I want to get back on the horse, and that includes sorting out some long-standing issues.
Hopefully this picture will be of the usual Cecilia’s List icon…
Have a picture of ‘Starry Night’ by Vincent van Gogh, too…
Sing like nobody is cutting your head off
Happy Saint Cecilia’s Day!
On Sunday I had the great pleasure of attending a rehearsal, reception, Evensong and concert at Selwyn College to celebrate the launch of Multitude of Voyces’ anthology, sacred music by women composers. This is Volume 1, SATB Anthems, and it was wonderful to hear and sing some of the music. Many thanks are due to Sarah MacDonald and the choir of Selwyn Chapel, as well as everyone else who helped put together the event.
The anthology itself is excellent. There are twenty two pieces by twenty two composers, from the sixteenth century onward and including twelve by living composers. There are pieces for all levels — some that would be accessible for even the most amateur choir, and some that would challenge even a seasoned choral singer like me. There are pieces for all seasons. There is a brief commentary on each piece in the back of the book, and a biography of each composer in the front.
So far, so good. I would expect this much of any anthology these days. But the music — oh, the music! The reason that Sunday afternoon and evening was such a treat for me was that every piece I heard was stunningly beautiful. I keep flipping through it looking for highlights, and if I had to choose just one, well, I couldn’t. You can have a look for yourself, though, at a .pdf of the first page of each piece.
This is a volume that every SATB parish choir should own, and I unreservedly commend it to you. It is an invaluable resource full of simply gorgeous music. I am certain that it will make presenting a more inclusive, diverse and balanced selection of music a delight; and it will also give me something to be getting on with when updating this site. But there is a limited print run, and half of it has sold already. Go order your copy now! Go on. I’ll wait.
There are two more volumes planned for publication in 2020: Volume 2 — Upper Voices Anthems, and Volume 3 — Liturgical Works.
In other news, today marks two years since this site started. I’m currently in the throes of writing up my PhD in choral composition, so updates have been rather few and far between for a while, but I’m looking forward to getting back to it as soon as I can.
The readings for this Sunday are:
1 Samuel 2:18-20, 26
1 Samuel 2:18-20, 26 — Samuel was given to the Temple by his parents when he was still a child, and they used to go and visit him each year.
Psalm 148 — a song instructing all to praise God’s glory, including heavens, heights, angels, sun, moon, stars, heavens (again), waters above the heavens, sea monsters and all deeps, et cetera.
Colossians 3:12-17 — advice to the Colossians and to us about behaving in a loving and kind manner, and allowing the peace of Christ to rule in us; being thankful; allowing the word of Christ to dwell in us; singing praises to God; and doing everything in the name of the Lord Jesus.
Luke 2:41-52 — Jesus and his family go to the Temple for Passover, Mary and Joseph travel back but they can’t find Jesus, after three days he’s still in the Temple.
In terms of musical resources, you might have a visiting choir on this Sunday, or you might have no choir at all, or you might just be a bit thin on the ground.
Alice Tegnér, Psalm 148
Swedish text, SATB with soloist, organ optional, moderately easy, 2min 20s.
Available from CPDL:
Hilary Tann, Contemplations (8, 9)
Latin and English text from Psalm 148 and a poem by Anne Bradstreet.
SSA a capella, moderately challenging, 5min 10s
Available from Brichtmark Music, scroll right to the bottom: http://www.brichtmarkmusic.com/catalogue
Patricia Van Ness, Psalm 148
Part of Birds of the Psalms
English text adapted from the Book of Common Prayer by the composer
SSATBB a capella, challenging, 2min
Available from the composer’s website:
Rosephanye Powell, Have you seen the baby Jesus?
English text, SSAA or SATB with soloist, moderately easy, 2min 40s.
Available from JW Pepper:
Kathryn Rose, BRAXTED, Wherever Love Is.
English text by Marnanel Thurman, SATB hymn tune, easy, 3vv.
Available from CPDL:
Christmas Eve Monday 24th December
2 Samuel 7:1-5, 8:11-16
Christmas Day: Proper I
Luke 2:[1-7] 8-20
Christmas Day: Proper II
Luke 2:1-14 [15-20]
Christmas Day: Proper III
Hebrews 1:1-4 [5-12]
The idea is that you’re supposed to use Proper III at some point, because of John’s Gospel. Most people seem to use it at Midnight Mass. Sorry, I’m not summarising all of these readings! Maybe next year.
Jennifer Higdon, O Magnum Mysterium
Text in Latin and English, moderately challenging, 6min.
SATB with three accompaniment options:
A – 2 flutes, 2 crystal glasses, chimes;
B – organ;
C – a cappella
Available from the composer’s website: http://jenniferhigdon.com/choralworks.html
Tawnie Olson, O Inexpressible Mystery
English text, SSAATBB and viola obbligato, moderately challenging, 2min 30s.
Published by E C Schirmer, available in print and download from Canticle Distributing: https://www.canticledistributing.com/catalog/product/view/id/39673/
Rhian Samuel, So Long Ago
English text by John Pudney, SATB a cappella with soprano solo, moderately challenging, 2min 50s.
Published by Stainer & Bell: https://stainer.co.uk/shop/y154/
Rosephanye Powell, The Word Was God
English text, SSAATTBB a cappella (also available in SATB, SSAA, TTBB)
Available from J W Pepper: https://www.jwpepper.com/The-Word-Was-God/8068120.item
Patricia Van Ness, Into Winter’s Glimm’ring Night
English text by Patricia Van Ness, SSAATTB a cappella, moderately challenging, 4min. Available from the composer’s website: http://www.patriciavanness.com/works-CM-acappella.html
This is, of course, an incomplete list. I have quite a backlog to add to the site again, as soon as things quiet down a bit on the PhD front.
May you have a happy, holy and blessed Christmas.
Canticle: Magnificat (Luke 1:46-55) or Psalm 80:1-8
Luke 1:39-45 [46-55]
If you choose Psalm 80:1-8 then you should include the square bracketed verses from Luke, so the Magnificat is included whichever way you do things.
Micah 5:2-5a is a prophecy about one who will come from Bethlehem to restore his people and care for them as a shepherd cares for his flock.
Luke 1:46-55 is the Magnificat.
Psalm 80:1-8 is a prayer for the restoration of Israel. “Turn us again, Lord God of hosts”.
Hebrews 10:5-10 is about the sacrifice of Jesus being the will of God, rather than the Temple sacrifices that were offered according to the Law.
Luke 1:39-55 is Mary’s visit to her cousin Elizabeth.
Patricia Van Ness, Magnificat
Latin text, SSA (or TTB) and organ, moderately challenging, 6min.
Available from the composer’s website: http://www.patriciavanness.com/works-CM-accompanied.html
Gwyneth Walker, Magnificat from Bethesda Evensong
English text, SSAA Chorus, Solo Mezzo-soprano, Organ or Piano or Brass intet, Percussion, and Piano, moderately easy, 5min.
Published by E C Schirmer, availble from Presto: https://www.prestoclassical.co.uk/sheet-music/products/8101708–gwyneth-walker-bethesda-evensong-be-our-light-in-the-darkness
Helen Williams, Mary’s Whys
English text by Sarah Lutton
SATB with organ, moderately easy (extended a cappella passages), 3min.
Score and recording available from Canossa Choral Music: http://www.canossa.co.uk/MarysWhys.html
Canticle: Isaiah 12:2-6
Zephaniah 3:14-20 — a song of joy at the coming of the Lord, the King of Israel, who will restore the people and gather them and bring them home.
Isaiah 12:2-6 — a song of trust in God, and thanks and praise to God.
Philippians 4:4-7 — the letter writer tells the recipients (and us!) to rejoice in the Lord, to let our gentleness be known to everyone, and not to worry about anything but to pray to the Lord with thanksgiving.
Luke 3:7-18 — John the Baptist calls the crowd of people coming to be baptized a brood of vipers, and tells people what they should do: someone with two coats must give one away, tax collectors must only collect what they are meant to, soldiers must not extort money from anyone by threats or false accusations but be satisfied with their wages. People wonder if he is the Messiah and he tells them that one who is coming who will baptize them with the Holy Spirit and with fire.
Gwyneth Walker, I Thank You God
English text by e e cummings
SSA or SSATB and piano (or orchestra), moderately challenging, 5min 35s.
Available from Presto Classical. https://www.prestoclassical.co.uk/sheet-music/products/8102799–gwyneth-walker-i-thank-you-god
Additional comments and resources: https://www.gwynethwalker.com/ithankyo.html
It’s also Sapientiatide – the ‘O’ Antiphons start on 16th December (if you sing eight of them; if you sing only seven, they start on the 17th). There are various settings of relevant texts which are suitable:
Melissa Dunphy, O Oriens.
Latin text from the O Antiphons.
SATB a cappella, moderately challenging, 4min.
Availble from the composer’s website: http://melissadunphy.com/composition.php?id=62
Carlotta Ferrari, O Oriens.
Latin text from the O Antiphons.
SATB a cappella, moderately challenging, 2min.
Available from CPDL. http://www.cpdl.org/wiki/index.php/O_oriens_(Carlotta_Ferrari)
For those of you in or near Pasadena, California: The Pasadena Master Chorale is putting on a concert of Christmas music composed by women, including Caroline Mallonée, Katherine Beggs, Dale Trumbore, Amy Gordon, Abbie Betinis, Kira Dawn, Emily Feld, Jen Wang, and yours truly.
The concert is at 8pm on Saturday, 15th December, at St Philip the Apostle Church, 151 South Hill Avenue, zip code 91106.
It’s presented on a Listen First, Then Give basis. At the end of the concert, make a donation, as you are moved, as you are able.
They expect it to sell out, so you may want to register via EventBrite. There is also a Facebook event to share.
Baruch 5:1-9 or Malachi 3:1-4
Canticle: Benedictus (Luke 1:68-79)
Baruch 5:1-9: an exhortation to Jerusalem to leave off sorrow and affliction, because the Lord will come to save Israel
Malachi 3:1-4: a prophecy of the coming of the messenger who will prepare the way for the Lord — who will come to his Temple and purify his people.
Benedictus: careful with this one, it’s the song of Zechariah, not the bit of the Mass setting that comes after the Sanctus! The backstory here is that Zechariah didn’t believe the angel Gabriel about his wife bearing a son, and so he was made mute until the birth, and these words are the first thing he said after the birth of the child — who was John the Baptist.
Philippians 1:3-11: Paul’s prayer for the Philippians, that their love may overflow with knowledge and insight so that at the return of Christ they may be pure and blameless.
Luke 3:1-6: A brief description of John the Baptist proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins, and quoting Isaiah.
Kathryn Rose, COLWALL
SATB hymn tune, 87 87 887, to words “Lo in the wilderness a voice” by Percy Dearmer. Download from CPDL: http://www.cpdl.org/wiki/index.php/Colwall_(Kathryn_Rose)
Thea Musgrave, Hear the Voice of the Bard
English text by William Blake
TrATB a cappella, challenging, 3min.
Available from Music Room: https://www.musicroom.com/product-detail/product1097973/variant1097973/
Recording: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3mDUg8HQIDc beginning at 19:00
Okay, okay, I’ve been quiet longer than I intended, and even let St Cecilia’s Day pass without much note. It turns out that the thing one does after passing one’s MPhil upgrade is not, in fact, spending several weeks catching up on everything else, but getting further behind while composing a substantial piece of music.
More on that later. On Sunday I had the pleasure of attending a Cecilia-tide Evensong at St Pancras Church, highlighting the London Festival of Contemporary Church Music. In some previous years the music at the Festival hasn’t had a great gender balance, if I’m honest, but the music on Sunday included works by Miriam Mackie and Deborah Pritchard. I tried to find a recording of the Pritchard, a beautifully haunting a cappella setting of Psalm 121, I Will Lift Up Mine Eyes Unto The Hills. Not only was I unable to find a recording, I’ve also not been able to find anywhere that you can buy the sheet music. I guess your best bet is to get in touch through her twitter account.
And if you’re a composer of church music and you’re reading this, or you know a composer of church music and you’re reading this, it’s well worth submitting new music to LFCCM before the deadline, which is Friday 30th November.
I’ve had my head down for several weeks, preparing for my MPhil upgrade.
I passed, which means I hope to do a bit of catching up in the next few weeks. Watch this space!