This Sunday will be the choir’s final service for the year. I have chosen to present Benjamin Britten’s cantata Rejoice In the Lamb. It was composed by commission for the jubilee celebration of St. Matthew’s Church in Northampton, England. The text was chosen from Christopher Smart’s Jubilate Agno, written while he was confined in an asylum from 1756 to 1763. The cantata is scored for choir, soprano, alto, tenor, and bass soloists, and accompanied by organ.


The text is as fascinating as the librettist’s life. Considered both brilliant and mentally unstable, Smart was beset with periods of religious “mania,” and wild and extravagant partying. The various verses (movements) are really in five sections; I. Opening Hymn, II. Animistic Praise (animals/plants/letters/instruments), III. Laments, IV. Mystical Praise, V. Closing Hymn.


I especially love the texts from the Animistic section. Here are a few examples-


For I will consider my cat Jeoffry. For he is a servant of the living God.

For God has blest him in the variety of his movements.


For the mouse is a creature of great personal valor. 

For – this is a true case – Cat takes female mouse – male mouse                   

will not depart, but stands threatening and daring.


For the flowers are great blessings; there is a language of flowers.                         

For flowers are peculiarly the poetry of Christ.


In the Lament portion we get a glimpse of Smart’s struggles.


For I am under the same accusation with my Saviour.                                              

For they said, he is besides himself. For the officers of the

peace are at variance with me, and the watchman smites

me with his staff. For I am in twelve Hardships,

but He that was born of a virgin shall deliver me out of all.


From the Mystical Praise section my favorite line is:


For GOD the father almighty plays upon the HARP of stupendous

magnitude and melody. For at that time malignity ceases and the devils

themselves are at peace. For this time is perceptible to man by a remarkable

stillness and serenity of soul.


And finally, to close his cantata, Britten chose to return to a text from earlier in the work. Section V. Closing Hymn.


Hallelujah from the heart of God, and from the hand of the artist inimitable,

and from the echo of the heavenly harp in sweetness magnifical and mighty.


As I finish up this blog it occurs to me that while these words are incredible, it is the musical setting that lifts them to a much higher and more expressive plain. I hear every note associated with these texts. (Try reading a hymn and then singing the hymn; feel the difference?)


The whole purpose for choirs in our churches is to amplify the meaning of texts through melody, harmony, and rhythm. Choirs help introduce newer hymns, and reinforce older ones to bolster our worship experience. I confess I have a fairly high standard of musical expectation and the BSPC choir regularly blows me away! They often sing more expressively, more dramatically, more beautifully than I envisioned.


What a musical joy, and spiritual blessing it is to be associated with these hilarious, faithful, and dedicated people.


soli Deo gloria


-Written by Bill Boggs, Director of Music Ministry

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  1. Martha Campbell May 15, 2024 at 3:57 pm - Reply

    Praise be to God as He has been and will be illuminated by our choir!

  2. Alison Barret May 16, 2024 at 10:36 am - Reply

    This was amazing to read and learn more about. Thank you, Bill – and our amazing, dedicated choir – for bringing so much LIFE into our lives.

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