Music for Sunday 14th January: Epiphany 2, Year B

The readings for this Sunday are:

1 Samuel 3:1-10 [11-20]
Psalm 139:1-5, 12-18
Revelation 5:1-10
John 1:43-51

1 Samuel 3:1-10 [11-20] is about God calling Samuel, and Samuel getting all confused and thinking it was Eli. But eventually, with some guidance, he gets the hint, and when he’s called again, he says, “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.” And in the square bracketed verses, there’s some unpleasant news for old Eli, which he faces with relative equanamity.

Psalm 139:1-5, 12-18 is about the inescapability of God, about God being there with us before we are even formed and no matter where we go.

Revelation 5:1-10 is in full-on visionary mode, with weird creatures and scrolls and harps and incense and elders and a lamb with seven horns and eyes. It’s weird. It’s beautiful. Go read it. I’ll wait.

John 1:43-51 is… back to vocation again. “Follow me,” says Jesus to Phillip. But it’s also about being known by God, in the way that Jesus knows Nathanael, despite his (or our) cynicism. And it’s about what we will see: heaven opened, and angels ascending and descending.

For a congregational hymn about vocation, there’s Ally Barrett’s “Here we are giving” to HILLTOP, which is free to download from CPDL.

For a meditative anthem about seeing God, you could use Truth sees God, Carlotta Ferrari’s setting of words by Julian of Norwich. I couldn’t find a recording, but it’s only in two parts; a bit crunchy but not overly so.

(Administrivia: I wanted to get back to adding new works to the site this week, but due to illness it didn’t happen. I’m looking forward to getting back to it next week!)

12th Day of Christmas: ‘I walked in darkness’ by Kathryn Rose

For the twelfth day of Christmas, here’s I walked in darkness by Kathryn Rose, with words by Marnanel Thurman:

I walked in darkness. Many a lonely mile,
my eyes and footsteps hesitant and blind.
I sought a kindly light I did not find
in land or ocean, asking all the while
if lightless lives are taken in exchange
for light eternal; still the shades of sight
would whisper, “Even I shall see the light!”
I never thought the light would look so strange.
Not in a temple, echoing and awed,
Nor in a palace, glistening and grand,
Nor in my home, nor any friendly land.
But distant, dirty, in a shed abroad,
I met a maiden bloody from a birth
and in her arms, the light of all the earth.

[Listen to I walked in darkness on Youtube]

The score is available from the Choral Public Domain Library.

Music for Sunday 7th January: Baptism of Christ (Epiphany 1), Year B

The readings for the Baptism of Christ are:

Genesis 1:1-5
Psalm 29
Acts 19:1-7
Mark 1:4-11

The reading from Genesis is about the first day of creation, with a lovely focus on water and light.

The psalm is a vivid depiction of God’s glory in nature. This would make any short Gloria text appropriate; for example, Eleanor Daley’s Gloria in Excelsis Deo or, for something a bit calmer, Gloria by Sakari Dixon.

The reading from Acts is about the baptism in the name of Jesus, by which Christians receive the Holy Spirit.

The Gospel reading, from Mark, sets the scene of John the Baptizer calling people to repentance and baptizing them, and Jesus being baptized by John.

Both Acts and Mark mention the Holy Spirit, so music related to the Holy Spirit would also be appropriate.

Technically I think we’re not supposed to move Epiphany to the nearest Sunday, but I’m sure a number of churches do. In that case the readings would be:


Isaiah 60:1-6
Psalm 72:[1-9]10-15
Ephesians 3:1-12
Matthew 2:1-12

Isaiah seems to be saying to prepare for a better time, a gathering-in, being recognised by nations — and there’s the gold and frankincense, foreshadowing, if you like, the gifts of the Magi.

Psalm 72 is a prayer for support for the king, and continues with the theme of expensive gifts being brought from easterly places.

In Ephesians, Paul tells the receivers of his letter that the inheritance with Christ is not just for the people of Israel but for them, gentiles, too.

In Matthew’s telling of the visit of the Magi there’s a strong focus on how scared Herod is of the promised Messiah, but the other essential details are there too: the star, and the gifts.

As an anthem, I walked in darkness by Kathryn Rose would work — though it seems to be done just as often during Advent and Christmas, when choirs haven’t just been on holiday for a week or two.

For either of these services, Christ be our light by Bernadette Farrell could be appropriate, especially if there’s a particular focus on light.

Music for Sunday 17th December: Advent 3 (Gaudete), year B

The readings for this week are
Isaiah 61:1-4, 8-11
Psalm 126 OR Canticle: Magnificat (Luke 1:46-55)
1 Thessalonians 5:16-24
John 1:6-8, 19-28
.

Gaudete Sunday, hurrah! Rejoice!

Now it gets interesting. There’s enough imagery in Isaiah alone to last several weeks: the focus on justice and good news for the poor and downtrodden, or the rejoicing as a bride, or the earth bringing forth its shoots.

To complicate things further, you could have the Magnificat as a canticle instead of the psalm this week, or next week instead. Psalm 126 is one of the Songs of Ascents, and it’s about a harvest of (guess what?) joy and thanksgiving.

1 Thessalonians is short and sweet, rejoice in the Lord always, and some other instructions and benedictions from the letter-writer. And “the one who calls you is faithful”.

And then we have John the Baptist, again, this time as told by John rather than Mark.

If you are using the Magnificat this week, check out the Evensong page for a couple of recommendations. If you’re really going all-out for Gaudete you could also consider Isabella Leonarda’s Magnificat, but it does require two violins and a basso continuo as well as the choral parts and it lasts a good nine or ten minutes, so this is not a good substitute for the psalm at your average Parish Eucharist! Here’s a recording:

Isabella Leonarda’s Magnificat on YouTube

The hymn I wrote for last week would work well again this week, but… well, probably not if you used it last week.

Music for Sunday 10th December: Advent 2 (Year B)

The readings for this Sunday are:


Isaiah 40:1-11
Psalm 85:1-2, 8-13
2 Peter 3:8-15a
Mark 1:1-8

Isaiah: Comfort ye my people. Make the way straight. The Lord is coming, and he will feed his flock like a shepherd.
Psalm: A prayer for God’s favour. Steadfast love and faithfulness will meet; righteousness and peace will kiss each other.
2 Peter: It’s all a bit wibbly-wobbly timey-wimey… The Lord is not slow, but patient; and then some stuff about what it will be like when God does turn up, new heavens and a new earth, where righteousness is at home. In the meantime we are to wait patiently and strive to be found at peace.
Gospel: good old John the Baptist, telling us who’s coming next. I have baptized you with water; but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.

I was expecting to run into a Sunday eventually where I couldn’t make many recommendations yet, but I wasn’t expecting it so soon.

There’s always Crimond, if you didn’t use it last week, given the feeding of flocks like a shepherd; but that isn’t particularly Advent-y.

So, I wrote a hymn tune myself, to some words by Percy Dearmer.

Music for Sunday 3rd December: Advent 1 (Year B)

The readings for this Sunday are:

Isaiah 64:1-9
Psalm 80:1-8, 18-20
1 Corinthians 1:3-9
Mark 13:24-37

Serious stuff. Repentance is a theme in Isaiah and the Psalm; 1 Corinthians is more encouraging, and the Gospel reading is about keeping awake.

If you’re of a Marian bent you could use the Alma Redemptoris Mater, which is the Marian antiphon used from Advent to Candlemas. There’s a setting by Isabella Leonarda available on CPDL; here’s a Youtube recording of it sung by women, rather than the SATB:


[external link: Alma Redemptoris Mater by Isabelle Leonarda, on Youtube]

If Advent carol services and processions are more your thing, you could sing Stephanie Martin’s Legend of the Bird, a carol in the form of a conversation with a robin about the return of Christ. It’s available to order from Cypress Choral Music, and here it is on Soundcloud:

[external link: Legend of the Bird by Stephanie Martin, on Soundcloud]

Finally, my own setting of “Advent” by Christina Rosetti is available from Lulu or CPDL, and here’s a demo recording of it on YouTube:


[external link: Advent by Kathryn Rose, on Youtube]

There are also arrangements by women of various traditional Advent tunes; these are in some ways beyond the remit of Cecilia’s List, but the two that spring to mind are O Come O Come Emmanuel arranged by Sheena Phillips, and Es kommt ein Schiff, geladen by Sigrid Schultz-Kokerbeck. I’m intrigued by the text for the latter — there’s more information at good old Wikipedia but no English translation there, and my German is pretty shaky; however, I did find this blog post from 2013 with an English translation.