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Baker's Dozen

Mercurial Rev: Richard Coles' Favourite Music
Alex Burrows , April 14th, 2021 08:57

Vicar, musician, broadcaster and ex-Communard, The Reverend Richard Coles tells Alex Burrows how music is still important to belief and why parish choirs are the new punk. Portrait by Tim Anderson.


Maurice Greene – ‘Thou Visitest The Earth’
A favourite little anthem of mine, I sang it when I was a boy chorister. It was the first solo I ever got when I was head chorister when I clawed my way to the top of that particular pile. I just love the piece – it’s very English 18th Century, very much of its time. I sang it when I was a boy and I loved it and then years later, when I was ordained, the choir sang it in my church and I had kind of forgotten about it. It was lovely to hear it again. A simple little piece but it’s very beautiful.

It’s based on Psalm 45. Composers would set Psalms because they would come up regularly in the church calendar and they would be part of everyone’s weekly diet. Psalm 45 is about the goodness of God and creation. It’s one of those Psalms that looks at a world that is abundant and sees it as the loving purposes of a God who created it. The goodness of the world and the abundance of the world.

Any religious system looks at the natural world and sees it as grist to the mill. I don’t think it’s strange that a lot of religions look at the natural world and see in it signs of divine action. There’s crossover in that, I think. It gets more complicated the more theological and theoretical you get about it. Even if I wasn’t religious, I would look on nature, the landscape, the sky, the heavens and feel that there was a powerful and profound truth behind it. It wasn’t just random. I’m not a creationist, but I do believe in the creation, if you see what I mean.