This article first appeared in the June 20`6 issue of our parish magazine. You can read it again here:
Known as the “Priestly Blessing” the text of this anthem is drawn from the Book of Numbers 6:24-26
24 The Lord bless you and keep you;
25 the Lord make his face shine on you and be gracious unto you;
26 the Lord lift up the light of His countenance upon you and give you peace. Amen.
There is a beautiful arrangement of this in the Choir Vestry, for a full 4-part choir (soprano, alto, tenor and bass), and back when St Margaret’s had a large 4-part choir, we sang this a number of times. Much more recently, Jennifer and I rearranged it for two female voices (soprano and alto – that’s what constitutes fun in the Porter house), and we sang it at Mark and Karen Gale’s wedding last year. It is a lovely gentle song that simply wishes the Lord’s blessings for the listener. Jennifer sang the first section as a solo, which we then developed into 2-part harmony. I sang the tenor solo at pitch, and she sang the bass solo an octave up. I know I’m biased, but I think it worked really quite well. We hope they liked it!
The accompaniment is in a tricky key for pianists/organists – Gb major (6 flats), and the music moves along at a gently lilting pace. That said, the accompaniment is restrained and simple, which, in some circles, has been unjustly criticised. Rutter himself said in an interview about this piece that “l happen not to believe in erecting needless barriers between composer and listener: given the choice between critical approbation and a chance of touching the hearts of people outside the limited circle of contemporary music aficionados, I know which I prefer.”
Here is a recording of the Cambridge Singers doing justice to this anthem: