‘If We Believe that Jesus Died’: Vocal Ensemble Gaudeamus’s Response to the Monument to Sir John Goss (1846–1886) by William Hamo Thornycroft and John Belcher, post 1880
About this Voice
We selected Sir John Goss’s anthem ‘If We Believe that Jesus Died’ because the first six bars of this uplifting piece figure, wholly appropriately, on his monument. This shows the organ line with the two opening chords and the bass entry with part of the text that will echo through the whole piece, ‘If we believe that Jesus died’. It is only the beginning of the verse from St Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians that is the main text of the anthem:Gaudeamus, May 2022
‘If we believe that Jesus died and rose again, e’en so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him.’ (1 Thess. 4:12)
And the anthem concludes with Paul’s summarising words, ‘Wherefore comfort one another with these words.’
(1 Thess. 4:18)
Like everyone else, we members of Gaudeamus have all been affected physically, emotionally and/or spiritually by the Covid pandemic and tangential concerns of the last two years. So, as well as being good to delve into some repertoire we are less familiar with, it has felt particularly meaningful to focus on these words – especially to coincide with Ascension Day in the Church calendar.
‘If We Believe that Jesus Died’ by John Goss (1852)
Soprano: Annabel Stratton, Rosemary Sword
Alto: Marjorie Coughlan
Tenor: Ian Robinson
Bass: Christopher Ware
Organ: Keith Johnson
Gaudeamus is a small vocal ensemble directed by the Reverend Canon Tim Robinson. Gaudeamus meets weekly in the Church of All Saints, a Georgian gem in the village of Brandsby, North Yorkshire. Its purpose is to bring sacred music to local churches that have no choir, usually in the form of choral evensong, as well as singing for special services.
About the Monument
Sir John Goss (1846–1886) became the organist at St Paul’s Cathedral in 1838, a post he held until his retirement in 1872. He was also Professor of Harmony at the Royal Academy of Music. His anthem ‘If We Believe that Jesus Died’ was one of two anthems Goss composed for the Duke of Wellington’s state funeral in 1852 – a huge national event that also included music by Mendelssohn and Beethoven.
The anthem was also sung at Goss’s own funeral at St Paul’s in 1880, so it is fitting if unusual that the opening phrase was incorporated into his memorial, underneath the beautiful low relief sculpted by Sir William Hamo Thornycroft RA (1850–1925), who used St Paul’s choristers as his models for the panel. The monument was designed by the well-known architect and amateur musician John Belcher RIBA RA (1841–1913). It was not the first time the two had worked together; their most famous collaboration was the Chartered Accountants Hall in London. The monument to Goss was unveiled in the crypt of St Paul’s Cathedral in 1892.