'Blest pair of sirens'
That’s what John Milton called Voice and Verse, in one of the poems sung by the Westminster Abbey Choir in their performance this evening at St. Thomas Church on Fifth Avenue in New York City. It was the Choir’s final performance of their nine-city tour of the United States.
It was an excellent program, devoted mostly to 20th-century Anglican church music, introduced by three pieces from the English Renaissance (Gibbons, Tallis). I was especially taken with “The Twelve,” an Auden poem set by Sir William Walton. At its center is the following prayer:
O Lord, my God,
though I forsake thee
forsake me not,
but guide me as I walk
through the valley of mistrust,
and let the cry of my disbelieving absence
come to thee,
thou who declared unto Moses:
“I shall be there.”