Music for the 25th Sunday After Pentecost — November 19, 2023

O taste and see – Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872-1958)

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Ralph Vaughan Williams was never directly associated with any cathedral or collegiate choir, but his prolific output includes a fair amount of church music. Taken from Psalm 34:8, O taste and see, one of the last of his sacred pieces and our communion motet this morning, was written for the 1953 coronation of Queen Elizabeth II at Westminster Abbey, where it was sung for the first time as the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh advanced to the steps of the altar for the administration of the sacrament. It was sung again at the Queen’s funeral in 2022.

The music is of distilled simplicity, written by Vaughan Williams as a foil for the pomp of the royal occasion, with a pentatonic flavour that reminds us of the composer’s lifelong interest in folksong. It is set in two short parts, each headed with the innocent invocation of a haunting treble solo.

Gerald Harder