Preces & Reponses
by Joanna Forbes L’Estrange
A setting of the Preces & Responses as sung at Choral Evensong
For SATB & organ
“Simply delicious musical portraiture of these ancient prayers.”
Dr. Homer A. Ferguson III, Emmanuel Episcopal Church, Southern Pines, North Carolina, USA
Published by RSCM
In this fast-changing and often unsettling world, I imagine I’m not alone in finding great comfort in the words of the traditional Choral Evensong which have been spoken or sung in churches, chapels and cathedrals for centuries. As the mother of two choristers, I have had the joy of attending evensong at St John’s College, Cambridge, several times a week and of hearing many different composers’ settings of each part of the service. From the Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis to the Preces and Responses, every moment of Choral Evensong offers us all that much-needed opportunity for stillness and reflection.
I was delighted to receive a commission from the organist and choirmaster of Emmanuel Episcopal Church, Southern Pines, North Carolina, Dr. Homer Ashton Ferguson III, for a set of Preces and Responses to mark his 10th anniversary. Compared with our rich heritage of settings by male composers, there are relatively few settings by female composers of this part of evensong, which has proved a challenge for those forward-thinking choral directors who have pledged to include at least one piece by a woman in each service.
My setting is, I hope, not too challenging for the humble, parish church choir. I began my choral life as a member of such a choir and, although I went on to become a professional singer, I very much believe in writing the kind of music which can be sung by amateur singers and enjoyed by congregations. It is also the kind of setting which, for a professional collegiate or cathedral choir who might be learning music for up to six services a week, can be slotted in without too much preparation.