper understanding of what is happening. Peter’s subsequent threefold denial of Jesus, followed by the cock crowing and the Lord turning and looking at him, is surely one of the most poignant moments in the gospel narrative. The rashness of Peter’s recent promise to go with Jesus to “prison and death” is exposed, and Peter’s very human weakness of spirit laid bare.
Yet the Lord still sees the rock in Peter, and reinstates him after the Resurrection, pressing him three times with a simple, honest question, mirroring the threefold denial. This passage on Saturday also reflects back to Peter’s calling, and this final chapter of John’s Gospel is full of echoes: echoes back to the earthly ministry of Jesus and forward to the life of the Church after the Ascension. Peter has travelled far since those days: he has learnt the true cost of discipleship, and now takes up the charge that Jesus gives him without illusions and aware of the responsibility. He truly has become the “rock” on which the Church is to be built and will become a mighty apostle.
In concluding the Festival week with this image, we are presented with an opportunity to consider our own calling to discipleship, and our own faith – where it stands firm and where it wavers. We are fortunate here at Edington to be surrounded, in word, music, architecture, countryside and people, by so much to remind us of God’s grace and grandeur. In this way we are reminded of the Church being both a building and a people. This brings to mind those familiar words from the First Letter of Peter: “you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvellous light”. Worshippers at Edington hardly need reminding about the glories of its Priory Church. Not surprisingly, it featured in Simon Jenkins’ by now well known and widely read book of England’s thousand finest churches. This book itself throws up some interesting questions of relevance to our theme this week, and indeed to the Edington Festival. Churches can, and do, appeal to a wide and varied cross-section of people, and at Edington few can fad to be moved by this building’s noble architecture, its picture-perfect setting and its glorious interior. This truly is a house of God, and is so much more than a museum (a word which Jenkins uses of churches). It is a living building, inspiring us and our worship afresh every time we enter it.
Yet Simon Jenkins is right to suggest that “each person approaches a church with different emotions”. It can take a lot of courage to cross the threshold of a church, and to many a church may seem to be merely “a symbol of antiquity and conservation, seldom entered and constantly in need of repair”. But to even the most casual observer, these great buildings must speak of a history of devotion and faith, of offering the very best of our skill in craftmanship, art and music back to God, so that this past is brought to life and informs our future. We embrace the past to herald the future.
It is this very fact that a church can speak to people in different ways that makes them such powerful places: to T.S. Eliot a church was a place of intense holiness “tongued with fire beyond the language of the living”, whilst for John Betjeman its quality was “to bring us to our knees in prayer”. To an historian, such as Alec Clifton Taylor, a good church is as much a work of nature and art as a glory to God.
Churches are also about people: within their walls are reminders and the spirits of faith. In Jenkins’ words “they hold the hopes, prayers, agonies and joys of ordinary people”. One should reassert that the Church is a people, and not just a budding, and at Edington we have many reminders of this both in the local community and amongst Festival goers. My thanks as ever are due to all those who enrich the life of the Festival by giving so freely of their time and skill: to Peter Roberts and Clare Dawson our administrators, to choir directors Jeremy Summerly, Andrew Carwood and Robert Quinney, to organists Matthew Martin, Julian Thomas and Andrew Macinillan, to Ian Aitkenhead and Nick Flower for their work on the Companion, to the librarian Oliver Piper, to Joy and Michael Cooke, Jonathan Arnold, Andrew Carwood and Justin Lowe for their work for the Festival Association and to David Belcher, Jean Hall, John Barnard, Adrian Hutton, Christine Laslett, Antonia Southern, Pat Didcock, Gilbert Green, John d’Arcy and Jeremy Moore, who all do so much to ensure the Festival’s continuing success and to support the Director. We are also very grateful to the host families in the village and neighbouring area.
The past year has been one of remarkable stability amongst the directorate and administration, after a few years of changes, but it was with great sorrow that we all heard of the tragically premature death of Peter McCrystal, one of the Festival’s most distinguished, loyal and long-serving participants. Friday evening’s Requiem Mass is sung to plainchant in his memory, and the service has a strong focus on plainchant as befits the man who inspired, ran and shaped the Schola for so many years.
The Schola is central to the musical, liturgical and spiritual ethos of the Festival, and Peter’s skill, care and devotion set this in place. Andrew Carwood, Peter’s successor as Director of the Schola Cantorum. (and my eminent predecessor as Festival Director) has kindly written an appreciation of Peter and his work.
The music for the week is as ever wide-ranging. I am particularly delighted that, with the financial support of the recently formed Festival Association, we have been able to commission a new anthem from Oxford-based composer Simon Whalley. It is based on the theme of St Peter, entitled ‘Petrus’, and is going to be sung by the Consort during the Wednesday afternoon BBC broadcast. Last Christmas Simon wrote a highly successful piece for The Cardinall’s Musick and Andrew Carwood, and we eagerly look forward to Edington’s latest commission.
The Thursday evening Sequence is always rather a special service, and this year the Consort will be singing two rarely heard masterworks by Lassus and Marc-Antoine Charpentier. Orlande de Lassus’ ‘Lagrime di San Pietro’ is a collection of twenty one sacred madrigals, widely considered to be particularly sublime, whilst Charpentier’s ‘Le Reniement de Saint Pierre’ is a sacred oratorio, and as such is a dramatic setting of Peter’s denial of Christ. The musical setting of the denial is especially effective, with the crowing of the cock, and Peter’s awful realisation of what he has done, followed by a telling silence as this realisation sinks in. The characterisation of the individual figures in the story is also skilfully crafted.
Music for the rest of the week includes the wonderful Renaissance mass settings based on the Peter theme by Palestrina and Alonso Lobo, as well as a contemporary setting by Jonathan Harvey. We celebrate the centenary of the birth of William Walton with some of his distinctive church music, including the ‘Missa brevis’, and also mark anniversaries of C.V. Stanford (b. 1852) and Maurice Durufle (b. 1902). Stanford of course now has an increasingly special resonance for me, with his Irish connections. It is a mark of the strength of the Festival that as well as commissioning new works it has a long list of previous commissions, one such being the responses written for the Festival by Philip Radcliffe and now widely used in the country’s cathedrals and universities: these will form part of Friday’s Choral Matins thirty years after their first performance.
I close with some words of Jordan of Saxony (d. 1237), a Dominican friar:
‘So long as we are in this place of pilgrimage, we need to be encouraged and stirred up, so that brother may be helped by brother, and the eagerness of heavenly love rekindle the flame in our spirit which our daily carelessness and lukewarmness tend to put out.’