Sunday, 28 December 2008
I've been asked if some of the music could be put online. I wasn't too sure about this at first, having fallen foul of my webspace provider's bandwidth restrictions before - BUT, I discovered that I had more space available courtesy of my cable tv provider which I've hardly ever used! So, if you want to hear the choral highlights of the service, just click here. The sound files work best in QuickTime, although they can also be played in RealPlayer, but the quality isn't anything like as good. Whatever source you use, don't try Media Player as it won't work with these mp4's encoded via Nero.
I hope everyone is enjoying a very joyful Christmastide. Plans for 2009 to follow, once they're set in stone and not just being discussed.... There are one or two very exciting services but I've been banned by the organisers from telling you who might be involved, so you'll just have to wait!
Thursday, 18 December 2008
Friday, 12 December 2008
When we decide to do something, we don't compromise. :-) We even switched all the lights out before the service, our only concession to electricity was keeping the heating on!
Better images could have been obtained with a proper camera, but these pics from my phone will at least give you an idea.
Between the Carol Service & Christmas itself, we have a Gregorian Chant Sung Mass for Advent IV at English Martyrs in York. As this is our only sung Mass this month, I’ve overloaded it with some personal favourites besides the Propers & Chant Mass for Advent - the Rorate Coeli, solemn Alma Redemptoris with its glorious incipit, the ‘O’ Antiphon of the day and rounding everything off with Veni Emmanuel. In this case you can have too much of a good thing!
I just wish more singers were available at Christmas though, rather than just before. It always seems to be to be a huge letdown service-wise. Even if we could just get an SATB quartet together, we could achieve so much. However, I know that most of our singers actively involved in church, will be scattered across the North of England at this time, myself included, as I’ve been ‘booked’ to sing a Chant Midnight Mass in the Extraordinary Form in a West Yorkshire Parish.
Besides Christmas, there is another HUGE event looming on the horizon, which has nothing to do with any of the above. A good friend, and occasional singer, when he’s not involved in his own church services is being ordained to the Priesthood in the Greek Orthodox Church in Leeds on 20th December. Please pray for Fr Deacon David on this very, very special day.
If you’re in York and free on the 18th or 21st December, please do come along to the Carol Service and/or the Mass and say hello!
Meanwhile, we continue to sing Compline every Friday at Bishophill. The ultimate aim is to sing the Office entirely by candlelight. I've just invested in more candles and candlesticks, so we're getting there, gradually... I hope to take some photos tonight, and if they come out ok, will post them here, so you can see what we're doing!
Thursday, 27 November 2008
By (Jeffrey Tucker)
Advent will soon be upon us, which means many things, among which is the annual fight--a polite one, no doubt--over who gets to sing the incipit (opening phrase) to the solemn version of Alma Redemptoris Mater.
Coming to York this Advent!
The Original Post on NLM has a splendid version of the solemn tone sung to Ambrosian Chant.
Wednesday, 26 November 2008
We now seem to have established a good relationship with the Museum Gardens authorities, so I would think it more likely that we'll return again for more services, maybe even Mass one day, though perhaps when its a bit warmer!
The full choir have now started rehearsing for our annual Carol Service at Bishophill on 18th December. This promises to be just as good as in previous years, so if you're in the York area and are free that evening, do please come along!
The Order of Service can be found here.
Monday, 10 November 2008
During a very nice pub lunch, I was able to renew acquaintances with singing friends in Northumbria and also north of the border. This could lead to a collaboration in late spring/early summer next year, possibly at Brinkburn Priory, a venue of which I have already spoken very favourably earlier this year!
As for workshops, I've been asked if we can have one in York on a more limited scale. One of our new singers has requested one on singing Compline; basically going through the music for Compline in an afternoon session culminating in the service itself in the evening. It could be a good way of introducing people to singing and experiencing Chant in a relatively simple/informal setting. I'd be interested to hear what people think about this.
Meanwhile, our own Schola Cantorum is scheduled to sing in St Mary's Abbey ruins in the grounds of the Museum Gardens this coming Sunday at 3pm- weather permitting. We intend to sing Vespers of the Blessed Virgin Mary, concluding with the 'York' Solemn Salve Regina, which will be sung there for only the second time since the Reformation! Please do come and support us if you're in the area! The following weekend sees the first full choral rehearsal for the annual Carol Service at St Mary's, Bishophill Jnr. It never ends! Still, it keeps us out of mischief.. :-)
Friday, 31 October 2008
Last weekend was momentous! I think I’ve just about recovered…..
We started off on Friday evening with Compline, at which we were joined [for the first time in a singing capacity] by David. Saturday’s Mass was excellent. The polyphony had one or two hairy moments, which fortunately, only we noticed, and the singing of the ‘York’ Salve Regina was, I think, the best we’ve ever done. For a brief report of the Mass go here.
Sunday saw three of us go across to Oldham to fix our cravings for the Greek-Catholic Liturgy, which we’ve missed since May, when they were a regular feature at the University of York Chaplaincy. I introduced Bianca and Andrew to Stefan who is cantor for the Oldham church and a good friend of many years standing. The Liturgy was like a breath of fresh air – not that I don’t like Latin services you understand, but sometimes, they can be a little too intense, especially if you’re also involved behind the scenes. Once you get used to the Eastern Rite and if you invest a little time learning the basics of the Cyrillic alphabet [not difficult, I assure you[!] you’d be surprised at just how quickly it can be to pick up liturgical Ukrainian and take part in at least bits of the Liturgy! I hope we can go back there - sooner rather than later...
This weekend promises to be just as momentous, although the only singing involved will be this evening during Compline. Tomorrow, it’s another Liturgy in the morning at Bishophill, celebrated by our Orthodox friends, and then a concert in the evening performed by the excellent Ebor Singers. Sunday evening sees one of our friends being received into the Catholic Church and I’ve been asked to be his sponsor. Please keep John in your prayers this weekend.
The following weekend - Sunday at least, I'll be back on Tyneside. It often seems that I go to work during the week just for a rest!
Monday, 20 October 2008
Anyway, that said, welcome to Alan who will be singing with us this Saturday in York and David who wants to join the Schola Cantorum when we sing Compline each Friday at Bishophill
If you wish to sing chant and other sacred music in its proper context and live in the North of England preferably [though we have had singers from as far afield as Edinburgh & Nottingham!] then I would encourage you to get in touch!
Thursday, 16 October 2008
Not convinced? Those of you reading this who are from the immediate area [or know it] just take a look around you. Where are the opportunities for people to sing sacred music, in church, on a regular basis?
Before I continue, let me say that this isn't an exclusive Latin Catholic rant. Members of other denominations, please feel free to chip in via the comments section with your own thoughts on the matter! If you've looked at the Rudgate Website you'll see that despite our Catholic leanings & history, we actually exist to sing quality music usually only heard on CDs or in concerts in its original liturgical setting, regardless of denomination. This is reflected in our singing members, who come from all over the north of Britain. On our 'books' at the moment we have Catholics, Anglicans, Orthodox, Methodists and others who don't belong to any Christian Church/community at all but just like singing the music. We've even had a Buddhist who was quite fascinated to hear Gregorian Chant, especially in it's proper context!
Before I get completely sidetracked though, let's return to the main thread. What opportunities are there for choirs, or people who would like to sing this music.
Forget the Minster. That's professional. Nothing wrong at all with that, but I'm thinking principally about amateurs, particularly as there isn't a lot of money floating around at the moment. The only other C of E choir that sings regularly to my knowledge is St Olave's - Marygate [Any others out there? Please let me know!]
What of the Catholics?
The only place I know of is English Martyrs, where our Schola Cantorum sing on a monthly basis. It's fair to say that a very good group of singers from the parish met to sing an excellent Mass by Palestrina in the Ordinary From back in June, and we ourselves will be singing there
later this month - a repeat of the music we sang in Brinkburn Priory in September. But these are special events. Why can't this music be sung more regularly?
You may wonder what provoked me to write about this. Well, I was at a concert last weekend sung by the excellent Ebor Singers. Whilst I admit to being a fan and regular supporter of theirs, they're not the only choir in York that sings wonderful music which needs to be heard in its proper context. It bugs me that this isn't the case, as you may have gathered by now!
This city has many wonderful talented musicians, not to mention an excellent musical Department at the University. The National Centre for Early Music is based here. Early music CD's are very popular, witnessed by the very recent fact that a CD of Gregorian Chant by the Monks of Stift Heiligenkreuz topped Clasical Album charts worldwide and even made the top ten of the pop charts - yes, you read that correctly, the pop charts[!] in the UK. And yet, it's nigh on impossible to find quality liturgical music sung anywhere except on special occasions.
Why is this so?
Can anything be done about it?
Answers please via the comments box!
Wednesday, 1 October 2008
I happened to pick a recording of Marian Vespers - a reconstruction of Vespers for the Feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin, by the excellent Edinburgh University Renaissance Singers
This recording features music mainly by Victoria, and the more I listened to it, the more I thought "we could do this liturgically!" The psalms and hymn are the same as 'ordinary' Vespers of the BVM which can be sung more or less anytime unless it's a Major Feast Day, and all the music is available at cpdl, so there's every chance we might do this next year, perhaps in May or October which are traditionally months in honour of Our Lady.
Another major event I'd like to see happen is a performance of the newly translated Divine Liturgy of St John Chrysostom as recorded by a truly amazing choir, Cappella Romana. You're not likely to hear them often over here in Europe, so go over to their website and buy their CDs. Now! And say I recommended you to do so!
This is already at the discussion stage with our friends at the Greek Orthodox Church in Leeds, and we hope to sing this also next year.
Just a quick reminder of upcoming events for the remainder of this year.
25th October 3.30pm English Martyrs Church, York
Solemn Mass in honour of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
16th November 3.00pm. St Mary's Abbey, York. [In the grounds of the Museum Gardens].
Vespers of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
18th December 7.00pm [TBC] St Mary's Church, Bishophill, York
Traditional Service of Readings and Carols.
Sunday, 28 September 2008
One of these is Lancaster where there is a regular monthly Mass in the EF. The other two, I'll have to keep quiet about for now, as I've been asked to be discreet regarding both potential venues, so am hardly likely to be proclaiming the news here - yet.....
Depending on who is available, and dates, which are crucial in a group like ours, something may happen. Watch this space!
Wednesday, 24 September 2008
I can confirm two fully choral Rudgate Services! These are Saturday 25th October, 3.30pm at the church of the English Martyrs in York, where we shall sing the music which we sang at Brinkburn Priory. The other date confirmed is the Carol Service at the Church of St Mary, Bishophill Jnr - also in York. This will be on Thursday 18th December, time not confirmed yet but probably 7.00pm.
I'm still waiting to hear from the Museum Gardens about the Schola Cantorum singing in the grounds/ruins of St Mary's Abbey. I've asked for 19th October, as this should give us enough singers for this event, and also for the monthly Mass in the Extraordinary Form which will take place in English Martyrs' Church later that evening.
The Schola are singing Compline again at St Mary's Bishophill this Friday [cough permitting :-) ] at 8.00pm. If you're in the area, do come along and say hello!
Whilst coughing away, in between heaps of medication, I've been reading - both books and blogs, and would like to pick one of the latter out here, and recommend you visit if you haven't already done so!
Over at Holy Smoke, Damian Thomson has started a topic about the state of music in the Catholic Church. This is essential reading if you care about the state of Liturgy (in whichever form) in churches today. Whilst not strictly applicable to Rudgate - as we tend to sing choral music and chant that you would normally only hear either in concerts or on CDs - I thought it worth mentioning here because I've had plenty of experience in listening to and singing this stuff throughout the years.
It's not just the sheer banality of some of these pieces, its also the egos, and dare I say it, the arrogance of the 'composers' too. For many years, [back in the 20th Century!] I used to attend 'Choir' Festivals on a regular basis up in North East England. I use the term 'Choir' very loosely, as most of the music provided - particularly in the latter years that I went, before I saw sense - had no resemblance to any kind of choral music whatsoever! There were one or two good Directors of these events [actually Directors of music at Catholic Cathedrals at the time] but my main recollections are of one of the 'magic circle' of 'composers' not being able to conduct music [not even his own stuff!], and being spoken to in such an arrogant condescending manner by another, that had I not known anything better, it could easily have put me off music for good. I might even have left the church were I not of sterner stuff. A bit extreme perhaps, but sadly, I do know of people who have done just that.
Saturday, 20 September 2008
Nevertheless, we persevered, and our stand-in conductors, my sister Bernadette, and Jennifer, one of the alto's, deserve great credit for stepping into the breech.
Next on the agenda besides the regular monthly chant Masses and weekly chanting of [usually] Compline is going to be a service - probably Vespers of the BVM in the grounds of St Mary's Abbey in York. This is likely to be on Oct 12th, though I've yet to confirm that with the Museum Gardens authorities.
We then have two other provisional dates to work towards this year. The first being a repeat of the Brinkburn music in a solemn Mass in York, hopefully with Christian back at the helm for the polyphony! This is tentatively scheduled for October 25th. I may be in a position to confirm that tomorrow, as it will be in the same church, English Martyrs, where our monthly chant Masses take place.
The other date, 18th December, also yet to be confirmed, but I'm not anticipating any problems, is our Annual Carol Service at St Mary's Church, Bishophill Junior, also in York..
When all dates are confirmed, they'll be published online, both here and elsewhere. We may even resort to more traditional methods such as letters and posters to advertise them too. ;-)
Thursday, 18 September 2008
One comment from 'Claire' made this point. "Mass was beautiful, but I was extremely disappointed that the music chosen was so obscure that no-one could join in the singing, even with the Salve Regina at the end! I think this was a huge opportunity missed for such a showcase."
Talk about a red rag to a bull! Before I get too far on my high horse though, I'd be foolish not to admit that I've made a few mistakes over choice of music in the past, but this isn't one of them. :-)
The Mass was a Solemn High Mass in honour of *Our Lady*. Once it was clear that there weren't enough singers available for a polyphonic mass setting, Missa Cum Jubilo was the obvious chant mass setting to use as it is one of the Masses in the Graduale prescribed for Marian Masses. I could quite legitimately have chosen Missa Alme Pater instead! The same goes for the choice of Solemn Salve as it was a Solemn Mass.
I had actually been asked beforehand if we were going to have the Missa de Angelis 'so the people could join in' but was able to explain quite nicely [I hope!] that Missa Cum Jubilo was the appropriate setting to use. I suspect that 'Claire' is one of those people - and I've come across several, who think de Angelis is the only chant Mass there is, as it's the only one 'they know'! Quite frankly, I find that the over use of this particular setting to the almost exclusion of the other 17 chant Mass settings available - not to mention the ad libitum settings too, profoundly depressing.
It's a matter of education I think. Congregations [and clergy also!] have got to be made aware of the treasures that are readily available. all of these masses can be accessed quite easily by following links provided by the good people who run the Musica Sacra website.
The same educational argument can be applied to the Creed as well. I know Saturday's Mass didn't have one but how many people seem to think that Credo III is the only one that exists? Credo I is actually the setting that should be used most Sundays. There are, to my knowledge, 7 - yes, seven, chant Creeds available!
OK, rant over!
Slightly changing the subject, but staying with chant, another comment from 'seeker' made this point along with a few others. "The temptation to recite the Pater Noster out loud was very strong, and I only just held myself back".
This may come as a surprise to those of you who know me personally, but I have a lot of sympathy for this point of view. I know it's not the done thing for congregations to sing this in the Extraordinary Form at the moment, but Summorum Pontificum does make allowances for it to develop again, as opposed to keeping strictly to the 1962 Missal. This is a development I would welcome, as well as being able to have Masses for particular Feast/Saints Days created since the introduction of '62. That however, is a subject which can be discussed another time. :-)
Tuesday, 16 September 2008
Brinkburn is by far the furthest of our regular venues, at a round trip of over 250 miles for most of us. With petrol prices as they are, it's going to be a very expensive day, but very worthwhile. We shall be singing the Messe Ave Maris Stella, by Josquin and motets by Guerrero and de Rivafrecha while the Northumbria Schola will sing the Chant Propers of the Mass and a chant recessional.
It's Ian's last Mass in charge of the Schola in fact, so I hope our contribution to what is an annual event will make his swansong all the more memorable for all the right reasons!
If you can get to Northumberland on Saturday please do go - you won't regret it. :-)
It's another busy weekend for some of us though, as the day after, there will be an Extraordinary Form Missa Cantata in York. This will all be in Gregorian Chant, sung by our own Schola Cantorum.
Last weekend, I was asked if I could organise the music for the first Solemn High Mass in the Extraordinary Form to take place in St Mary's Cathedral Newcastle upon Tyne since the advent of the Mass promulgated by Pope Paul VI. The Mass was organised by the Hexham and Newcastle branch of the Holy Family Guild to mark the 40th anniversary of the encyclical Humanae Vitae.
Despite having only 3 singers, we acquitted ourselves well - the recording proves it. There were supposed to be more of us, but some dropped out just a few days before, which didn't give us enough time to replace them. A pity for such an important occasion, which made it harder work for the rest of us, especially in an acoustic which isn't the friendliest I've ever encountered. Nevertheless, I was pleased with the result. For another account from the Forest Murmurer, Fr Michael Brown, who I sat next to at the dinner that followed, go here.
Singing at the cathedral again was quite a nostalgic event for me, as I was a member of the Cathedral choir there when I was a student, back in the early 1980's. I would never have imagined then that many years later I would be in charge of the music for a major service there!
I stayed on Tyneside all weekend, deciding not to return home until Monday, as I'm on leave all this week but not taking a proper holiday due to having forked out too much money elsewhere, mainly on car repairs! I'd booked accommodation near the Fenham area of the city where I lived over 25 years ago whilst a student at Northumbria University [Newcastle Polytechnic as it was then known].
My hall of residence was in fact St Mary's College, which was then a Teacher Training College which also let out rooms to other students. It was also home to the Convent of the Sacred Heart. The college closed in 1984 [also my last year there] and is now - after some redevelopment - being used again to provide accommodation for students from Newcastle University. There are still some reminders from the past, but a little worse for wear which is sad to see.
As my dad's family were from the West End too, I took the opportunity to wander around Elswick where they were born and brought up. Perhaps there's a future post there as there are tales I could relate [if I get the details right] of choir rivalries in Newcastle from times gone by....
This was the first hectic weekend spent up in the North east. Next Saturday, we go to Brinkburn!
Last September some of our intrepid singers gathered at St Mary's Abbey ruins in the Museum Gardens in York, to sing Vespers of the BVM concluding with the 'York' Salve Regina, which was actually written for the monks of the abbey, and sung there liturgically again for the first time in nearly 500 years!
We're going back this year. When exactly I'm not sure, but it will be a Sunday afternoon, as that's what the Museum Gardens authorities prefer. It will be before Advent though, as I want to do the York Salve there again. Watch this space!
[I can now confirm that we'll be going there on 16th November! We'll be chanting Vespers of the BVM]
Meanwhile here's a clip from last years service
Nothing to do with Ricky Gervais, or where many of of work every week, this is the Divine Office, usually thought to be the prerogative of monastic communities.
Well it ain't so.
Anyone can sing or read the Office, either in their own communities, or individually. The Schola Cantorum have been singing regularly now in the Church of St Mary, Bishophill Junior in York, after being invited to do so by Andrew Stoker, who is the Priest-in-charge there.
St Mary's is of one of Yorks historic churches, in fact, the oldest church foundation in the city. This church is in use only early on Sunday mornings, Wednesday evenings for services, Monday evenings for a choir practice [not connected to the church] and the local Greek Orthodox Community use it every first Saturday in the month. The regular congregation is very small, and Andrew, the vicar, is quite keen that the church to be used more often and to be seen to be used.
How we came to take up part-residency there is as a result of a conversation over a drink or three at one of York's fine Real Ale Establishments. :-) We've known each other for many years, long before he and his family came to York, so it's not uncommon for us to share the occasional drink together. When I half-jokingly suggested that we sing the Traditional Catholic Divine Office there, the offer was taken up there and then! I've been given my own key to the place such was his enthusiasm for more use being made of the building.
The Schola Cantorum began by singing Compline at the beginning of last year. We currently sing most Fridays at 8pm, though this can and does change - best to check our Calendar regularly!
We also sing Vespers too, mainly of the BVM, though we have actually sung for other Feast Days. I'd like to get us to sing Sunday Vespers at some stage too, but right now we're busy enough!
We'll be there this Friday @ 8pm, so if you're in the area and want to come to a traditional chanted Compline, come along, and say hello afterwards!
After several months of deliberating, I've finally taken the plunge and write on my own. How often and whether I can keep this going remains to be seen. I am an occasional contributor to the Middlesbrough LMS blog, so am not a total novice in the blogosphere, but writing on one's own is somewhat different! I'll be drawing on some of the material I've written there initially [albeit updated] which really has a more natural home here.
You can read all about the choir, and how we originally got going on our website, but if you just want brief details - here they are :-)
We are an ad-hoc choir with the emphasis on restoring Sacred Music to church services in its liturgical context as opposed to the concert hall or recording studio. Members, who are all volunteers, are at present based in the North of England, the East Midlands, and in Scotland.
We normally sing four to five times a year at specially arranged services, usually - but not exclusively - Mass in the Traditional Roman Rite and would like to increase this to sing for other services such as Solemn Vespers and in more locations throughout the UK. We are therefore looking for more people to join us.
The choir is Catholic in ethos, though many of the singers are from other churches, mainly Anglican. Anyone who wishes to sing traditional church music in its original liturgical setting would be made very welcome. Attendance varies from event to event, depending on the voices needed and the location of the churches where we sing. There is no commitment to sing for every service, though the more people can manage the better!
Our repertoire consists mainly of Gregorian Chant and Polyphony, and we occasionally join forces with theSchola Gregoriana of Northumbria to great effect.
Music we have sung so far includes, Palestrina, Missa Papae Marcelli, Missa Brevis & Missa Assumpta est Maria Victoria, Requiem & Missa O Quam Gloriosum and motets by Victoria, Palestrina, Byrd, Bruckner & Stanford to name but a few.
To date we have sung in churches mainly in Yorkshire, including the wonderful church of St Mary & St Everilda at Everingham with its glorious acoustic, Leeds Cathedral and Brinkburn Priory in Northumberland. We also have an open invitation to sing in Fontgombault Abbey in France. (The latter depends on an equal number of singing volunteers to make the journey viable both economically and musically!)
That's the sales pitch over - now onto the business of blogging!