Reformation 500 Service

from a Eucharist to mark the 500th anniversary of the start of the Reformation, 29 October 2017


‘An easy commerce of the old and the new’  – T.S. Eliot, Little Gidding

During the Reformation a great many things changed forever, and organ music was certainly no exception. It eventually took on the role we know but hardly notice today:  an accompaniment to singing, walking or talking.  But before that, in the intricate liturgical round of the great churches of Western Christendom, it was heard in its own right and with its own voice, taking turns with the singing of plainchant.  In this anniversary we invite that voice back, not by attempting to re-enact liturgies that would no longer express the living faith of now, but by ‘re-purposing’ pre-Reformation organ music within a modern liturgy where once again it can take turns with words:  the words by which our own time hopes to be met by that which is timeless.

The hymn-tunes, mostly from a slightly later period than the organ music, represent the English flowering of a reformed tradition of congregational singing which had its first roots on the continent, notably in Geneva.  They are the beginnings of truly English hymnody, and are here paired with words from each of the succeeding centuries.

Adrian Lenthall