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“Compline: A contemplative journey through Lent” in St Olave’s Church

“Compline: A contemplative journey through Lent” in St Olave’s Church

Service-cum-performance of plainchant and polyphony
St Olave’s Church, Exeter
8pm on 23 February 2 9 23 30 March 2023

The ancient close-of-the-day service of Compline, with plainchant and polyphony. Hosted by Margaret Aagesen Hughes (Soprano) and Clare Bryden (Alto). This continues the series we first hosted in 2019, and returned to in 2022.

Lent is the period of 40 days, excluding Sundays, which comes before Easter in the Christian calendar. Beginning on Ash Wednesday, Lent is a season of reflection and preparation before the celebrations of Easter.

By observing the 40 days of Lent, Christians draw a parallel with both Jesus Christ’s sacrifice and withdrawal into the desert for 40 days at the beginning of his ministry, and the Israelites’ journey of 40 years to the Promised Land as told in the book of Exodus.

Lent is often marked by fasting, both from food and festivities. Many Christians in the Church of England may also take up something for Lent, such as praying daily or giving more to charity. The underlying purpose is to draw closer to God.

Compline is the last service in the monastic daily cycle of prayer. Its English name comes from the Latin for completion, as it completes the working day. It is also known as Night Prayer, the prayer before sleep.

The short service will remain broadly similar week by week, with additional music that changes to accompany our journey together through Lent. There will be opportunities for reflection through the simplicity of the setting, the beauty of the music, and the periods of silence.

St Olave is one of the tiny red churches that form the Parish of Central Exeter. Thank you to Rector Rev Sheila Swarbrick for opening its doors to us. The service will be free and unticketed, with retiring collection towards church upkeep, and we recommend you wrap up warm!


We’re delighted that we will again be joined by some wonderful musicians, as well as for one week a BSL interpreter.

This year, in a new departure, the anthems will form a sequence. Clare has drawn together a series of five bible readings – journeying with Moses, Elijah and Jesus over the five mountains of Sinai, Horeb, Tabor and Olivet to Calvary – and we are honoured that Andrew Wilson is setting them for us. In 2022 we performed a new piece by him, and we are again really looking forward to including his work in our offering.

23 February

Anthem: “Sinai” from “On the Holy Mountain” by Andrew Wilson
Margaret Aagesen Hughes, Soprano
Clare Bryden, Alto
Andrew Maries, Oboe
John Draisey, Keyboard

Instrumental Voluntary: Adagio from “Oboe Concerto in D minor” by Alessandro Marcello
Andrew Maries, Oboe
John Draisey, Keyboard

2 March

Anthem: “Horeb” from “On the Holy Mountain” by Andrew Wilson
Margaret Aagesen Hughes, Soprano
Clare Bryden, Alto
Catherine Bradley, Cello
John Draisey, Keyboard

Instrumental Voluntary: First three movements of “Serenade” by Hans Werner Henze
Catherine Bradley, Cello

9 March

Judy Burgess will be providing British Sign Language interpretation of the whole service

Anthem: “Tabor” from “On the Holy Mountain” by Andrew Wilson
Margaret Aagesen Hughes, Soprano
Clare Bryden, Alto
John Draisey, Keyboard

Instrumental Voluntary: “Herzlich tut mich verlangen” from “Eleven Chorale Preludes” by Johannes Brahms
John Draisey, Organ

16 MarchNo Compline this week

23 March

Anthem: “Olivet” from “On the Holy Mountain” by Andrew Wilson
Margaret Aagesen Hughes, Soprano
Clare Bryden, Alto
Sophie Brewer, Flute
Catherine Bradley, Cello
John Draisey, Keyboard

Instrumental Voluntary: “Syrinx” by Claude Debussy
Sophie Brewer, Flute

30 March

Anthem: “Calvary” from “On the Holy Mountain” by Andrew Wilson
Margaret Aagesen Hughes, Soprano
Clare Bryden, Alto
Andrew Maries, Oboe
Sophie Brewer, Flute
John Draisey, Keyboard

Instrumental Voluntary: Adagio from “Easter Oratorio” by Johann Sebastian Bach
Andrew Maries, Oboe

About the Music and Composers

“On the Holy Mountain” by Andrew Wilson

Dr Andrew M. Wilson was born in 1960 and studied music at London University. He is Vice Principal of the National College of Music, London. His works have been recorded, published, performed and broadcast worldwide, winning many international composition awards. This year sees performances of the WREN300 commission “Aiming at Eternity” across the country throughout the year.

We are extremely grateful to him for composing “On the Holy Mountain” for this series.


God meets with Moses and gives him the Law.

Moses went up unto mount Sinai, as the LORD had commanded him, and took in his hand the two tables of stone. And the LORD descended in the cloud, and stood with him there, and proclaimed the name of the LORD.

from Exodus 34.4-5 (KJV)


Elijah encounters God in the still small voice.

Behold, the word of the LORD came to Elijah, Go forth, and stand upon the mount before the LORD. And, behold, the LORD passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and brake in pieces the rocks before the LORD; but the LORD was not in the wind: and after the wind an earthquake; but the LORD was not in the earthquake: And after the earthquake a fire; but the LORD was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice.

from 1 Kings 19.9,11-12 (KJV)


Moses and Elijah appear with Jesus as he is transfigured before the disciples.

Jesus took Peter and John and James, and went up into a mountain to pray. And as he prayed, the fashion of his countenance was altered, and his raiment was white and glistering. And, behold, there talked with him two men, which were Moses and Elijah: who appeared in glory.

from Luke 9.28-31 (KJV)


Jesus prays in the Garden of Gethsemane, shortly before he is arrested.

Jesus came out, and went, as he was wont, to the mount of Olives; and his disciples also followed him. And he was withdrawn from them about a stone’s cast, and kneeled down, and prayed, saying, Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done.

from Luke 22.39,41-42 (KJV)


Jesus is crucified.

And when they were come unto a place called Golgotha, that is to say, a place of a skull, they gave him vinegar to drink mingled with gall: and when he had tasted thereof, he would not drink. And they crucified him.

from Matthew 27.33-35 (KJV)

“Oboe Concerto in D minor” by Alessandro Marcello

The Oboe Concerto is a work from the early 18th-century attributed to the Venetian composer Alessandro Marcello.

Andrew played the Adagio, with John playing the accompaniment arranged for piano.

“Serenade” by Hans Werner Henze

Hans Werner Henze (1926-2012) was a German composer, who studied at the state music school of Braunschweig and Heidelberg University. He left Germany for Italy in 1953, and travelled extensively, spending a year teaching in Cuba. As well as the traditional schools of German composition, he was influenced by serialism, atonality, Stravinsky, Italian music, Arabic music and jazz.

The “Serenade” is an early work for solo cello composed in 1949. Catherine played the first three movements: I Adagio rubato; II Poco allegretto; III Pastorale.

“Eleven Chorale Preludes” by Johannes Brahms

The Eleven Chorale Preludes are a collection of organ works based on verses of nine Lutheran chorales. They were composed in 1896, near the end of Brahms’ life, and were published posthumously in 1902.

John played the first setting of “Herzlich tut mich verlangen” (I do desire sincerely). The hymn lyrics were written by Christoph Knoll in 1599, and the melody adapted from a secular song by Hans Leo Hassler.

“Syrinx” by Claude Debussy

“Syrinx”, composed by Debussy in 1913, was the first work for solo flute written for the modern Böhm flute, developed in 1847. It was, moreover, the first significant work for solo flute for over 150 years.

Adagio from “Easter Oratorio” by Johann Sebastian Bach

Bach composed the “Easter Oratorio” in Leipzig, and it was first performed on 1 April 1725, Easter Sunday.

Andrew played the Adagio, with the oboe obbligato unaccompanied.

About the Musicians

Margaret Aagesen Hughes

Margaret Aagesen Hughes is a professional soprano, choir director, and singing teacher and voice coach, with a keen interest in all music from classical to folk and jazz. She was recently appointed Musical Director of Exeter Chorale, an established and accomplished chamber choir presenting music across the range from early to contemporary.

Clare Bryden

Clare Bryden is a freelance writer and website developer, and a semi-professional musician. She spent three years living in the Anglican religious communities at Mucknell Abbey and CSMV Wantage, which birthed her love of plainchant, and has a practice of contemplative prayer.

Andrew Maries

Andrew has worked nationwide across the different styles and traditions of church music offering training and encouragement to musicians and clergy, including in Devon where he was regional chair of RSCM for a time. He currently plays the oboe in various orchestras and ensembles around the region.

Sophie Brewer

Sophie is an Exeter based flautist performing as a soloist and part of various groups including
PianoFlaute, Flute Cake and Exeter Symphony Orchestra, with whom she is principal flute.

Catherine Bradley

Catherine is an experienced cellist, and plays in orchestral concerts and special recitals with the Isca Ensemble, as well as for weddings and choral societies.

John Draisey

John Draisey is a pianist and organist who regularly plays for services at the Mint Methodist and Southernhay URC churches.

Judy Burgess

Judy Burgess RSLI is a self-employed Registered Qualified Sign Language Interpreter, and is on the National Registers of Communication Professionals working with Deaf and Deafblind People (NRCPD). She provides British Sign Language interpretation at the 10am Eucharist at Exeter Cathedral on the first Sunday of each month.

We very much see her as a musician and part of the performance.

The Living Cross

The stained glass featured in the publicity is The Living Cross by Thomas Denny (2007), one of the windows in the Audley Chantry of Hereford Cathedral expressing the vision of the 17th-century poet Thomas Traherne. There is more information on the Beshara Magazine website.