Guildford Cathedral is the voice of Ash Wednesday

14th February 2024

Choral Evensong for Ash Wednesday this year will be broadcast live from Guildford Cathedral on BBC R3 and will feature a new commission by a local composer which is set to become a permanent fixture in the cathedral’s repertoire.

Guildford Cathedral is the voice of Ash Wednesday on BBC Radio 3

It is the world premiere of Gregory May’s Anthem: Half So Well and was commissioned by the organist and master of the choristers at Guildford, Katherine Dienes-William.

Tap the image below to listen on Radio 3

Choral Evensong from Guildford Cathedral - Ash Wednesday

She said:

‘In thinking about commissioning a new work for Ash Wednesday, I wanted to approach a musician whom I knew would provide me with a distinctive voice that was authentically theirs – and Gregory has responded beautifully to that request.

“Not only has he sought out an interesting and thought-provoking text to set but he has written with the acoustical space in mind, and in a language which is at once his own personal musical style but accessible to all.

“We are delighted to have it and it will become a permanent fixture in this Cathedral choir’s repertoire.”

Gregory said:

‘It was such a nice surprise to receive this commission and to know that I was writing for such a special choir and the amazing acoustic of their cathedral.

“My piece sets words by Richard Crashaw, which meditate on humanity’s fate of forever returning to sin. The music starts brightly, but darkness and uncertainty creep in towards the end.

“Katherine’s support for young musicians is absolutely incredible, and it means a lot to me that she believed in my music enough to commission this piece for such an important service in the church calendar.’

The newly commissioned piece has been made possible by two generous donors.

All are welcome to come along to the Broadcast at Guildford Cathedral but must be seated no later than 3.45pm for the live service on R3 at 4pm sung by the Girl Choristers and Lay Clerks.