Monday, 24 December 2007

Christmas in the Oratory Choir

Many of you will have seen some of the posts on the blogs of Jackie Parkes and Matthew Doyle waxing eloquent about the splendour of the liturgy and music in the Birmingham Oratory. Indeed it is very splendid. However being in the Oratory choir, which I'm a member, it is a very different matter.

While everyone else can turn up at whatever mass they please, we have to turn in at eight o'clock this evening for a rehearsal that lasts till 11.00pm, with a short break before the carol service at 11.15pm, immediately followed by the midnight mass, finishing at 1.30am.

And we're not finished then! We then have to turn in at 10.00am on Christmas morning for high mass at 11.00am, which is over at 12.30am. In short, we have about 8 hours of singing to do over the Christmas period, and it has to be at a professional standard. We sing mainly in Latin with all the Gregorian Chant propers, as well as the main music. It's hard work, and no matter what happens, we have to deliver.

And as for me, I have the additional responsibility of being music librarian, and hence over the last week I have been slaving away over the photocopier to make sure there are about 25 sets of music with 20 singers at midnight mass. I only just completed this task this morning.

Many who come to worship at our church often have little idea about how much work goes on behind the scenes. The myth is often spread around that we are an elite group who look down on the ordinary faithful. In reality, being in the choir is very hard and stressful work. However it is well worth it, and we usually rise to the challenge, as you can see from this year's music:

11.15pm Christmas Carol Service

Mary, flower of flowers all. (Anon) arr. Meirion Wynn Jones; The Truth from above, arr R. Vaughan Williams; In the bleak mid – winter, Harold Darke; A spotless Rose, Herbert Howells; Benedicamus Domino, Peter Warlock.

O little town of Bethlehem, Of the Father’s heart begotten, See amid the winter’s snow,Silent Night, Hark! The herald angels sing.

Midnight Mass

Kyrie and Gloria: Messe de minuit by Marc – Antoine Charpentier (1634 – 1704)
Credo: III
Offertory Motet: Gaudete from Piae Cantonies
Sanctus: Mass VIII
Agnus Dei: from the Mass by Charpentier
Communion: O Magnum mysterium by Victoria
In Dulci Jubilo arranged by R.L.Pearsall
Adeste Fideles (Trad)

11am Solemn High Mass

Kyrie and Gloria: Missa Brevis in D Mozart
Credo: III
Offertory Motet: Resonet in Laudibus, J. Handl
Sanctus: Mass VIII
Agnus Dei: Mass VIII
Communion: O Magnum mysterium by Adriaan Willaert.
Adeste Fideles. (trad)

I wish all of you a very happy Christmas, and shall return on the feast of St. Stephen First Martyr.


Anonymous said...

That was a lovely post Oliver. i must confess although i see you at Mass most days i'm never quite sure what you do! i mean i know it has something to do with music! Seriously folks Oliver works unceasingly week in week out organising the wonderful Oratory choir.

My that's a lot of hours dedicated to the Lord. i wish you a happy & holy Christmas.

John the organist said...

Fancy mentioning the dreaded word photocopy!!!!! Yes music making at Xmas takes up all of ones time. my husband is an organist, now back with the Anglicans, but had three services on Xmas Eve and then in the morning. He also fitted in RC Mass and serving at second Vespers at Westminster where we both serve. I managed to fit some cooking inbetween all the cathedral services. This past weekend we joined one of our grups singing at St George's Chapel Winsdor, so it never stops.

Andrew said...

As director of my parish schola, I sympathize and empathize with you. Truly, the hours can be quite rigorous, especially if many in the choir can't read music and more so if you do regular polyphony and 4 part harmonies.

But it's all worth it if done is the service of the Lord. =)