Monday Music: My Shepherd is the Living Lord (Tomkins)

Did you know that singers are like bats?  Or at least, I am.  I can’t think of any other way to describe it, but sitting at Mt Carmel on Friday, getting ready to sing for the Order of St Lazarus (who still can’t quite live up to their rather magnificent title), I found myself doing something bat-like, analysing the space in some way that I can’t properly define, but feeling with my body the different way the sound would travel in this new space, so that when I got up to sing, I’d know how to project in it. I’ve sung at Mt Carmel before, but we’re usually at the side, where there’s a chapel to help us, rather than at the center, where one has to work a little harder in some way I can’t define… but part of me was defining it, so that by the time the first note emerged from my mouth, I knew where to put it so that it would carry. So very strange.   It’s one of those things that is partly conscious – I know I’m doing it, after all – but I don’t know how or what.  I imagine someone who really understood the physics of acoustics would know the equations my body and ears were figuring out, but I am not that person.

Anyway.  Moving along from this little side-step into chiroptology, it must be time for some music, and since this post started at Mt Carmel, it might as well move along to Wesley, because we sang a rather gorgeous piece by Thomas Tomkins yesterday.

This is another example of a verse anthem, which is one of my favourite forms of music.  I particularly love the call and response of the alto-tenor duet in the middle of this (yes, the first soloist is an alto, though it’s sung here by a countertenor, or possibly even a tenor).  And it’s a rather nice translation of Psalm 23 – predating the King James version which most people know (The Lord’s my shepherd…).

I’m sorry – I really can’t think of much more to write here.  I suggest just listening to it again and swooning over that duet…

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