Lo, the full, final sacrifice
The Reverend Dr Andrew Davison, Fellow in Theology, celebrates Corpus Christi with an exploration of the text of Finzi’s well-loved anthem.
Among English anthems of the 20th century, Gerald Finzi’s Lo, the full, final sacrifice stands out. It celebrates the eucharist, and the feast of Corpus Christi on Thursday the 15th June. The anthem may sound supremely English, but some sleuthing reveals a history that is as much Italian as English, taking in Orvieto and Loreto, as well as Cambridge and Northampton
Gerald Raphael Finzi (1901-56) composed the anthem to mark the 53rd anniversary, in 1946, of the consecration of St Matthew’s, Northampton. The Vicar, Walter Hussey, had form, having commissioned Benjamin Britten’s Rejoice in the Lamb three years earlier.
Finzi was an unusual choice, known not particularly for church music, but for his masterful song cycles and works for small orchestra in the English pastoral style. Few British composers surpass him in setting words to music, and a more densely theological set of words we could hardly find than Lo, the full, final sacrifice: the creed sounds prosaic in comparison.
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