Growing up as an Anglican, I have been exposed to sung liturgy from an early age. As a child, it was mainly Evensong at Plumtree School, sung to what I later realised was an adaptation of the slow movement from Beethoven’s Pathetique Piano Sonata. My mother taught that to successive generations of school boys; one of those boys was me.

Chanting liturgy never appealed to me (the classic dropping minor third must be one of the most mournful sounds in music. I am sure that interval has put more people off ‘religion’ than any other aspect of institutional religion!), but metrical settings are more congenial.

In my student years, I met the Betty Pulkingham King of Glory liturgy, a setting of the recently re-written modern language Communion Liturgy that in South Africa appeared in the Anglican Prayer Book. I sang and played it for many years at Christchurch Kenilworth (CCK). The final Prayer of Humble Offering (“Father Almighty, we offer ourselves to you”) was not included in that version, so I wrote a melody in 6/8 (its natural rhythm) for it in my last year at medical school. It did not catch on as I had tried to be clever, putting a neopolitan 6th into a chord sequence and writing a long chromatic scale up to the final chord. There were no such sequences in the rest of the setting. It was poncy, adolescent and deserved its neglect!

When Jean and I returned to Cape Town in the mid-1980s, liturgy was not sung much. I joined a group called Song Forge when it was set up by Tim Smith at CCK in 2009. I dusted off my bit of liturgy, removing and re-writing the offending sequences. To give the prayer an appropriate symmetry, it is necessary to repeat some of the words near the end. For this iteration, I changed the words that were to be repeated from “to live and work” to “to your praise and glory.” to much more satisfactory effect, I thought. Father Almighty – Westwood

At about the same time that Song Forge came into being, I’d had a sense that it would be good to have lively sung responses during the Communion Prayer – better than always speaking them and more lively than Ms Pulkingham’s. On the back of the pew leaflet I wrote down the shape of the high energy offering that arrived in my mind almost coincident with that thought. This I turned into thematically linked interjections. Communion Responses – Westwood.

At Song Forge, another composer of words and songs, Andre Frieslaar brought along his versified version of the Gloria. This was very exciting! I wrote it down in ‘dot’ notes and added a third verse. We tried this out in services, and now it is used as part of the ‘worship set’.

Now the bit was between my teeth. The Gloria and the communion responses are in energetic, rhythmic E major. The final prayer is more lyrical and in C major. The original version had been in D major to fit in with the King of Glory, adding ‘too high’ to its many faults!

The C major Jesus Lamb of God was the next offering, written and sculpted overnight and in a computer store in Ithaca, NY while on holiday in 2010; the Lord’s Prayer,  (also in C major) was written soon afterwards.

Last to be written were the calls and responses to be sung by minister and congregation. The themes of these are built on the Agnus Dei and Our Father so that they should feel familiar to the congregation. Lord have mercy The Lord is Here  Go in Peace

By clicking on the links, you can look at and try out any or all of the liturgy songs. If you decide to use them regularly in your worship, please consider making a donation to The Warehouse.

westwoodsmusic@gmail.com