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For the past few years the Shrine has produced an annual Pilgrim Manual specifically tailored to each year's particular Marian theme. For 2016 a return has been made to the larger, more comprehensive manual which was last produced in 2005 and used until 2011. This new edition of the manual is intended to be used for the next few years and is appropriate for use both whilst on pilgrimage to the Shrine and also back home within parishes and Cells of Our Lady of Walsingham. The manual contains a good selection of 40 (mostly) Marian hymns in addition to those hymns used at specific liturgies (Stations of the Cross, Benediction etc.) Two sizes of manual are available - the standard, pocket size and the large-print version. Both cost £2.00 and are available from Reception or the Shrine Shop.
Click here for information on the names of suitable hymn tunes and where to find them (a printable PDF).
Prior to 1998 the Shrine Church had a small one manual pipe organ in a loft above the north side of the Guardians’ stalls. For processions in the Shrine gardens, a single microphone was suspended above the ranks of pipes and the sound relayed to a set of speakers attached to the outside of the church and Stella Maris House. In the mid-90’s it was decided to undertake a major refurbishment of the sound and musical facilities of the Shrine Church. A new PA system was installed and a new electronic organ commissioned from Bradford Organs.
The organ was designed by Lucy & Peter Comerford, the brains behind Bradford Organs – an offshoot of the University of Bradford Physics Department, where much of the modern technology which has hugely improved electronic organs in the last 15 years was developed.
Comerfords were intrigued by the problems of projecting speaker
sound in the Shrine Church, with all its nooks and crannies and a
major obstacle – the Holy House blocking the west end/nave
projection. They chose to place the west end speaker stacks as far
apart as they dared to try to get the sound both over and around the
obstacle of the Holy House. The sound of the Great, Swell and Pedal
organs is also relayed from speakers high in the lantern above the
Guardians’ stalls. The Choir organ speaks only from the lantern,
with the exception of the Trompette en Chamade which speaks
principally from the west end. The organ sounds loud in the organ
loft (from the lantern speakers) and very loud if you stand at the
west end. However, the sound is much tempered by the building and a
lot of volume is inevitably lost by the time it reaches the nave.
Obviously the size of the congregation affects the volume and
natural reverberation considerably.
The organ has all the usual couplers (no octave or sub-octave) plus tremulants on Swell and Choir; 6 thumb pistons to each manual, 6 foot pistons to Swell and Pedal organs; the usual coupler thumb/foot pistons. There is a 12 channel piston setting system.
Thanks to a very generous gift, a new electronic organ has recently been installed in the Barn Chapel - behind the Refectory. It was decided that, rather than going for a run-of-the-mill instrument, Bradford Organ Associates would be commissioned to design and voice a two manual and pedal organ in the style of the great 19th century French organ builder, Aristide Cavaillé-Coll. It was decided to base the tonal scheme on the St. Clotilde instrument in Paris - built in 1859 (though this has three manuals) - which was first played by Cèsar Franck, the resident organist, followed by Pierné, Tournemire and Langlais. The re-creation goes far deeper than simply using the original stop names; the tuning, the idiosyncratic nature of the pipe 'speech' (particularly in the lower octaves) and the sound of Cavaillé-Colls' reeds have all been reproduced. The result is an revelation; from the roar of the organ in full cry to the delicacy and beauty of the flutes and strings, this is a very different sound world.
The music at the Shrine is overseen by the Organist and Director of Music, currently Nicholas Kerrison who came to the Shrine in August 2014 having been in Secondary school teaching for 34 years, 26 of which were as Director of Music at The King’s (The Cathedral) School, Peterborough. During his teaching career, Nicholas was also Organist and Choirmaster of St Wulfrum’s Church, Grantham, St Guthlac’s Church, Market Deeping and a Lay-Clerk at Peterborough Cathedral.
A new musical commission by the Shrine received its first performance at The Walsingham Appeal 2006 concert at St Andrew's Holborn, on Friday, 9th December, 2005.
A Lover's Complaint for counter-tenor solo and choir by James Lark (see below) uses words from two so-called "Walsingham Ballads." The following article is a preliminary look at the history of the ballads associated with the Shrine.
The Walsingham Ballad - is the name usually given to the earliest written (and subsequently printed) account of the startling events of 1061 - the vision of Our Lady which appeared to the Lady Richeldis. Written in the mid-fifteenth century (c.1460) and printed by Richard Pynson in 1495 it is often referred to as “The Pynson Ballad”. However, its author is unknown. The only extant copy was discovered in The Pepys Library at Magdalene College, Cambridge. Was it ever sung (no music has survived) - or simply a narrative poem? Much as it tells us about the origins of Walsingham as a holy shrine, it gives us nothing about the traditions of four centuries of pilgrimage.
However, in the later sixteenth century, the term Walsingham Ballad, meant something quite different. Fifty years after the destruction of the Shrine in 1538 there were still in circulation many “Laments” for Walsingham, two of which have survived, though authorship is unclear. Both may simply be educated re-workings of a folk text. Sir Walter Ralegh is often credited with the (originally untitled) poem which begins “As you came from the holy land/Of Walsinghame. . .” This poem has often been titled by editors – “A Lover’s Complaint”, “Pilgrim to Pilgrim” and “Walsinghame” are examples. Also current at the time was the poem beginning “In the wreck of Walsingham/Whom should I choose/But the Queen of Walsingham/To be guide to my muse.” In 1578 Queen Elizabeth I made a royal progress through Norfolk and romantic speculation assigns this poem to a member of her entourage, Philip Howard, Earl of Arundel. What is interesting is that both poems have more or less the same metre. Did one or the other - or both - of these poems become the Elizabethan “Walsingham Ballad”?
There is further evidence that the Elizabethan “Walsingham Ballad” was well known. We have a simple melody – easily found today in the collection of keyboard pieces known as “The Fitzwilliam Virginal Book” (Vol. I - Fuller Maitland/Barclay Squire edition.) There are two sets of variations on, what was obviously a popular tune, “Walsingham”, one by William Byrd and the other by John Bull. The lutenist Francis Cutting, amongst several others, wrote Walsingham variations. Both the above poems can be sung to the tune “Walsingham”.
For us today perhaps the most startling appearance of the Walsingham Ballad is in Shakespeare’s “Hamlet”. In Act IV: sc. v, the first of Ophelia’s mad songs is a version (earlier than Ralegh?) of the folk ballad. In this version, a woman asks about her pilgrim lover, rather than a man inquiring after his girl. Ophelia does not sing the first stanza, but begins with –
should I your true love know
He is dead and gone lady,
He is dead and gone;
At his head a grass-green turf
At his heels a stone.
This mad-song can be - and was - sung to the tune “Walsingham”.
One suspects that the earlier Pynson Ballad was little known (if at all) a hundred years after its publication. No doubt the copies printed by Pynson went into libraries around the country and there lay forgotten. It was not in any way a traditional song sung by pilgrims as they tramped along, but a long poem (21, 7 line verses) telling Richeldis’s story. However, verse 21 is a glorious hymn to Our Lady on behalf of pilgrims to Walsingham.
O gracious Lady, glory of Jerusalem,
Cypresse of Syon and Joye of Israel,
Rose of Jericho and Star of Bethlehem,
O glorious Lady, our asking not repel,
In mercy all wymen ever thou dost excel,
Therefore, blessed Lady, grant thou thy great grace
To all that the devoutly visit in this place.
James Lark, in his new piece “A Lover’s Complaint”, uses the above stanza together with verses from the Ralegh poem.
was born in Kent in 1979. Following school in Cheltenham, he went up to Girton College, Cambridge, as a Music Scholar, where he was a Choral Exhibitioner and held the Senior College Prize. He studied composition with Robin Holloway, and has had works commissioned, performed and recorded by English Voices (Britten Festival), the Choir of Girton College, Cambridge, and Cambridge New Music Society; in 2003, he was commissioned to write a new piece to open the new St Martin Organ by Guy Bovet in Girton Chapel, ; he has written stage scores for numerous productions, including Oedipus (Catmalogian Theatre Company, 2002), With Blacks (a new piece for the Alight Here Festival, London, 2003), A Drink with the Uncertainty Division (Edinburgh, 2004), Lost! (London, 2005) and The Rise and Fall of Deon Vonniget (London, 2005). He has also scored two short films The Ghost of Kirkton Fell (Hired Thugs Productions, 2004) and Summer's End (Hired Thugs Productions, 2005). In 2004 James won a prestigious Jerusalem Award for his work on radio. He currently is Director of Music at St Mark's, Newnham, and teaches composition and 20th Century Music in the Cambridge University Music Faculty.