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The Month's Music

                                                             The Crystal Ball

                                                      Music for December 2021

After the rather restricted diet of last year’s Advent and Christmas fare, we hope to bring you something more satisfying this year. There will be our usual Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols at 6 pm on the Fourth Sunday in Advent (19 December), but for details of that you will have to (metaphorically, of course) ‘watch this space’, as my scrying device goes blank when I search under that heading. Expect the usual mix of familiar and unfamiliar and you probably won’t go far wrong.

            However, there are two Advent Sundays before that, and on both we have music by giants in the field of church music. Handel’s Messiah is of course inescapably associated with this season, and on 5 December we shall sing its first chorus, ‘And the glory of the Lord’, with characteristic dancing rhythms contrasted with solemn declamations from ‘the mouth of the Lord’ reminding us of the dual nature of Advent as both a promise of joy and a time of judgement. On the following Sunday (12 December) it’s the turn of Felix Mendelssohn, who inspired a whole generation of composers in this country to try (not always successfully) to imitate his smooth melodic lines and mellifluous harmonies; ‘How lovely are the messengers’ is a chorus from his oratorio St Paul, probably the only well-known number from that work.

            At that point, as I indicated above, my information runs out. This year there will be Midnight Mass at 11.30 on Christmas Eve, and a Sung Eucharist on Christmas morning at 10.45, both suitably punctuated with carols; on Sunday 26 December there will be no choir at the Parish Eucharist, but there will be two carols from our recorded repertoire to help our devotions.

            Our settings of the Eucharist for this month reflect the seasons: during Advent, we shall use the austere but satisfying Missa Brevis II by the French-Canadian composer Denis Bédard (plus a setting of the Sanctus to an American traditional melody), and in the Christmas season Schubert, Geoff Weaver and Palestrina (along with the substitution of a well-known Christmas hymn for the Gloria in excelsis).

            It only remains for me to point you towards Uppingham School’s Advent carol service at 7 pm on 5 December, always a high point of the season; and to wish you (when it comes) a happy and holy Christmas.

                                                                                                                                            Succentor