Upper Hanover St, Sheffield S3 7RQ // 0114 230 7252

Our organist entertains!

Doug Jones

Hello! Welcome to St Andrew’s URC, Sheffield. You’ve arrived at a special page devoted to our organist, choir and music. We hope to share with you something of our musical experiences, featuring stories and audio from our services and concerts.

Click on these links to view some archived services:




Web services Jan 2021 (standrewsurcsheffield.org.uk)


Whilst we are unable to worship God at St Andrew’s in the normal way, we thought you might like to access a selection of hymns, psalms and anthems which we might have experienced if we had been allowed to attend our regular worship. Check below to find the readings for some recent Sunday services and links to some suitable music.


Sunday 24th January 2021 – 3rd after the Epiphany

Welcome back to our weekly liturgical diet of prayer and praise! We are still in the season inspired by the Epiphany of our Lord, when we recall the first revelation of Christ to the gentiles, the Magi. There were various methods employed to bring mankind close to God. God made the most significant move by manifesting himself as a human, but angels drew the attention of the shepherds to the manger, whilst the guiding star led the gift-bearing Magi to visit the young child. Throughout history, God has influenced humankind through the prophets, saints, angels and signs. All the time God has been calling us and guiding us to walk closely with him as we tread this earthly road together. So it is right that for today’s introit we hear Stanford’s well-known hymn-anthem, O for a closer walk with God.

INTROIT: O for a closer walk with God (Sir C. V. Stanford)

COLLECT for the 3rd Sunday after Epiphany

Almighty God, whose Son revealed in signs and miracles the wonder of your saving presence: renew your people with your heavenly grace, and in all our weakness sustain us by your mighty power; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

The Old Testament reading, comes from the 3rd chapter of the book of Jonah, beginning to read from the 1st verse.

The word of the LORD came to Jonah a second time, saying, “Get up, go to Nineveh, that great city, and proclaim to it the message that I tell you.” So Jonah set out and went to Nineveh, according to the word of the LORD. Now Nineveh was an exceedingly large city, a three days’ walk across. Jonah began to go into the city, going a day’s walk. And he cried out, “Forty days more, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!” And the people of Nineveh believed God; they proclaimed a fast, and everyone, great and small, put on sackcloth. When God saw what they did, how they turned from their evil ways, God changed his mind about the calamity that he had said he would bring upon them; and he did not do it.

HYMN: Dear Lord and Father of mankind (tune: Repton)

The Epistle is written in the 1st epistle of Paul to the Corinthians, chapter 7, beginning to read from the 29th verse.

I mean, brothers and sisters, the appointed time has grown short; from now on, let even those who have wives be as though they had none, and those who mourn as though they were not mourning, and those who rejoice as though they were not rejoicing, and those who buy as though they had no possessions, and those who deal with the world as though they had no dealings with it. For the present form of this world is passing away.


Nonne Deo?

  1. MY SOUL truly waiteth still upon God : for of him cometh my salvation.

  2. He verily is my strength and my salvation : he is my defence, so that I shall not greatly fall.

  3. How long will ye imagine mischief against every man : ye shall be slain all the sort of you; yea, as a tottering wall shall ye be, and like a broken hedge.

  4. Their device is only how to put him out whom God will exalt : their delight is in lies; they give good words with their mouth, but curse with their heart.

  5. Nevertheless, my soul, wait thou still upon God : for my hope is in him.

  6. He truly is my strength and my salvation : he is my defence, so that I shall not fall.

  7. In God is my health, and my glory : the rock of my might, and in God is my trust.

  8. O put your trust in him alway, ye people : pour out your hearts before him, for God is our hope.

  9. As for the children of men, they are but vanity : the children of men are deceitful upon the weights, they are altogether lighter than vanity itself.

  10. O trust not in wrong and robbery, give not yourselves unto vanity : if riches increase, set not your heart upon them.

  11. God spake once, and twice I have also heard the same : that power belongeth unto God;

  12. And that thou, Lord, art merciful : for thou rewardest every man according to his work.


The Holy Gospel is written in the 1st chapter of the gospel according to Mark, beginning at verse 14.

Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.” As Jesus passed along the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the sea–for they were fishermen. And Jesus said to them, “Follow me and I will make you fish for people.” And immediately they left their nets and followed him. As he went a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John, who were in their boat mending the nets. Immediately he called them; and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men, and followed him.

HYMN: Will you come and follow me? (tune: Kelvingrove)

A Reflection on today’s Gospel reading: Revd. Fleur Houston

Mark, in these verses, is calling us back to basics.  Maybe we need that.  At a time when all our familiar church arrangements are thrown into disarray by the pandemic, when we ourselves are surviving in lock-down, often under extremely testing circumstances, when many of us are struggling to keep our head above water, we could be forgiven for thinking that repentance is not our first priority.  And yet the summons of Jesus is insistent: “Repent and believe the good news.”

Now this has implications for our church and for ourselves as individuals.  First of all, Jesus’s ministry is fulfilled through the community of his disciples.  His first followers were fishermen, living with their families by the sea of Galilee.  Jesus spotted two brothers, Simon and Andrew, casting a net into the sea.  He interrupts them at their work and calls them to a new vocation.  These are his first disciples.  The next two are also fishermen, James and John, sitting in a boat with their father, mending nets – he calls and immediately, without question, they follow.  Jesus doesn’t ask for a CV or for testimonials of good character.  His call to discipleship is an uncompromising break with business as usual.  And those who are called obey.

That obligation did not die along with the first followers of Jesus.  It applies to all Jesus’ followers through the ages, it applies today to this congregation of St Andrew’s in Sheffield and it applies to the congregation to which I belong on the other side of the Pennines in Macclesfield.  

Now we may well feel that to fulfil the ministry of Jesus in our world is too huge a charge to be entrusted to frail ordinary mortals like most of our church members. Who are we to shoulder such responsibility?  What would be more natural than to sit back in apathy or dejection, to shield ourselves from Jesus’s call and wait for someone more worthy than ourselves to take it on?  If this is how you are thinking, then think again.   Jesus makes just one requirement of his followers – only one, but it is huge and if taken seriously it will lead by God’s grace to the renewal, not only of the church but also of the world. So we must take heed. Much is at stake. As he announces the coming kingdom of God, Jesus calls his hearers, whoever they may be, man or woman, young or not-so-young, Jew or Gentile, to turn away from evil and to turn to God. Like his cousin, John the Baptist, he urges with the utmost seriousness the need to repent.

This is a salutary message for our churches to hear at the end of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. All Christians everywhere are called in common cause by their Lord to repent: a penitent Church is a reconciled and reconciling community, freed from sin by the grace of Christ to work for the healing of the world.  There are occasions when the need for this seems all too obvious. This coming Thursday, on the anniversary of the liberation of the Nazi extermination camp at Auschwitz, many will remember with sorrow the extremity of human evil that is known as the Holocaust. This was industrial mass murder on a colossal scale, when millions of Jews and others were exterminated.  As the skeletal survivors were liberated before the horrified eyes of the world, never again, it was said, never again.

And yet there has been recently a dramatic increase in anti-semitic rhetoric and violent incidents in many countries, with a pernicious persistence of Holocaust denial, especially on-line. This is often the first expression of rising intolerance and violence against minority communities, Jewish, Muslim, Christian.  We have all seen it.  We saw it in Bosnia, we see it in the genocide of Rohingya in Myanmar and the Uighurs in China. On our doorstep in the UK refugees and those who are homeless are regularly abused and vilified. Many of our churches are complacent. But to be complacent with such things is to be complicit in their perpetration.

We as churches are called by our Lord to be self-aware. And as we do, we know that through the grace of God we can together be a force for good for the healing and reconciliation of the world.

What applies to our churches applies also to individual followers of Jesus. “Repent and believe the good news.” Jesus is not talking here about a token confession of inadequacy in the comforting knowledge that God will forgive. He is summoning his hearers, then and now, to something much more profound, challenging and all-embracing than that.  He is calling us to examine ourselves unflinchingly. We may not like what we see but only when we are aware of the extent of our own frailty will we know the full measure of God’s love and mercy in Jesus Christ.

The hymn-writer Charlotte Elliott knew that. She was fragile all her life – so frail that on one occasion she was unable to help out with preparations for a fund-raising church bazaar in Brighton. This may seem quite trivial to us, but not to her. She was overcome by an abject sense of uselessness. Her misery was profound. It moved her to think about her frailty and to contrast that with the gracious acceptance shown by God to all who respond to him in faith. Awareness dawned that she did not have to achieve anything before responding to the call of Jesus – she could come to God just as she was.  And the hymn which she wrote on that occasion inspired millions of people all over the world to do the same; it became the rallying cry of countless campaigns by Billy Graham.

Just as I am, without one plea

But that thy blood was shed for me,

And that thou bidd’st me come to thee,

O Lamb of God, I come.

Just as I aim, though tossed about

With many a conflict, many a doubt,

Fightings and fears within, without,

O Lamb of God, I come.

Just as I am, poor, wretched, blind;

sight, riches, healing of the mind,

Yea, all I need in thee to find,

O Lamb of God, I come.

Just as I am, thou wilt receive,

Wilt welcome, pardon, cleanse, relieve,

Because thy promise I believe,

O Lamb of God, I come.

Just as I am, thy love unknown

Has broken every barrier down;

Now to be thine, yea, thine alone,

O Lamb of God, I come.

Just as I am, of that free love

The breadth, length, depth and height to prove,

Here for a season, then above,

O Lamb of God, I come.

                                                Charlotte Elliott (1789-1971)

Revd. Fleur Houston


  1. Just as I am, sung by the Billy Graham Crusade Choir.

  1. Christina Rosetti’s beautiful hymn ‘In the bleak mid-winter’, in Harold Darke’s lovely setting, underlines the same simple message with the closing words, ‘Yet what I can I give him: give my heart’. A gentle reminder that we are still in the season of Epiphany.

Let us pray for the needs of the world; for ourselves and the whole community of humankind.

Heavenly Father, we give thanks for the security of our own homes, and that we are safe, warm and dry. We pray especially for those who have been displaced from their own homes due to the recent stormy weather just across the Pennines. More widely we think of anyone facing insecurity who may be away from home and unable to return due to travel restrictions, political unrest or any form of oppression or prejudice. We pray for members of our own communities who may be trapped abroad, and for those from afar who are seeking a safe refuge here. We remember the Magi, who travelled from foreign lands to honour the new-born King, but had to divert their return journey to avoid capture by King Herod. We remember how the King subsequently ordered the massacre of hundreds of innocent children under two years old, in a vain effort to eradicate any potential threat to his own kingdom; it is too painful for us to imagine what distress these actions must have caused to the families concerned.

We pray for the people of the United States of America, who seem far from united at the present time. We ask that you may strengthen the forces of goodness at work in that community, and protect those who value calm and peace from any forms of extremism or injustice. Endue their new leaders with the wisdom to govern fairly as they strive to restore confidence and balance in their own society structures, and help to ease tensions throughout the world created by confused messages at home.

We pray for Christian folk throughout the world, and for anyone who is following the path prepared for us by our Lord. Here is a lovely prayer which has comforted and inspired many people during times of stress:

One night I had a dream…

I dreamed I was walking along the beach with the Lord, and
across the sky flashed scenes from my life. For each scene I noticed two sets of footprints in the sand; One belonged to me, and the other to the Lord. When the last scene of my life flashed before us, I looked back at the footprints in the sand. I noticed that many times along the path of my life, There was only one set of footprints.

I also noticed that it happened at the very lowest
and saddest times in my life.
This really bothered me, and I questioned the Lord about it.
“Lord, you said that once I decided to follow you,
You would walk with me all the way;
But I have noticed that during the
most troublesome times in my life,
There is only one set of footprints.
I don’t understand why in times when I
needed you the most, you should leave me.

The Lord replied, “My precious, precious
child. I love you, and I would never,
never leave you during your times of
trial and suffering.
When you saw only one set of footprints,
It was then that I carried you.”

Lord Jesus Christ, reveal to us your footmarks,
that in them we may plant our own;
in faith and trust we follow you duly,
founded in your strength alone.
Lord guide us, call us, support us,
and uphold us to the end;
that finally in heaven you will receive us,
as our Saviour and our Friend. Amen.

HYMN: O Jesus, I have promised (tune: Wolvercote)

ORGAN VOLUNTARY: Organ Sonata No.3 in A (Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy) played by Alexander Pattavina at the organ of Christ Church, Bronxville.


Sunday 17th January 2021 – 2nd after the Epiphany

Welcome to our selection of prayer, readings and music for the Second Sunday after the Epiphany. A significant theme of today’s service is responding to God’s call, not forgetting the way in which the magi followed the light of the star to the young child as their own amazing response. In praise of their incredible pilgrimage, we begin our service with the hymn, ‘Songs of thankfulness and praise’, sung to the tune ‘St. Edmund’.


Almighty God, in Christ you make all things new: transform the poverty of our nature by the riches of your grace, and in the renewal of our lives make known your heavenly glory; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

The Old Testament reading, comes from the 3rd chapter of the 1st book of Samuel, beginning to read from the 1st verse.

Now the boy Samuel was ministering to the LORD under Eli. The word of the LORD was rare in those days; visions were not widespread. At that time Eli, whose eyesight had begun to grow dim so that he could not see, was lying down in his room; the lamp of God had not yet gone out, and Samuel was lying down in the temple of the LORD, where the ark of God was. Then the LORD called, “Samuel! Samuel!” and he said, “Here I am!” and ran to Eli, and said, “Here I am, for you called me.” But he said, “I did not call; lie down again.” So he went and lay down. The LORD called again, “Samuel!” Samuel got up and went to Eli, and said, “Here I am, for you called me.” But he said, “I did not call, my son; lie down again.” Now Samuel did not yet know the LORD, and the word of the LORD had not yet been revealed to him. The LORD called Samuel again, a third time. And he got up and went to Eli, and said, “Here I am, for you called me.” Then Eli perceived that the LORD was calling the boy. Therefore Eli said to Samuel, “Go, lie down; and if he calls you, you shall say, ‘Speak, LORD, for your servant is listening.'” So Samuel went and lay down in his place. Now the LORD came and stood there, calling as before, “Samuel! Samuel!” And Samuel said, “Speak, for your servant is listening.” Then the LORD said to Samuel, “See, I am about to do something in Israel that will make both ears of anyone who hears of it tingle. On that day I will fulfill against Eli all that I have spoken concerning his house, from beginning to end. For I have told him that I am about to punish his house forever, for the iniquity that he knew, because his sons were blaspheming God, and he did not restrain them. Therefore I swear to the house of Eli that the iniquity of Eli’s house shall not be expiated by sacrifice or offering forever.” Samuel lay there until morning; then he opened the doors of the house of the LORD. Samuel was afraid to tell the vision to Eli. But Eli called Samuel and said, “Samuel, my son.” He said, “Here I am.” Eli said, “What was it that he told you? Do not hide it from me. May God do so to you and more also, if you hide anything from me of all that he told you.” So Samuel told him everything and hid nothing from him. Then he said, “It is the LORD; let him do what seems good to him.” As Samuel grew up, the LORD was with him and let none of his words fall to the ground. And all Israel from Dan to Beer-sheba knew that Samuel was a trustworthy prophet of the LORD.

HYMN: I, the Lord of sea and sky (Dunblane Cathedral)

The Epistle is written in the 1st epistle of Paul to the Corinthians, chapter 6, beginning to read from the 12th verse.

 “All things are lawful for me,” but not all things are beneficial. “All things are lawful for me,” but I will not be dominated by anything. “Food is meant for the stomach and the stomach for food,” and God will destroy both one and the other. The body is meant not for fornication but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. And God raised the Lord and will also raise us by his power. Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Should I therefore take the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? Never! Do you not know that whoever is united to a prostitute becomes one body with her? For it is said, “The two shall be one flesh.” But anyone united to the Lord becomes one spirit with him. Shun fornication! Every sin that a person commits is outside the body; but the fornicator sins against the body itself. Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you were bought with a price; therefore glorify God in your body.

GRADUAL PSALM: Psalm 139 vv.1-18 (Wakefield Cathedral)

Domine, probasti

  1. O LORD, thou hast searched me out and known me : thou knowest my down-sitting and mine up-rising, thou understandest my thoughts long before.

  2. Thou art about my path, and about my bed : and spiest out all my ways.

  3. For lo, there is not a word in my tongue : but thou, O Lord, knowest it altogether.

  4. Thou hast fashioned me behind and before : and laid thine hand upon me.

  5. Such knowledge is too wonderful and excellent for me : I cannot attain unto it.

  6. Whither shall I go then from thy Spirit : or whither shall I go then from thy presence?

  7. If I climb up into heaven, thou art there : if I go down to hell, thou art there also.

  8. If I take the wings of the morning : and remain in the uttermost parts of the sea;

  9. Even there also shall thy hand lead me : and thy right hand shall hold me.

  10. If I say, Peradventure the darkness shall cover me : then shall my night be turned to day.

  11. Yea, the darkness is no darkness with thee, but the night is as clear as the day : the darkness and light to thee are both alike.

  12. For my reins are thine : thou hast covered me in my mother’s womb.

  13. I will give thanks unto thee, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made : marvellous are thy works, and that my soul knoweth right well.

  14. My bones are not hid from thee : though I be made secretly, and fashioned beneath in the earth.

  15. Thine eyes did see my substance, yet being imperfect t: and in thy book were all my members written;

  16. Which day by day were fashioned : when as yet there was none of them.

  17. How dear are thy counsels unto me, O God : O how great is the sum of them!

  18. If I tell them, they are more in number than the sand : when I wake up I am present with thee.


The Holy Gospel is written in the 1st chapter of the gospel according to John beginning at verse 43.

 The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, “Follow me.” Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter. Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found him about whom Moses in the law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus son of Joseph from Nazareth.” Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.” When Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him, he said of him, “Here is truly an Israelite in whom there is no deceit!” Nathanael asked him, “Where did you get to know me?” Jesus answered, “I saw you under the fig tree before Philip called you.” Nathanael replied, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” Jesus answered, “Do you believe because I told you that I saw you under the fig tree? You will see greater things than these.” And he said to him, “Very truly, I tell you, you will see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.”

HYMN: I cannot tell why he, whom angels worship (Londonderry Air)

Today’s Reflection by Canon Adrian Alker

The Second Sunday of Epiphany

For those of us of a certain age, when attendance at Sunday School and familiarity with bible stories was part of our growing up, today’s story from the Old Testament book of Samuel, comes with many resonances. The call of God to the boy Samuel in the temple; then Samuel thinking it was his master Eli calling him, has all the hallmarks of a ‘dream theophany’, of God speaking to the sleeper via a dream. Three times the boy is woken up. Three times he goes to ask Eli what he wants and, finally, Samuel understands that it is the voice of God with some rather unwelcome news for Eli and his household! A very familiar tale.

The call to discipleship in the New Testament is rather more down to earth. It takes the form of Jesus calling his disciples by the shores of Lake Galilee although in today’s gospel reading from John, it is the newly-called Philip who finds Nathaniel and invites him to meet Jesus.

Common to these readings is a sense of being called by God to a task, to a way of life, to a process of transformation and renewal, which the Collect for the week hints at. The term ‘vocation’ – ‘calling’ – is often used to describe those who are preparing for ministry in the church. But the term vocation is now rightly applied to many professions, be it medicine, the law, teaching etc. However, it does seem to me that all people can have a sense of a calling, not just those fortunate to have a good education, and a background which enables them to succeed in their chosen career. If we are all children of God, then we should surely have the potential to be all that God wants us to be – full of his grace, his truth and his love.

Many years ago, back in the 1970s, I began work as a Careers Advisor, helping young school leavers to try to achieve their dreams, at a time when there were many opportunities for young people to go to university or into an apprenticeship, to seek out a craft trade or enter one of the armed services. Sadly, since then, opportunities for youth employment have narrowed, and in some areas of work have almost disappeared. Nevertheless, it is so important to maintain that sense of vocation, and to enable each person to develop his or her particular gifts and skills in order to pursue a worthwhile career.

Samuel’s call was part of how the people of Israel were to transition between a people ruled by prophets to a land under kingship. The call of Jesus was to an invitation to bring in the kingdom of God on earth, and all that meant in social, economic and political terms as well as religious! But not all calls are welcome or religious! In recent months my wife and I have been looking after a very old relative, who in the middle of the night, wakes us up for reasons less prosaic than hearing a voice! And that in turn reminds me of all those carers, nurses and doctors who work through the night, attending to the calls of their patients. In this awful pandemic, we rightly applaud those whose vocations have brought them into the caring professions, but we are also aware of our dependence on the multitude of other workers – supermarket staff, refuse collectors, newsagents and postal workers, pharmacists and a host of other people who contribute to the common good.

In this season of Epiphany, when we remember the magi offering their gifts to the Christ child and when we recall Jesus’ own baptism and his sense of being called by God to a special mission, we are led to recall all those instances when the light of Christ has shone into the dark places of our world, bringing the love of God, bringing a sense of hope, even of joy. People of all faiths and none can feel a sense of calling to do good to others. Think of all those volunteers who tirelessly distribute food parcels to needy families, or those who have volunteered to knock on the door of some person who is alone and shielding and in need of distanced conversation. Many who volunteer, be it in working in youth clubs, in sporting clubs, in helping asylum seekers – so often such people fund their sense of vocation in these ways.

Together we are all called into that great hope of seeing the kingdom of God here on earth. We glimpse it in the selfless work of those who care for others, who attend to their needs in the middle of the night. This pandemic has called us to see how our world is interconnected, it has brought forth so many heroic acts of saving love. Perhaps it is teaching us to value what really matters in life and a determination to change society for the better. We pray that the light of God’s glory might shine in and through us in whatever ways we are called to do the divine will.

Canon Adrian Alker

ANTHEM: Tre magi de gentibus (C. S. Lang), sung by the choir of Wakefield Cathedral


Let us pray.

Dear Lord, to whom we call in times of need, look mercifully on our transgressions, forgive our shortfalls and protect us from our own weaknesses. Help us to recognise your voice when you are calling out to us. Give us the strength and wisdom to respond to your voice; inspire us to be diligent in your service, and resilient enough to continue as faithful warriors in your battle against the sins and evils of the world which confront us daily. Help us to live out our lives as you would have us live them, looking after our minds and bodies that they may grow to become living temples of your spirit, and true beacons of your love in whose image we were once created. Be with us day and night, and support us when we are weak in body, mind or spirit. Help us to be worthy disciples, guiding us along the road you have prepared for us to follow, just as you led the shepherds to the manger at your incarnation, and guided the magi by the light of a star as they brought their precious gifts to present to you when you were a young child. When we reach the end of the road, enfold us in your loving arms and transport into your everlasting kingdom. These things we ask in the name of our Saviour, in whose words we pray:

Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory, for ever and ever. Amen.

Send us out in the power of your Spirit,
send us out in the strength of your love,
to live and work to your praise and glory
in the name of Christ.
Send us out in the hope of your promise,
send us out in the light of your word,
to love and serve as the hands and feet
of our Saviour, Jesus Christ;

And may the blessing of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit be with us all, this day and evermore. Amen.

HYMN: ‘Who is on the Lord’s side’, (tune: ‘Rachie’)

ORGAN VOLUNTARY: Dieu parmi nous (from La Navité du Seigneur) – Olivier Messiaen, performed by Roger Sayer at Temple Church, London.

Roger Sayer plays Dieu Parmi Nous by Olivier Messiaen (1908-92). Messiaen was famously a synesthete: he saw colours when he heard sound. Part of the reason that his music sounds the way it does is because, for him, each note had a colour and a meaning, and in combining them he was able to create a dazzling stained glass window of sound. Many of the meanings attributed to colours by orthodox iconography correlate exactly to those which Messiaen saw and reproduced in his scores. He claimed that ‘Colours have their own personalities, properties and powers’ (Messiaen, Traité de Rythme, de Couleur, et d’Ornithologie, 1949-92). The colour green is associated with life and with ‘la Vierge’; red and yellow are the colours of fire, blood and divine love; and white is the colour of purity and heaven. Most importantly, blue is a ‘high’ colour, the colour of the sky, the air, heaven and divine wisdom. Messiaen was also fascinated by numerology, and frequently wrote theologically significant numbers into his music. Dieu Parmi Nous (God with us) is the final movement of Messiaen’s 1935 work La Nativité du Seigneur. After ten chords of fanfare, the pedals play a tumultuous descending melody as God descends to earth, echoed by the calm and gentleness of the strings. This pedal solo uses a rhythm called the ‘Râgarvardhana rhythm’, where the notes are grouped into threes, representative of the Trinity: a dotted minim, three crotchets and three quavers, all heavily accented. The first occurs in the pedal just one bar into the piece. Dieu Parmi Nous brings together all the moods of the preceding movements: excitement, joy, prayer, wonder and glory, and quotes fragments of plainsong from the Magnificat, the Song of Mary: ‘My soul doth magnify the Lord’. Each distinctive section builds toward the work’s monumental conclusion: an ecstatic toccata over the opening pedal theme – God descending to earth.




Don’t forget to come back and visit next week!

Close Menu