The Holy Family

As is our custom, the choir had a well-deserved Sunday off, though plenty of us were present in this morning’s full congregation. Musical selections were in the hands of The Management; by the look of things, as well as music suitable for today’s solemnity, some of the choices were made by a couple celebrating their golden wedding anniversary. Musical staples included the Gloria from Missa de Angelis and Holy is the Lord for the Sanctus. To judge from the service sheet we were also supposed to sing the Easter chant alleluia to acclaim the Gospel, but the reader evidently wasn’t in the loop, so we recited it instead. We began with Adeste fideles and ended with Hark the herald, and in between were Sebastian Temple’s Make me a channel of your peace and Carey Landry’s The love I have for you. A soloist sang Harold Darke’s In the bleak midwinter and the Bach/Gounod Ave Maria.

The choir are back next Sunday for the solemnity of the Epiphany.

Christmas Morning

Entrance O Come all ye faithful
Gloria Glory to God in the Highest (John Bell)
Psalm All the ends of the earth (Alan Johnson)
Gospel Acclamation Salisbury Alleluia (Christopher Walker)
Preparation of the Gifts See amid the winter’s snow
Sanctus, Acclamation, Amen Spring Sanctus (mcb)
Agnus Dei Lamb of God II (mcb)
Communion O Little Town of Bethlehem
Postcommunion Ding dong merrily – choir
Recessional Hark, the herald angels sing

For the last few years we’ve had just the men of the choir on Christmas morning, and it’s always a fun sing. With very little preparation it’s possible to make a fine sound in four-part close harmony, and questions of balance recede when there are only male voices: there were just eight of us this year, but we raised the roof.

Christmas Vigil and Midnight Mass (2009)

IntroitO Emmanuel (chant)
Opening HymnO Come, O Come Emmanuel
ReadingIsaiah 11:1-10 (A shoot springs from the stock of Jesse)
ChoirO Magnum Mysterium (Morten Lauridsen)
HymnWhile shepherds watched their flocks
ReadingLuke 1:26-38 (The Annunciation)
ChoirIn the bleak midwinter (Harold Darke)
HymnOnce in Royal David’s City
ReadingJohn 1: 1-18 (In the Beginning was the Word)
Bishop’s entrance and procession to the cribAdeste Fideles
GloriaGloria de Noël (Thomas Niel)
ReadingIsaiah 9:2-7 (The people that walked in darkness)
PsalmChristmas Psalm (Farrell)
ReadingTitus 2:11-14 (God’s grace has been revealed)
Gospel AcclamationCeltic Alleluia (Fintan O’Carroll)
ReadingLuke 2:1-14 (The Nativity)
Preparation of the giftsA maiden most gentle (trad. arr. Andrew Carter) – choir
Sanctus, Acclamation, Amen Missa Ubi Caritas (Bob Hurd)
Agnus DeiMissa Ubi Caritas
CommunionVerbum caro factum est (mcb) & Gloria III (Jacques Berthier)
Silent night
PostcommunionO little town of Bethlehem
RecessionalHark the herald angels sing

Our celebration was structured along the lines of para. 110 of the Directory on Popular Piety, with a vigil forming an extended Liturgy of the Word, as at Easter, but with the principal celebrant joining us after the first three readings. (Fr Tony presided up to this point.) Celebration Brass were with us, and a very full congregation joined in heartily with familiar music.

Thomas Niel’s setting of the Gloria takes the traditional Christmas carol refrain and adds choral sections in between setting the Latin text of the prayer. There seem to be a few settings like this to choose from.

Verbum caro factum is a canon written to go with the well-known Taizé setting of the song of the angels. We began with mine and gradually morphed - via an 8-part canon combining the two settings - into a unison proclamation of the words Gloria in excelsis Deo. It was probably too complicated to expect the assembly to join in, but hopefully the lilting 6/8 meant it was a suitably serene accompaniment to the Communion procession.

4th Sunday of Advent (Year C, 2009)

Entrance The Angel Gabriel
Kyrie Kyrie 2 from Community Mass (Richard Proulx)
Psalm God of hosts, bring us back (Sue Furlong)
Gospel Acclamation Advent Gospel Acclamations (Alan Smith)
Preparation of the Gifts Ave Maria (Bach/Gounod, arr. Richard Proulx)
Sanctus, Acclamation, Amen Mass XVIII (in English)
Agnus Dei Alan Rees
Communion In the Lord (Taizé)
Postcommunion Rorate Caeli (Francisco Guerrero, 1528-1599)
Recessional O come, O come Emmanuel

Of all the Sundays of the year this is perhaps the one when it’s most appropriate to sing a setting of Ave Maria. I might have gone for a congregational setting if I knew of a good one, but I don’t think I do. (Suggestions anyone?) As it was, the arrangement for four voices by Richard Proulx of the famous Bach/Gounod version went down a treat. (After Mass we had misty eyed requests for a swift repeat.)

We usually sing O Come O Come Emmanuel for our recessional hymn on the fourth Sunday of Advent. There’s a sense of magnetic pull towards the celebration of Christmas itself which the hymn seems to conjure. We’ll begin our Vigil celebration half an hour before midnight on Christmas Eve with the same words, first in the Latin chant of the antiphon O Emmanuel, and then with the hymn once again. To my mind, there’s no more effective way of marking our presence at the threshold of the feast.

3rd Sunday of Advent (Year C, 2009)

Entrance Rejoice for Ever (mcb)
Kyrie Dinah Reindorf
Psalm Is 12 (Laurence Bévenot)
Gospel Acclamation Advent Gospel Acclamations (Alan Smith)
Preparation of the Gifts Blest be the Lord (Bernadette Farrell)
Sanctus, Acclamation, Amen Mass XVIII (in English)
Agnus Dei Alan Rees
Communion Veni Immanuel (Bell) & Ps 32 (John Ainslie)
Postcommunion Rejoice in the Lord Alway (Henry Purcell, 1659-1695)
Recessional Hail to the Lord’s anointed

For our Communion processional song we mixed John Bell’s Veni Immanuel with verses from Psalm 32 (33). This psalm seems just right for Advent, with the lines The Lord looks on those who revere him, on those who hope in his love and Our soul is waiting for the Lord.

We sang an abridged version of Purcell’s famous Bell Anthem – so-called because of the repeated runs down the scale, like a peal of bells, in the open instrumental prelude – omitting the second verse section (beginning Be careful for nothing) but retaining all the repetitions of Rejoice in the Lord alway. The net result was more rejoicing and less admonition than St Paul probably intended. But for Gaudete Sunday I felt it was on target.

Celebration of Christmas in aid of Age Concern

Sunday, 6 December 2009

For our annual Christmas concert in aid of Age Concern we were joined as usual by tenor and local radio presenter Jon Christos, and by ace chamber choir Notability. Soprano Jenny Williams joined us too, for a most welcome second appearance. The aim in drawing up the programme was to have something for everyone, and I'd like to think we succeeded. As well as the musical fare, we had readings and reminiscences from local celebrities and dignitaries. Bishop Brain led us in prayer at the end.

For a celebration in early Advent it was unashamedly Christmas-themed. This was the eighth year in succession we’ve hosted the event, and the first couple of times we did it, I tried to give it an overall Advent feel. But somehow it doesn’t feel right to round off a celebration like this with a rousing chorus of Come, thou long expected Jesus, and people seem to like it better this way.

My feeling is that if we were more fastidious about the timing of Christmas musical celebrations, we could miss out on communicating the Christmas message itself to people it might otherwise not reach. In a week or so’s time we’re hitting the pubs of Salford, this time in aid of St Ann’s Hospice, Little Hulton, but with the same ulterior motive in mind.

Cathedral Choir & Notability
The Truth from Above (Vaughan Williams)
O Come all ye Faithful
Wassail Song (trad., arr Vaughan Williams)
The night he was born (Bob Chilcott)
O little town of Bethlehem
Jon Christos
The Three Kings (Peter Cornelius) – with Cathedral Choir
Jon Christos & Jenny Williams
In the Bleak Midwinter (Harold Darke) – with Notability & Cathedral Choir
Good King Wenceslas
Cathedral Choir
Gaudete (trad., trans. Bob Hurd, arr. Craig Kingsbury)
Once in Royal David’s City
Stille Nacht (Franz Gruber, arr. Ward Swingle)
Ding Dong Merrily on High (G R Woodward, Christopher Cotton)
Anthony Hunt
Prelude on ‘God rest you merry, gentlemen’ (John Rutter)
Cathedral Choir
O Magnum Mysterium (Morten Lauridsen)
Jon Christos & Jenny Williams Panis Angelicus (César Franck)
O Holy Night (Adolphe Adam)
Singalong led by Jon & Jenny
Chestnuts roasting on an open fire
Have yourself a merry little Christmas
I’m dreaming of a white Christmas
Hark the Herald Angels Sing
Anthony Hunt
Chorale Prelude on ‘In Dulci Jubilo’ (J.S. Bach)

2nd Sunday of Advent (Year C, 2009)

Entrance Song of Consolation (Peter Jones)
Kyrie Dinah Reindorf
Psalm What marvels the Lord worked for us (mcb)
Gospel Acclamation Advent Gospel Acclamations (Alan Smith)
Preparation of the Gifts On Jordan’s Bank
Sanctus, Acclamation, Amen Mass XVIII (in English)
Agnus Dei Alan Rees
Communion Bread of Life (Bernadette Farrell)
Postcommunion Adam lay ybounden (John Ireland 1879-1962)
Recessional Come, thou long expected Jesus

I’ve been looking for ages for a strong and singable musical interpretation of the text Prepare a way for the Lord, and Peter Jones’s Song of Consolation (from Decani’s Veni Emmanuel) is a very pleasing find. The refrain has the words

Prepare the way for the coming of God
Across the desert drive a long straight highway
Fill in the valleys, make the mountain tops low
And all shall see the glory of the coming of God

John Ireland’s simple setting of Adam lay ybounden must be less well-known than Boris Ord’s Carols-for-Choirs version, but it has nice little touches of word-painting. I especially like the throwaway feel of the words and all was for an apple with a couple of beats’ rest immediately following, like a shrug of the shoulders: it didn’t take much to bring about the fall of mankind; any trivial object of desire would have done the trick.