Thanksgiving Service 2013
Through gates of pearl streams in the countless host – singing”: fitting words at the start of the Service of Thanksgiving on 19th May, part of the centenary celebrations for the Taunton Festival. A large congregation had gathered in St Mary Magdalene church and a choir of about 40 processed in through the wonderful angel doors, singing the hymn ‘For all the saints’ (from which come the words above), to join another 20 or so singers already in place in the chancel.
The day was not only the 100th birthday of the Taunton & Somerset Music, Drama and Dance Festival (to give it its formal title), but also Pentecost, the birthday of the Church. Music, of course, was an important part of the service, music new and old, played and sung. With its power to embrace and enliven both sacred and secular aspects of our life, music is the ideal form on which to base such an event. Our guest of honour, the Rt Rev Peter Price, Bishop of Bath & Wells, expanded on this idea in his engaging address.
As a singer, I found it immensely exciting to be part of such a large and varied group at this unique event. St Mary’s own Choir and Choristers were present, of course, with extra singers drawn from several organisations within T.A.P.A. and other local bodies, including Queens College, Wellington School, Somerset Opera, Taunton Choral Society and St Andrews church. What a terrific sound we made, supported by brass and the Father Willis organ! The music included several Vaughan Williams pieces – VW was an early champion of the Festival movement – and other old favourites such as the Taunton anthem ‘Defendamus’ (It has words! Who knew!). But there was also modern music, local teenage composers William Osborne and Christopher Hedges showing fine work in the coming generation. The Choristers sang a newly commissioned piece ‘Song for a Festival’, with a catchy 5/4 rhythm and equally catchy words, some of which the Bishop incorporated into his final Blessing at the end of the service.
Drama made a short appearance in the form of a dramatised reading of festival events from the past 100 years, featuring Brian Cresswell, John Meikle, Anne Cleves and Jean Lee. But the whole service was based on the joyful drama of a community gathering to celebrate a century of local artistic enterprise, and to salute the performers of the future.
Everyone played their part, of course, but special thanks must be given to Miles Quick and Brian Cresswell, who spent countless hours organising, recruiting, rehearsing, liaising (& photocopying) so that the event could take place at all. Their energy and fortitude are beyond comprehension. We couldn’t have done it without you!
22 May 2013