Friday, 31 October 2008

Busy weekends!

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

New members!

I really should use the word 'member' loosely, as the people who sing with us are scattered all over the north of the UK, and only sing when they are able to do so, as opposed to choirs whose members meet at least weekly for rehearsals and services/performances.

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

Singing opportunities for choirs in church.

I find York at times a very frustrating city to live in. In fact I would go as far as to say that despite its historical importance as a religious centre, it's a very secular/liberal city, especially when it comes to church matters [of all denominations] as far as I can tell. More especially when it comes to music and liturgy or what passes for it!

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

Plans for Next Year...

Having got home quite exhausted from work, as is my usual custom, armed with mug of tea in one hand & CD remote in the other, I put on a CD from my ever expanding collection in order to unwind a little bit.

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.