This year’s candlelit Epiphany Devotion, celebrating the journey of the Magi to worship the infant Jesus, looked more glorious than ever thanks to changes in where the choir and orchestra were placed.
The third of three processional services, the Epiphany Devotion follows on from Advent and Christmas and in the past the choir and orchestra were placed by the font.
However, space is limited in that part of the Cathedral and so this year they performed from the West End, against the backdrop of the Cathedral’s magnificent Christmas tree and West End balcony window. This change in choreography left the nave free for the arrival of the ‘three kings’ and other elements of the service, which included a performance of parts 5 and 6 of Bach’s Christmas Oratorio.
The Oratorio was performed in German by the full Cathedral choir and accompanied by a period orchestra.
Solo parts were sung by former chorister and professional singer, Caroline Halls (soprano) and adult members of the Cathedral choir: Stephen Abbott and Jonathan Woodhouse (alto), Edward Rimmer and Edwin Lambert (tenor), and Richard Hooper and Alistair Watson (bass).
David Halls, director of music at Salisbury Cathedral said: “The Oratorio was originally written to be performed in church during Christmastide.
“Nearly 300 years later the music remains as immediate as ever, complemented by the authentic ‘chamber-like’ sound of the period orchestra. A very personal but almost operatic experience.”
Canon Anna Macham, canon precentor said: “Having the choir and orchestra at the West End meant that we could use the full length of the Nave and Spire Crossing to tell our story, placing it in the midst of the congregation, who were seated facing into the nave rather than forward. Along with readings, poetry and devotional addresses, the music and movement reflected our journey toward the light of Jesus.
An intimate telling of an epic story that began at Advent and ends with Candlemas on 2 February.”