Music to End Transfiguration Sunday, 14 February 2021

Before the penitential season of Lent begins, we are reminded today of the revelation of God’s glory in Christ on the Feast of Transfiguration – Jesus appears in dazzling white on the mountain with Elijah and Moses (Mark 9, 2–9). The disciples misunderstand, thinking that this is their final destination (Let us make three tabernacles, one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah [verse 5]). But in reality, Transfiguration is a ‘pivot’, a ‘midpoint’, not the end. From now on, Jesus, revealed as Messiah, will turn his face to Jerusalem, submitting himself to the passion and glory that is to come. As Lent is imminent, it is a reminder of what is in store for us, liturgically and spiritually.

We begin tonight with Armitage Robinson’s hymn ‘’Tis good, Lord, to be here’, which recounts the events of Mark 9.

’Tis good, Lord, to be here,
thy glory fills the night;
thy face and garments, like the sun,
shine with unborrowed light.

’Tis good, Lord, to be here,
thy beauty to behold,
where Moses and Elijah stand,
thy messengers of old.

Fulfiller of the past,
promise of things to be,
we hail Thy body glorified,
and our redemption see.

Before we taste of death,
we see thy kingdom come;
we fain would hold the vision bright,
and make this hill our home.

’Tis good, Lord, to be here,
yet we may not remain;
but since thou bidst us leave the mount,
come with us to the plain.

Written by Joseph Armitage Robinson in 1890;
set to the melody Carlisle composed by Charles Lockhart in 1791.

Our next piece forms a wonderful choral celebration for Transfiguration Sunday – the final chorus of Mendelssohn’s oratorio ‘Elijah’, based on an inspirational text from Isaiah 58:

And then shall your light break forth as the morning breath:
and your health shall speedily spring forth then:
and the glory of the Lord ever shall reward you.

Lord our Creator, how excellent thy Name is in all the nations.
Thou fillest the heaven with Thy glory.


We hear the Cornerstone Chamber Choir and Orchestra in the finale of their performance of Elijah in 2015.

Adapted from Isaiah 58: 8 and Isaiah 63: 8. ‘Alsdann wird euer Licht hervorbrechen’ for oratorio Elijah, opus 70 composed by Felix Mendelssohn in 1846. Performed by Cornerstone Chamber Choir and Orchestra conducted by Adrian Boynton.

We end this evening with radiant music by the young John Rutter – the Aria and Ostinato from his Suite Antique for solo flute, harpsichord and string orchestra written in 1979 for a celebratory concert in East Sussex at which Bach’s Fifth Brandenburg Concerto (which used identical forces) was also performed. The Aria exploits the melodious upper register of the flute in a continuous singing line. The Ostinato dances along to a syncopated four-bar harmonic framework on the piano, repeated many times over in different keys. The flute soloist in this performance, made just before the current lockdown, is Abigail Burrows, a wonderful friend of Christ the Cornerstone since she first played with Adrian at the Church 26 years ago at the age of ten.

‘Suite Antique’ for flute, harpsichord and strings in six movements composed by John Rutter in 1979.

Finally, a prayer:

Lord, I pray that we become transfigured in your presence. I pray that when people see us, they see you. Awesome Creator, I thank you for letting your people witness the transfiguration of your Son, Jesus Christ.


Adrian Boynton