Advent 2021

30 December 2010
December - bleak

January cold desolate;
February all dripping wet;
March wind ranges;
April changes;
Birds sing in tune
To flowers of May,
And sunny June
Brings longest day;
In scorched July
The storm-clouds fly
Lightning torn;
August bears corn,
September fruit;
In rough October
Earth must disrobe her;
Stars fall and shoot
In keen November;
And night is long
And cold is strong
In bleak December.

Christina Rosetti


25 December 2010
Fifth Lesson - alternative

The Very Rev. Eric Milner-White, who was not without a sense of humor, included this "Alternative Fifth Lesson" in the first published version of the liturgy for a "Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols"


The Annunciation - Sandro Botticelli (c. 1445-1510)
Gabriel is troubled by Mary's words

The Blessed Virgin Mary salutes the angel Gabriel.

And in the sixth month the virgin Mary was sent from God unto a city of Galilee, named Nazareth, to an angel whose name was Gabriel. There was also a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David, but lo, he factoreth not into this version of the story; and the virgin’s name was Mary, but I've already said that. And the virgin came in unto the angel, and said, Hail, thou that art highly feathered, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among angels as is clearly in evidence by thine enormous wings. And when he saw her, he was troubled at her saying, and cast in his mind what manner of salutation this should be. And the virgin said unto him, Fear not, Gabriel: for thou hast found favour with God. And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name Jesus. Gabriel was somewhat troubled by the spelling of "favour", but greatly troubled at the other bit, even more so than the amount by which he had been troubled initially. Mary continued nevertheless, He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: and he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end. Then said Gabriel unto the virgin, How shall this be, seeing I have not a womb? And the virgin answered and said unto him, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God. And Gabriel said, Behold the handyman of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word. And the virgin departed from him, quietly chuckling to herself.


19 December 2010
Glory - the King of, comes (see also dance - liturgical)

Stephen Colbert points to the imminent culmination of our Advent journey.

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15 December 2010
Nine Lessons and Carols - a Festival of, 2010 (preview)

Looking toward the choir stalls in King's
photo by the author

On Monday we saw published the Order of Service to this year's Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols at King's College, Cambridge.

This year's service is fascinating and unusual in that two decade-long precedents are broken, and there are three direct repeats from last year's service.

As always, the service begins with "Once in royal David’s city". This carol has opened the service at King's since 1919.

The Invitatory Carol (after the Bidding Prayer) is "This is the truth sent from above" arranged by Ralph Vaughan Williams. This carol was last sung in 2007 after the First Lesson. It has previously made it's appearance in this slot in 1998, 2001, and 2003. To my knowledge, it has not been been sung as the Invitatory Carol in previous years.

After the First Lesson, a twelve-year pattern comes to an end. A setting of "Adam lay ybounden" was from 1998 through 2009 the second carol after the First Lesson. This year, Boris Ord's setting is the first carol to be sung.

The second carol is Stephen Cleobury's "A Virgin most pure".

(Note that the above and other videos of the King's College Choir come from "Carols from King's", a service for television that is filmed well before Christmas Eve.)

After the Second Lesson, Pearsall's "In dulci jubilo" is a direct repeat from the 2009 service.

Peter Tranchell's delightful "If ye would hear the angels sing" follows. This carol reappeared in 2008 after being published by the Church Music Society. A quick scan of reveals "It was commissioned in 1965 by Peter Marchbank for Queen Mary's School, Basingstoke."

After the Third Lesson, both pieces of music are nearly direct repeats of the previous year's selections. The Sussex Carol appears in an arrangement by Philip Ledger. Last year an arrangement of this same carol by his predecessor, David Willcocks, was sung.

The hymn "God rest you merry, gentlemen" follows. This same hymn was sung last year, breaking a nine-year "Unto us is born a Son"-"It came upon a midnight clear"-"O little town of Bethlehem" rotation.

Last sung five years ago, "A tender shoot" of Otto Goldschmidt returns after the Fourth Lesson.

And in another exact repeat from last year's service, the familiar "Lo, how a rose e'er blooming" melody appears sung in Swedish to the luminous and great setting by Jan Sandström.

Pierre Villette's "O toute belle Vierge Marie" was last heard in 2006, though as the second carol after the Fifth Lesson. This year it is the first.

The second is Peter Hurford's "As I sat on a sunny bank". Hurford has not had any music sung at this service, at least in recent memory. This year is the 80th anniversary of Hurford's birth.

This is also the first time that music of Max Reger has been sung (at least in a while). "Maria sitzt am Rosenhag" follows the Sixth Lesson.

The familiar "The Holly and the Ivy" in an unfamiliar arrangement by Australian June Nixon follows.

Again, in a breach of a custom established in 2000, a hymn, "While shepherds watched their flocks by night" immediately follows the Seventh Lesson. The hymn was, for nine years, the second piece of music after the reading.

This year the second work is one of the many previously commissioned carols: "Illuminare Jerusalem" by Judith Weir, with it's delightfully quirky organ emphases.

Incidentally, something that has escaped our notice until now is that the Director of Music seems to have jumped two lessons in 2005, reading that year the Seventh rather than the Fifth, which was customary.

The commissioned Carol falls quite late in the service this year. Only Jonathan Dove's "The Three Kings" in 2000 has fallen later in the services for which we have records. There is a great deal of excitement about hearing the Carol by the heir apparent to the majestic legacy of Jean Sibelius. Mark our words: from Einojuhani Rautavaara you can expect no less than a Twenty-First century masterpiece. The composer of the "Christmas Carol" has also supplied the text.

This is a notable commission. Rautavaara is a greater composer than any other who has been commissioned to write for the service since 1997.

From the sublime to the ridiculous: that saccharine Mack Wilberg setting of "Ding! Dong! Merrily on high" follows. I predict that this will lead to a liturgical riot similar in scope to the reaction at the premiere of Stravinsky's Rite of Spring in Paris.

Or perhaps not.

It will be interesting to hear the pairing of the two in the service. I suspect that there will be a rather abrupt change in tone. I am certain that there will be a dramatic shift in tonal languages. Only the Rosetta Stone of Christ's incarnation can hold these two pieces in tension.

The service ends in the usual manner. The addition of hymn tunes to the service leaflet is a nice touch, probably long overdue.

Who can ever remember those tunes, anyway?'s Lessons and Carols spreadsheet has been updated for your reference.

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13 December 2010
Eastburn, Manton - letter reccomending Henry Erben

From the annals of St. Paul's, Richmond, comes this letter that was copied into the vestry book of the church.

At the time writing, Manton Eastburn would have been Episcopal Bishop of Massachusetts.

Boston, Dec. 13, 1843

Reverend Dear Sir:

I take the first opportunity which I have found to reply to your inquiries. Among the Organ builders in this country, I should decidedly prefer [Henry] Erben (not Urban) of New York, whom you mention in your letter. In regard to prices, I fancy one is about the same as another; the competition compels reasonable prices. The truth is, no organs made on this side of the Atlantic are complete, in regard to quality of tone. I should advise your giving the order to Erben, and securing the superintendence, in some way or another, of Mr. Hodges, the celebrated organist of Trinity Church, New York. This, however, I mention as between ourselves; as, having been acquainted many years with Erben, and with his head man, Mr. Hall, I might hurt their feelings by being known as recommending this. The organ at St. John's [presumably Richmond] was made under Hodges' supervision, and is a very fine one. The new one at Trinity is to be made in the same way. But why can't you send to London at once, and order an organ from GRay? If you want to know his capabilities, come and hear the organ of Trinity Church, Boston,-

With pleasing recollections of our past intercourse, and ardent wishes for your usefulness and happiness,

     I am sincerely yours,

     Manton Eastburn

Quoted in Traser, Donald R. The Organ in Richmond. Richmond Chapter, American Guild of Organists, 2001. Page 9.

The recipient of the letter, the Rev. William Norwood of St. Paul's, took Eastburn's advice and the first organ in the newly constructed church was a three-manual instrument by Erben.

Eastburn vs. Advent, Boston: Eastburn also fought the high-church practices of the Church of the Advent, Boston

Photos of Trinity, Boston: I visited Trinity, Boston this past summer, and posted a few pictures (including the one below) in July 2010

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12 December 2010
policemen - six at weddings

There must not be less than six policemen present to control the crowd, and prevent injury to the church building . . . To weddings, for which invitations are issued by the family, cards of admission to the church must accompany the invitations; and no one must be admitted to the church who does not present a card, bearing the appropriate date.

from "Rules Governing Weddings in St. Paul's Church . . . By Order of the Vestry", December 12, 1921

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09 December 2010

St. Mary’s Episcopal Cathedral (Gailor Memorial), Memphis, Tenn.


08 December 2010
Sibelius, Jean - happy birthday to, sung by Hilary Hahn

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Sibelius, Jean - on bells

Today is Jean Sibelius's 145th birthday.

Ring out the news!


06 December 2010

St. Mary’s Episcopal Cathedral (Gailor Memorial), Memphis, Tenn.

Pictured here is the final resting place of Joe Andrew Morrow (1929-1999). This is the columbarium in the north transept of the cathedral church. The current organist relates that Mr. Morrow wanted his mortal remains to be as close as possible to "Beulah Bombarde" (the 32-foot Contra Bombarde).

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05 December 2010

St. Mary’s Episcopal Cathedral (Gailor Memorial), Memphis, Tenn.

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04 December 2010

St. Mary’s Episcopal Cathedral (Gailor Memorial), Memphis, Tenn.

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03 December 2010

St. Mary’s Episcopal Cathedral (Gailor Memorial), Memphis, Tenn.

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02 December 2010

Memphis, Tenn.


01 December 2010

Memphis, Tenn.



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