Last Monday evening was bitterly cold and the remnants of the earlier snowfall had turned to ice making travel a worry for many. Even so, Blackburn Cathedral was once again filled to capacity with a congregation ready to celebrate the memory of their loved ones.
Blackburn Music Society had the privilege of supporting the service carols, adding flourishes of harmony and soaring descant which lifted the usual Christmas melodies to the heavens. Then, as each member of the congregation received a lighted candle, the atmosphere became still as the lights were dimmed and BMS choir, conducted by Tom Newall, offered a moving performance of Morten Lauridsen’s Sure on this Shining Night. The music and the heartfelt words of James Agee’s poem created a poignant moment.
Sure on this shining night
Of star made shadows round,
Kindness must watch for me
This side the ground.
The late year lies down the north.
All is healed, all is health.
High summer holds the earth.
Hearts all whole.
Sure on this shining night I weep for wonder wand’ring far alone
Of shadows on the stars.
James Agee 1934
The choir followed up with Rutter’s Angels’ Carol, sung with a brightness and aplomb that brought a lighter mood, following which the two massive Christmas trees were officially lit by supporters of East Lancashire Hospice, Allan Poyner and Emma Wharton.
After prayers and blessing by Canon Andrew Hindley, all were charmed by the children of Salesbury CE Primary School who performed That First Christmas Day by Paul Field. Conducted by Gill Fourie, whom the children clearly adore, they brought touching hope for the future. They closed with a very accomplished rendition of Carol of the Bells by Peter Wilhousyky (arr Dean Jones) which caused Canon Hindley to query, “How do you remember all those words?” and some BMS members to ponder, “Could we do that?”
Soloist Ella Constantinides followed with a moving performance of For Good by Stephen Schwartz; the words, so clearly delivered by Ella, had many dabbing away tears. Then Josh Hindle stepped in to remind us all of the joy of Christmas with Let it Snow and Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.
Conducted in the presence of visiting mayoral dignitaries from Ribble Valley and Blackburn with Darwen, this was a service that brought both smiles and tears. It ended with Sam Hudson leading the congregation into Hark the Herald Angels Sing, with an organ sound that pushed at the rafters and lifted everyone’s hearts.