Wednesday, 22 December 2010

That's it for us this year

I'm exhausted! We've finally come to the end of our singing engagements for this year, signing off with yet another splendid Carol Service at Bishophill Jnr. I'm now going to take a break until the New Year & see if I can shake off this infernal cold that I've been nurturing for far too long now! I had been asked if I could sing for a Midnight Mass in Leeds, but that simply isn't going to happen this year. I'll be quite content to listen to others do the singing, just for a change!

Next year brings its own challenges, as it's going to be a very busy one for us due to the 15th Anniversary celebrations + the first ever service (Missa Cantata) for the Rudgates in York Minster. I've sung there several times previously, both in services and concerts, but this is going to be completely different as I'm planning the Liturgy! It's going to be a national event too. :-) Does this make me nervous? Not much... ;-)

I know it's still Advent, just, but I'm going to wish you a Merry Christmas now!

Normal (more regular, hopefully!) service will resume after the weekend.

Saturday, 27 November 2010

Coolest. Incipit. Ever!

I make no apology whatsoever for reposting this, and can't wait to sing it again this evening @ Bishophill Jnr!

Roll on 9pm :-)

By (Jeffrey Tucker) - originally posted on the New Liturgical Movement site.

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.

The Original Post on NLM has a splendid version of the solemn tone sung to Ambrosian Chant.

Wednesday, 17 November 2010


Apologies for the hiatus between posts, but as you can gather from the title, I'm officially 'at risk' of redundancy. It's been looming since February, with all the uncertainty that goes with an internal review, but confirmation came in at the end of October. Hopefully, I'll be found another job within the firm, but until/unless that happens, the days are being ticked off to the time my position expires.. It's a very depressing situation to be in. I know it's happened to thousands before me in all forms of employment, and now I'm on the receiving end!

Since the last time I put anything up here, the Pope has come and gone, and we've sung at various events, principally at Sheffield for the Golden Jubilee of St Theresa's church, York for All Souls, and at Scunthorpe for Remembrance Sunday. The next major event in our diary is the Annual Carol Service at Bishophill Jnr, on 20th December. If you're in the area and want to come along, you'll be most welcome. It might just cheer me up a bit to see familiar faces in the congregation! The service starts at 7.30pm. By then, I may know a little more on the job front. Fingers and everything else crossed! Prayers of course, especially welcome!

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

...... And Relax

That's the general idea anyway. I'm now on holiday, the first time off I've had since April. I won't dwell on it here, but the months in between have been very stressful work wise, and I'm not looking forward to the pile of work waiting for me on my return a week on Monday, because I know it won't get done in my absence, thanks to the 'wisdom' of my employers not replacing two full-time positions within my department. But, that's not till a week on Monday.

I'm writing this just after having sung for two Solemn High Masses in 4 days. The first at Brinkburn was a resounding success, and was blessed again with glorious weather. It never seems to rain when we go there, although first thing Saturday morning, conditions were very much wetter! By the time we got round to eating, we were at the risk of getting sunburnt...

The music was great. The chant Kyrie: Clemens Rector, Tallis' Mass for 4 voices, Monteverdi Ave Maris Stella & Adoramus Te & the 'York' Salve Regina, complemented by the Jarrow Schola singing the Proper of the Mass. I was quite relieved that the only time the Kyrie was mistake free, was during the Mass itself, because the rehearsals beforehand were full of errors. It's a piece of chant that I've been longing to sing for a few years, and the opportunity provided by the Tallis Mass having no Kyrie was too great to resist. :-)

Brinkburn this year also provided us with the opportunity to have a full choir photo taken, the first in over 4 years. So here we are!

5 people in the above photo are original members from 1996. 3 others actually sang with us for the very first time. (I hope it wasn't a baptism of fire!) Looking back, it's incredible that we only got together for what was thought to be a one-off, or at most, an annual occasion...

The second High Mass, for the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, to be honest, could have been better. Perhaps it was tiredness creeping up on me. However it was an opportunity to sing in one of Yorkshire's finest catholic churches, St Charles Borromeo in Hull, so the Eremite, Jimitrius B, and myself were the Schola for the evening, or if certain terminology is to be interpreted, the Band! Perhaps next time we sing a chant Mass, we should be accompanied by electric guitars and a massive sound system instead of the organ. Mmm.... Anyway, here's a photo from last night.

I'm off to see the Pope this weekend, and then spend a few days in Wales. When I get back, I've got music to prepare for a sung Mass in York, and then solemn EF & OF Masses in Sheffield the weekend after in addition to the day job. It never ends....

Sunday, 5 September 2010

We're only making plans...

Compline by Candlelight continues at Bishophill Junior. As can be seen from the above photo, we're getting the Lady Altar set up more or less how I'd like. :-) There's still more work to do though, but it's coming...

Meanwhile, here are some Rudgate future dates:

11th September THIS Saturday. Annual High Mass at Brinkburn Priory in Northumberland, with glorious music by Tallis, Monteverdi and chant from the Use of York.

14th September: Solemn High Mass for Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross. Schola only. More details here.

1st October: Solemn High Mass in honour of St Thérèse of Lisieux. Schola only.

3rd October: Solemn OF Mass for the Golden Jubilee of St Theresa's Church, Sheffield. Full choir - if we can get one, bearing in mind it's a Sunday morning!

14th November: Remembrance Sunday. Victoria Requiem à 6 in Scunthorpe

8th December: Solemn Mass for the Feast of the Immaculate Conception of the BVM. Schola only.

20th December: Our Annual Carol Service!

And if that wasn't enough, I was chatting to the wonderful Columba Aspexit (who's already proved to be more than worth his weight in gold, so to speak, since his move to York) last night after Compline. We're both very keen on the Divine Office, so expect Vespers to become a regular feature of the liturgical life of York (whether the city's ready for it or not!) whilst we've both got the energy... :-)

Friday, 20 August 2010

Catching Up

A quick resumé of what I've been up to since the last entry here, which has been dominated by work & sleep with the occasional dalliance with Facebook.

17th July saw myself and a friend from the York EF Community visit the medieval church of All Saints, North Street to witness an (Anglican, obviously) Pontifical High Mass for the Feast of Our Lady of North Street according to the Use of York. An interesting experience backed up with super singing by 4 members of the excellent Ebor Singers.

The following day saw what could have been a potentially disastrous EF Missa Cantata turn into something of a mini triumph. With just a few hours to go, some key singers for the planned polyphonic music pulled out due to illness, leaving me with a makeshift schola of 8 and hastily rearranging the bulk of the music. It turned out to be one of the best chant Masses I've been involved in for ages, and that includes Ushaw, a credit to all involved, especially those who turned up for the rehearsal expecting to sing polyphony & ending up sight-reading chant instead!

Moving on to the next weekend, which saw me back in London - eventually, after discovering my train had been cancelled on the Friday evening, resulting in a taxi [not paid for by me] down to Doncaster Station in order to catch, literally the last train to London that night. The following day saw my host roydosan & I off to Oxford for the Diaconate Ordination of Br Lawrence, an old friend & one of the first choral scholas of Leeds Cathedral Choir, when even then, I was a veteran Bass [or so it seemed!] Let's not forget the other two Ordinations to the Sacred Priesthood that day of Frs Robert & Thomas, who I'm pretty sure were Deacons on the day that Lawrence made his Solemn Profession back in September last year. You can read more about the days events here. Sunday was a little different. We decided to visit the Chaldean Catholic Community in West London. There was me thinking 'What sort of church will they be using?' only to find out that they make use of a catholic parish church, which to all intent, could easily be mistaken for an aircraft control tower! Nevertheless the liturgy was an interesting mix of middle eastern languages, a [very] little of which I recognised, having sung in liturgical Arabic for the Ordination of an Orthodox Priest from the Patriarchal jurisdiction of Antioch - in Doncaster. The ordaining bishop came from Syria, & had to learn enough English in order for the Liturgy to proceed smoothly, but there were bits in Arabic, & I therefore claim to be one of a few Western Christians to have invoked the name of 'Allah' liturgically! The Arabic theme stayed with us for lunch, which was at a Lebanese restaurant just a few minutes walk from the London Oratory, where Solemn Vespers & Benediction was not to be missed.

So, this brings me to the following weekend, which saw the Rudgate Singers reduced to one [me], for the Annual Founders-Day Requiem at Barnard Castle. It very nearly wasn't even that, as I had a horrendous journey up to Barney, due to very heavy traffic in & around York & then the roadworks on the A1. I made it to church with literally 3 minutes to spare! Fr Elkin gives a good account of the day here.  

This brings me up to August, a month which singers usually take a well-earned break, but behind the scenes, plots are already being hatched for major services which will take us right up to the end of this year and beyond...!

Next on the agenda is the Annual High Mass at Brinkburn Priory in Northumberland for which we rehearse on Bank holiday weekend. If you're in, or can get to, Brinkburn on 11th September, do come along. It should be a super occasion & we're planning music to match!

Monday, 12 July 2010

With Synod Over, Br. Stephen Asks "What Now for the Ordinariates?"

With Synod Over, Br. Stephen Asks "What Now for the Ordinariates?"

I don't know how many of you have been following the recent developments at the C of E's Synod here in York. I happen to have friends on both sides of the debate, and they shall remain friends, no matter what. It's not a personal issue for me, as I'm not an Anglican, but I can't help but take notice as it affects so many friends of mine. I've been attempting to follow some of the arguments, especially since Anglicanorum coetibus was issued last year, and have consequently been following one or two blogs as a result.

I'm highlighting this one because the very last sentence scored a bullseye personally, a direct hit, straight between the eyes, whatever! You see, I have my 'parish'. I know the place. I know the people. I even have a key for the church. How can I not pray for my friends in this situation? If any of you reading this, could do the same, regardless of your personal position, I'm sure your prayers will be gratefully received.

Thursday, 8 July 2010

Compline Returns

This may be of interest. If you're free, please do consider coming along. If you're not, but know of anyone who might be interested, spread the word!

If you're free this coming Saturday we would love to see you!



(The Rite of Compline)

According to the

Roman Breviary of 1960

10th July 2010 9pm.

The Traditional Night Office sung to Gregorian Chant 


Thursday, 1 July 2010

The Annual Founders' Day Memorial Requiem for John and Josephine Bowes

Saturday 31st July, 2010

St Mary's Church,
Birch Road,
Barnard Castle,
Co. Durham.
DL12 8NR

The annual Requiem for the founders of the church & museum.

This is an unashamed plug for a service we've been involved in for the last 6 years. Our Schola has sung the Gregorian Chant Requiem + Absolutions, and will do so again at the end of the month, unless we get enough volunteers for a polyphonic setting of the Requiem instead. :-)

The Parish Priest, Fr Wilfrid Elkin has been a tutor at Ushaw for the past two trad Training Conferences, and gave a super talk about one aspect of life there as a seminarian at the close of this year's conference, which was very well received! He's a wonderful priest, and it would be great to see a good turnout for this year's Memorial Requiem. Do come along if you can.

Some info from the parish website...

If John Bowes' birth had been legitimate, then he would have become the Earl of Strathmore and our history would probably have been different. As it was, he inherited lands and money from the old Earl, his father, and after a classic education for a gentleman of his time he developed an interest in the theatre, was a successful owner of race horses (his horse Western Australian won the Derby in 1853), was a popular MP for several years, and together with his French wife Josephine became a great collector of French paintings and other artifacts which he intended to house in a great museum to be built at Barnard Castle. John was not a Catholic, but his wife was. He was devoted to his wife, who was much younger than him, and when she died in 1874 he decided to fulfill her desire to have a chapel next to the museum on which work had already started. The chapel reached the height of the eves when John became short of money to complete the museum. Work was stopped, and the chapel stood for almost fifty years as a folly. John died in 1885, but his will was not probated until 1905. Then began years of discussion between the trustees of the museum and the trustees of the chapel as to its siting and use. Eventually in 1926 agreement was reached for the chapel to be moved to a corner of the museum site, and the building was finished and opened in 1928. The bodies of John and Josephine Bowes were brought from their temporary resting-place at the vault at Gibside Hall, Dunston, and they rest now behind the apse of St Mary's Church with their tomb directly facing the front door of their Museum. A Requiem Mass for Founders' Day is celebrated each year in July.

Useful links.

Wednesday, 16 June 2010

Future Dates

Our 'appointments diary' for the rest of the year is filling up quite nicely! In addition to our now monthly Masses in York, we've been invited to sing for the following services so far...

31st July 12pm. St Mary's Church, Barnard Castle
Annual Founders' Day Requiem

11th September 12pm. Brinkburn Priory, Northumberland
Annual High Mass

1st October 7.30pm. St Theresa's Church, Sheffield
Solemn High Mass [EF]

3rd October 11.00am St Theresa's Church, Sheffield
Solemn Mass [Latin, OF]

[Both these Masses are part of a triduum of Masses for the Golden Jubilee of the consecration of the

14th November 3.00pm. Holy Souls' Scunthorpe
Solemn Requiem Mass [Remembrance Sunday]
The music - Victoria à 6 was confirmed in November last year when we sang it during the Octave of All Souls.

20th December 7.30pm. St Mary's, Bishophill Jnr, York
Our Annual Carol Service.

There's also the church of St Marie, Halifax to fit in somewhere, and another Orthodox Divine Liturgy, but these will probably have to wait until 2011, more of which later as it will be our 15th Anniversary year!

Suggestions for the Carol Service most welcome. We'll see how many we can actually incorporate. :-)

Sunday, 6 June 2010

Resurrecting Tradition - A Man for All Seasons

I've been to another concert this evening, with a slight difference. It was free, with a retiring collection for a very deserving charity. The choir 'Resurrecting Tradition' was a group of students from the University of York supported by Cassoc, the Catholic Students' Society, though by no means exclusively Catholic. [A bit like us in a way, but a lot younger!] Indeed, the concert took place in a Methodist church, where Nic, the conductor, is the organist. The choir - dare I say not all experienced singers, but full of enthusiasm[ :-) ], took us on a musical journey based around the Church year interspersed with Readings from the Bible and concluding with a couple of fun secular pieces. There was very little in the programme that I didn't know, which added to my enjoyment of the concert. They deserve HUGE credit for tackling this programme and singing  a cappella, especially in not the most friendly of acoustics. (The temperature inside the church was stifling to say the least!) The two solo pieces were great as well.

We need to show our support for such initiatives as this, and I'm pleased that several people came & not just from the University. Otherwise choral music will be relegated to concerts sung by professional & aspiring to be professional choirs - at a price. You'll rarely hear it in church liturgically [where it's supposed to be] except perhaps in major Cathedrals & Parish churches which are able to fund it.

I'm very much looking forward to the next time they sing. Details will be posted here when I find out!

Saturday, 5 June 2010

London Revisited

This time last week, I was back in London again. I've actually invested in an Oyster Card, since my visits are becoming much more frequent, to save the hassle of paying up front for day Travel tickets! Anyway, my visit this time was to attend the annual CIEL UK Mass and Conference, as I'd heard that James MacMillan was one of the speakers. A good account of the days proceedings can be found here. What struck me about the Mass though was that despite being informed some time before that the Mass Ordinary had been chosen specifically to encourage the congregation to sing, it, (Missa cum jubilo) was sung in such a way as to positively discourage such activity. We were even given the music, but that was a fat lot of good because there was no indication as to when we should have been singing! A rare black mark for the Oratory! If the congregation were going to be excluded in this way, we might as well have had a full polyphonic Mass. Sigh....

That said, the Mass itself was marvellous, despite the 11th hour adjustment to accommodate the Full Proper of the Mass for Ember Saturday in Whitsun week. Full credit to Anthony and the rest of the CIEL officials for organising this and the following conference.

After the conference & Benediction in the Little Oratory, I got the opportunity to meet and chat at length with Dr MacMillan. What a gentleman! It is a pleasure to talk to someone, justifiably famous who puts you at ease and even lets you discuss your own musical activities - such as they are! It's reassuring to know that his own church choir in Glasgow [how many other eminent composers/conductors direct their own parish church choir?] struggles from time to time to attract a fair balance of voices. We are definitely in very good company then! The sheer contrast with being able to talk to such a distinguished composer in such a manner compares very favourably with my experiences with members of a certain liturgical group, one of whose members made me feel like something my sisters dog had deposited - and this while talking about a Diocesan Director of music whom we both knew. It was a case of 'I am a liturgical superstar, and you are nobody' I can still remember the occasion quite vividly. It was in the catholic cathedral in Newcastle after a 'Choir' Festival in which most of the music bore no resemblance to anything like Choral Music which would be familiar to most singers. However, I digress....

The following day my host and I ventured into Camden to visit the Greek Orthodox Cathedral of All Saints for their Patronal Feast Day. After the Pontifical Liturgy, we were treated to a home made BBQ cooked in the traditional Greek manner. For £5, it must have represented the best value Sunday Lunch anywhere in London that day! I shall compare London with Leeds on Monday evening, as I've been invited  to another one there courtesy of the Greek Community & Parish of the Three Hierarchs.

Following my first visit to [& curry in] Brick Lane and a quick boat ride on the Thames, I reluctantly returned home, but not before putting some more credit on my Oyster Card in anticipation of the next visit....

I'm now going to explore the back catalogue of James MacMillan's recordings here.... :-)

Tuesday, 11 May 2010

Ascension, Parts 1 & 2

Part 1:

The Feastday itself on Thursday sees me (Ceteris Paribus) travelling over to Brigg in Nth Lincolnshire for a full Solemn High Mass complete with choir & orchestra (a very rare event!) who will be performing Haydn's Missa Sancti Ioannis a Deo, better known as the Little Organ Mass.

Part 2:

Sunday Evening sees at many Rudgates who are available that evening singing Byrd 3 & whatever else I can find to suit the complete imbalance of voices we have this time around. We have *no* Altos on Sunday, hence the need to change the music we'd originally planned. :-(

We now have the opportunity every third Sunday in York to sing some wonderful music where it was originally intended - liturgically. It's been more or less handed to us on a plate! All we need is a regular group of singers to keep the third Sunday in each month clear...

We shall of course continue to sing elsewhere throughout the North of England (& beyond, if we ever get a trip to mainland Europe organised). If you're a singer, and interested, get in touch!

We need to get out more...

I write the title to this tongue ever so slightly in cheek after attending two Chant workshops, the first at St Austin's Church, Wakefield ably led by Philip Duffy & organised superbly by Patrick Ganley under the umbrella of the Schola Gregoriana of Cambridge. The second at St Alphonsus' North Ormesby, a more localised gathering, despite my efforts to give it as much publicity as possible, but a success nevertheless thanks to the indefatigable efforts of Fr Bill Charlton - the Parish Priest, and Eamon Manning, who flew over from Belfast (narrowly avoiding the ash cloud!) to lead the workshop. You can read more about this here.  Now that I know the Eremite is a more than useful Tenor, he's not going to escape the Rudgate Radar! Being an ad-hoc choir, we're always going to be looking out for new singers to replace those who come and go at regular intervals.

As for the workshops, I learned a lot from both of them. The main thing that struck me was the thought that we mustn't retreat into our own little enclaves, otherwise we run the risk of becoming too complacent & isolated and  not benefiting from the scholarship & experience of dedicated people who lead workshops such as these, who impart their love of this music at such events for the benefit of all of us. The Internet is brilliant of course, both in terms of access to books & free sheet music as well as recordings and demonstrations from the likes of YouTube, but there's nothing quite like experiencing first rate tuition on a sound practical level with other singers.

The good news (in Yorkshire at any rate) is that there may well be more of the same coming our way in the not too distant future. There was talk of the Wakefield event becoming an annual occasion (St Austin's has a super acoustic btw), and Eamon is going to be resident in York for at least a year from September, and yes, I've bagged him as another Rudgate Recruit!

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

Ushaw MMX

What a week! Very intense and very rewarding. There are a number of blog entries already in circulation regarding the Conference itself, notably from Fr Brown, Joseph Shaw, the Middlesbrough LMS blog and last but not least ( as I shall always refer to him from now on) the legend, Fr Wilfred Elkin! A very good selection of photos can also be seen on all these, and I'll add more to the Middlesbrough LMS Blog once I've converted all the video taken into DVD format, though this will be of inferior picture quality to the photos taken by roydosan.

Our Schola of 6 deserves special credit for coping with 15 services in 4½ days, so, a huge thank you to Louis Hurst, Nick Iannicelli, Anthony Dickinson, Christian Spence & Jeremy Boot in addition to yours truly, who not only prepared the Orders of Service, but also choir folders containing all the music and acted as Cantor for the week. That's *not* the reason why my cassock was episcopal purple, but I've explained that elsewhere, so won't go into it here!

Christian gets a special mention for conducting the three polyphonic Masses during the week, and thanks are also due here to those Rudgates & other volunteers, particularly Laurence Price, who came along on Thursday & sang the Victoria Requiem a 6, and to Antiphon, especially Paul Berry who helped organise this, who came on Friday to sing Palestrina's Missa Aeterna Christi Munera and other motets. It's the second year running that we've collaborated with Antiphon for the final Mass & it's an ambition of mine to see both Rudgate & Antiphon combine some time, perhaps at Brinkburn, subject to availability of singers.

I'm not going to forget the organist either, Robert O'Farrell, who also deserves special praise not just for his playing, but also for driving over to York on the following Sunday evening from Lincolnshire in order to play for the [now] monthly Missa Cantata!

Now, I mentioned 3 polyphonic Masses, only the latter 2 of which were public. The first of these was a private Mass in the chapel of St Charles Borromeo putting into practice an excellent idea from Louis, a very talented musician currently at the RNCM in Manchester. Consequently 3 of us sang Byrd's Mass for 3 Voices in what was a very intimate & rewarding acoustic, therefore adding an additional service to the other 15 which we were already scheduled to sing!

The week for me went by far too quickly, and more or less consisted of getting up very early & getting to bed very late and in between, singing services, rehearsing for more services, eating the splendid food prepared by the caterers and spending as much free time in the bar as possible! Before we knew it, we were processing out of the final Mass singing the Te Deum, a last minute addition into the the Order of Service that hardly anyone else knew about!

All the services were recorded, for "training purposes" you understand (one of the in-jokes of the week, another being our own 'CCTV' masquerading as a cam-corder!) So, there is a very distinct possibility of CD's & DVD's becoming available, but it's going to take me ages to go through all the recorded material. I shall post something here when it's all done.

We're hoping to to back next year & in anticipation, music is already being planned... :-)

Before then, and of much more immediate concern, there's the small matter of Gregorian Chant workshops to attend in Wakefield & Middlesbrough, and one to organise, hopefully in Birmingham. More later!

Sunday, 11 April 2010

THE Wedding!

This is a little experiment. I'm sending this from my phone to see if
it will upload to the blog as I'll have no access to a computer @

After a round trip of some 600 miles, I got back to York from Glasgow
at midnight after singing for Colin & Helen's Nuptial Mass. A lovely
couple, who I Met in Fife 2 years ago on the first St Margaret's
pilgrimage. Who can ever forget Sext on the beach(!), but I digress...

The weather was perfect, & the music wasn't bad either! For a scratch
Schola, all but one of whom I'd never met until yesterday, we
acquitted ourselves very well indeed. The church was lovely too -
definitely merits another visit next time I go to Glasgow, & it won't
be another 26 years before I do!

I would love to have stayed for the festivities after the Mass &
catching up with friends old & new + some on facebook who I finally
got to meet(!) but I had to get back to York as I still have
conference admin to sort out before setting off this evening.

Helen & Colin, in the best Russian/Ukrainian tradition, may I wish you
Many Happy Years!

On to Ushaw!

Mike Forbester

Monday, 5 April 2010

Gregorian Chant Workshop

I make no apology at all for lifting this direct from the Diocese of Middlesbrough's Newsfeed which I subscribe to via Google Reader!

Saturday May 8, 2010

9:30 am
Saturday 8th May 2010 from 9.30am to 5pm at St Alphonsus’ Catholic Church
95 Westbourne Grove, Middlesbrough, TS3 6EW
In this day-long workshop we will learn and sing some of the most beautiful chants in the repertory of Gregorian Chant, dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary, and based around the context of a Sung Mass. We will immerse ourselves in the sound, technique and language of this ancient musical style, working toward an authentic and beautiful performance at the end of the day. We will also discover the links between Chant and Polyphony.
The music we will study in the workshop will include:
  • Mass IX (Cum Iubilo)
  • The Propers of the BVM
  • Marian Processionals
  • Gregorian Hymnody
  • Marian Polyphonic Motets
All materials (an introduction to Gregorian Chant, scores and helpful resources) are included in the cost of the day. Beginners and more advanced singers are welcome. Registration Fee: £5.00 – No Fee for Students
To register please contact us at or telephone (01642) 245043. Further information may be found at

Friday, 2 April 2010

Sacred, Beautiful & Universal

During my enforced lay-off from any service [so far] this Holy Week due to this infernal cold, I managed to watch a DVD that I'd received from the US a while ago, and never got around to looking at, until now.

It's interviews and edited highlights of the the nineteenth annual Sacred Music Colloquium, sponsored by the Church Music Association of America.

Whilst not everyone's cup of tea I suppose, it turned out to be one of the most fascinating and inspiring 56 minutes I've spent in front of the TV for ages. All I'll add here is if you're in the UK and you have ANY interest in Music & Liturgy [in either form of the Roman Rite] then you need to go here and buy one! Mine cost $30 which worked out at £20.42 including postage.

I think it's money well spent.

Go on, buy one.


And then we'll discuss the possibilities of such an event happening over here in the UK.

Wednesday, 31 March 2010

Holy Week & Easter

It's an, as yet, unfulfilled ambition of mine to sing Tenebrae in Holy Week. I just never seem to get the time off work to join others in singing this most wonderful solemn music, when it's been done in other parts of the country. The chances of it happening in Yorkshire are virtually nil at the moment. A few years ago, the then Schola Greg of Northumbria managed it at Fr Michael Brown's parish in Forest Hall, and if you're in or around Edinburgh do make the effort to go to the Metropolitan Cathedral where the St Andrew's & Edinburgh Schola will be singing.

Apart from Tenebrae, another ambition is to sing the Passion. Again this hasn't happened yet due to lack of time and people. Whilst it would be wonderful to have a polyphonic setting performed [liturgically of course], I'd quite happily settle for chant!

As for the Triduum, I'm at a loose end this year as there's not a lot happening musically in the York area. Last Year I took part in the first EF Triduum to be held in Yorkshire for several years, perhaps even since the 1960's. Sadly this isn't happening this weekend, but I know from my own experience in organising services, the difficulties that can be encountered purely from an admin point of view. It's bad enough to organise the Ordinary Form, so just imagine how much more difficult the EF is, especially when you have a full time job to do as well! It's well worth it though, and I hope that sometime in the future, we'll be able to do it again.

So, that leaves me a 'free agent' so to speak, and as the Orthodox/Byzantine Catholic Easter is the same as the West this year, I have plenty of options. The music programme at Leeds Cathedral is excellent, but I'm reluctant to go there because the older I get, the more claustrophobic I seem to become, and I'm pretty sure the place will be packed, which for me would be a very uncomfortable experience despite the music. I do intend to go back there occasionally to see how my choral successors are faring...

I shall certainly be at the Greek Orthodox Church in Leeds though for one or two services. If I can get there on Friday evening I'll be taking part in the SERVICE of EPITAPHIOS (Burial of The Lord & Harrowing of Hell). This is an amazing service in which the Epitaphion [tomb] is taken out in procession around the local streets surrounding the church, during which hymns are sung in Greek and English. I don't know if this happens in other Orthodox/Greek-Catholic churches, but if you're near a Greek Orthodox church, do see if they have this service. The one in Leeds commences at 6.30pm with the procession starting about an hour later.

I shall certainly be at the Greek Church on Sunday for VESPERS OF LOVE [Gospel in Many Languages], as I've been asked to read the Gospel in Latin (& possibly German too if nobody else there will do it!) This is always followed by what can only be described as the 'mother of all barbecues' and has to be seen [& tasted] to be believed!

What I'll probably miss out on though is the Resurrection Liturgy which starts at 10.30pm and goes on for 4 hours. Another awesome experience, especially when 'Christos Anesti' is sung, but I don't want to be out that late as I'm not in the best of health right now, and need to be in tip-top condition, or as close to it as possible, for the following weekend as I'm singing for a Solemn Nuptial Mass [OF] in Glasgow, followed immediately by the EF Training Conference at Ushaw!
(See here for details of the services that are readily accessible to the public. ALL Services will be open to anyone, but I can't imagine too many visitors in the chapel at 8.00am for Lauds, or 9.30pm for Compline!)

I'm told the services at Ampleforth are worth going to, so may just go there for the Vigil, though I note that it's also likely to be beyond midnight when it finishes - but probably not 2.30am!

Wherever you are, may I wish you a Blessed final few days of Holy Week, and a very Happy Easter. I'll try not to over-indulge on the Lamb on Sunday afternoon, perhaps just 5 courses should suffice! ;-)

Wednesday, 24 February 2010

More About Hymns

I've had some response from my last note about hymns. It's always nice to receive feedback, proof it seems that I have more readers than I thought! Let me just quote from one which came via Facebook.

"while I do think the 19th century Hymns by Faber, Wiseman etc gave us a rich devotional heritage it is far more Liturgical to sing Mass"

My response to this may come as a surprise considering what I wrote previously as I'm not as 'anti-hymn' as I appear to be. Believe it or not, but I actually like hymns too, and generally from the same era as Matt who posted the above comment. A recording I made in the early 1990's with a group of singers called the 'St Anne's Singers of Leeds' of wonderful hymns purloined from the Leeds Catholic Hymnal, the St Andrew Hymnal, [where can I get full music editions of these?], and the Parish Hymn Book is partly responsible for sowing the seeds which later bore fruit in the Rudgate Singers.

I'm going to quote something else now, from the forward to the great Parish Hymn Book which, in my opinion, was the last of the great Catholic hymnals before the publication of the Catholic Hymn Book some 30+ years later.

"We may never again see those crowded congregations at evening service - rosary, sermon and Benediction - but we shall still have crowded churches. There is nevertheless regret among the clergy and all who loved congregational singing that the day of popular devotions seems to be gone...

... Mass has become the popular devotion...

...The new Parish Hymn Book is welcome because it will halt the decline of congregational singing. Soon we shall have vernacular versions of the Mass in new musical settings but we shall not have completely satisfactory words and music for the Mass until after a long period of experiment. Meanwhile the English tradition of hymn-singing will be preserved by singing at Mass and at the new type of Service."

These words were written by Cardinal Heenan back in May 1966. How times have changed! It seems to me though that the use of hymns (good, bad, ancient, modern) has now taken over so much that in most parishes up and down the country, the '4 hymn sandwich' has become the staple musical diet within the Latin Rite Catholic Liturgy. I'll leave you to dwell upon the level of congregational singing & musical settings for the Mass, should you actually have the latter in your Parish! The Eastern Liturgy, for those of you lucky enough to experience it, is a different ball game entirely. By mentioning the classic hymn sandwich, I think I've come more or less back to my original point made in the previous posting. More thoughts would be welcome!

Sunday, 21 February 2010


Those of you who know me are probably aware that I'm not the greatest fan of hymns in the Extraordinary Form Mass, preferring, where possible, that the Mass should be sung, rather than have singing at Mass. I've heard of similar arguments for the same to apply for the OF too, mostly falling on deaf ears locally. How many parishes do you know of that still rely on the '4 hymn sandwich'? Fortunately I'm not regularly called on to provide music for OF liturgies [yet, the last one I did, being Whit Sunday nearly 2 years ago], I'm busy enough as it is, with the EF in the North of England, not just York!

Nevertheless, I can't help noticing that when the York EF Masses have been sung, there has been an increase in attendance. Coincidence? These are of course hymnless, bearing in mind that the Mass is sung - either chant or polyphony and always concluding with the seasonal Marian Antiphon, a habit I first picked up when singing with the Leeds Schola Gregoriana some 20+ years ago. The Low Masses though, have a dreadful attendance record generally, and I can't help but think that there's a musical [or lack of] connection here.

Of course, the Mass being at 6:30pm on a Sunday evening, isn't helpful, because some people don't like coming out on dark evenings. There is also the shameful polemicised prejudice in Greater York [especially amongst some of the clergy] against *anything* connected to the EF or even the official language of the Church! (This despite all the initiatives coming out of Rome under this Pontificate...)

I've also heard arguments for/against music [any kind, not necessarily just hymnody] from those who attend the EF on occasion. It's interesting [to me at least!] to note that those who prefer quiet Low Masses are much older than those, considerably younger than me (!) who would like some music - even suitable hymns during Low Mass, which brings me back on topic!

Since October, when the EF Masses resumed in York, there have only been 2 Sung Masses so far. All the others have been Low Masses without any music except occasionally the appropriate Marian Antiphon sung at the end. Following last weekends highly successful Missa Cantata, which almost doubled the congregation, I've decided to introduce some music for the Low Masses during Lent. Not that controversial [I hope!] at first, as I'm starting with the Lent Prose, which amazingly is in the hymn book the parish uses, a vernacular hymn at Communion, and concluding with the seasonal Marian Antiphon, Ave Regina Caelorum.

I know I'm going to get some criticism from some quarters, because it's impossible to please everybody.

Wish me luck!

Tuesday, 9 February 2010

Singers needed.

Can I ask a favour? I know this blog doesn't attract the thousands of visitors that other great bloggers receive [see bloglist on the right!], but it does get a fair few regular visitors, and I'm now going to prevail upon you, or more particularly, your networking skills. :-)

For the second year running, there is to be a clergy training course in the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite [Traditional Latin Mass] at Ushaw College, in Durham. This year, it's from 12th-16th April & I've been given the unenviable task of organising the music & getting the singers together - most of which is done.

So far, I've planned for 3 Solemn High Masses, 2 other Sung Masses, Lauds [x4], Solemn Vespers once, ordinary sung Vespers twice and other services including Compline. Where I'm asking for a bit of help is regarding the Mass scheduled for 11.00am on the Thursday [15th April]. This will be a Solemn Memorial Requiem with the music planned being Victoria à 6. (The same music Rudgate sang in Scunthorpe in November last year.

We can't afford to hire a choir because the LMS [Conference organisers] have only budgeted for one choir who will be singing for the final High Mass the following day, & I certainly can't afford to hire singers - I drive a 10 year old rusting VW Polo for heaven's sake! [and that only because my even older , limited edition, beloved Skoda Felicia Bohemia was written off in an RTC in Leeds by an uninsured driver, just after I'd sung for the Easter Vigil.] But I digress.

This leaves me running around trying to find people who want to come & sing this wonderful music. What *can* be offered, provided I know in good time is accommodation @ Ushaw [bearing in mind the start time] & all meals. Some Rudgates have already valiantly taken a day off work and are coming to sing. Other singers will already be at Ushaw, as we're part of the Schola in residence. That leaves me looking for at least 3 Sopranos, 1 or 2 Altos and 1 Tenor. We already have 4 basses signed up!

If you know of anyone who might be interested & potentially available, bearing in mind that it's a work day for most people, I'd be delighted to hear from you via the Comments box!

Sunday, 7 February 2010

London Calling.

I used to hate London, but am now beginning to rather like the place - in small doses. For a city which I've usually visited only once in blue moon, to have been there 3 times in the last 7 months to me, speaks for itself.

This time it was for the launch of the Gregorian Chant Network at the end of January. Various accounts have appeared in the blogosphere already, so I won't repeat what's been written there. I will add, that I thought it quite appropriate that other organisations besides the LMS [who hosted the event] were represented, who do not, as a rule, have the same opinion on the EF held by most of us present.

Gregorian Chant is still the official music of the Roman Rite (in BOTH FORMS) and I'm personally quite fed up of people with their heads buried so deep in the sand who think it should be exclusively associated with the EF. (These generally tend to be people who either love or hate the Extraordinary Form with equal fervour!) Despite my preference for the EF, I'm more than happy to get involved with OF liturgies, either directly, as a singer, or indirectly by offering advice or by going to listen and supporting other singers. This applies to other choral music too. How are we going to encourage the use of Gregorian Chant & other good quality sacred music in parishes if we think it's our exclusive preserve?

I was particularly keen to hear that several cathedrals are using the Chant more often, although there is still a distinct bias towards South/Central England. I can only think of Leeds in N/NE England that is taking Chant seriously alongside other good Liturgical music, though I'm quite happy to stand corrected if that's not the case. That said, it's still good to hear, and I'm very much in favour of the proposed idea to have Regional Chant workshops in our cathedrals [led by the Cathedral Directors?] where details of local choirs/scholas such as ourselves can be provided should people who attend wish to take their interest further and start singing on a regular basis.

Putting Gregorian Chant aside, I'm also, as some of you know, very fond of the Eastern Rites. After leaving the Oratory, roydosan, [my host for the weekend] & I went up the road to the Russian Orthodox Cathedral for the Vigil Service of the Sunday of the Prodigal Son - all 2½ hours of it(!) accompanied by some excellent, virtually non-stop singing in both Church Slavonic & English by only a handful of chanters. Much praise is due, & if I knew who was in charge of the music there I'd write to them to let them know!

The Byzantine theme continued on Sunday with a visit to the Ukrainian Catholic Cathedral. This was an experience not to be missed. Although there were only 3 chanters, they had only to intone various parts of the Liturgy and we were suddenly engulfed by the sound of the entire congregation joining in - in harmony! Considering there were about 300-400 people present, you can imagine what that must have sounded like... For those of you who want to see/hear genuine participation without it being forced on you in the misguided mindset of 'Community', go along to your nearest Ukrainian Catholic or Orthodox church and prepare to be overwhelmed! The Poles, to be fair, are pretty good too, but the Roman Rite - in either form - doesn't really allow for the same experience because of the way it's structured. Other Byzantine Rites could potentially do the same of course, but in my experience, Greek, Russian & Romanian congregations just remain silent and let the chanters or choir get on with singing the Liturgy along with the clergy.

I would have liked to have stayed longer, but had a train to catch in order to sing Vespers of Septuagesima Sunday back in York, which in the end didn't happen due to the train breaking down - twice! Still, a pretty good weekend, and I'm looking forward to the next one. :-)

Saturday, 16 January 2010


I'm off out to dinner this evening. To be precise, a three course meal with music provided by the excellent Ebor Singers. To quote directly from the invitation...

"if you wish to celebrate the end of Christmas in style, join us for our Wassail Dinner 2010, on Saturday 16 January at the Merchant Taylors Hall, for a 3-course meal, music, readings, and our own Mummers Play - if you think you've seen the choir perform, think again!"

I've been to these before, and it's always been a splendid evening's entertainment with a good meal provided too!

For those of you unfamiliar with Wassailing traditions in this country, any Google search should soon put that right. Here's an excerpt from a site I came across.


Wassailing has been associated with Christmas and New Year as far back as the 1400s. It was a way of passing on good wishes among family and friends.

What is Wassail?

Wassail is an ale-based drink seasoned with spices and honey. It was served from huge bowls, often made of silver or pewter. The Wassail bowl would be passed around with the greeting, 'Wassail'.

There are three main ways of wassailing.

The filling of a common bowl or cup often referred to as a 'Loving Cup' and passing it around a room to be shared.

Taking a bowl of Wassail around houses

A celebration of the apple harvest and the blessing of the fruit or trees.

Where does the name Wassail come from?

Wassail gets its name from the Old English term "waes hael" meaning "be well" It was a Saxon custom that, at the start of each year, the lord of the manor would shout 'waes hael'. The assembled crowd would reply 'drinc hael' meaning 'drink and be healthy'.

As time went on, the tradition was carried on by people going from door to door, bearing good wishes and a wassail bowl of hot, spiced ale. In return people in the houses gave them drink, money and Christmas fare (special foods eaten during Christmas time e.g. mince pies) and they believed they would receive good luck for the year to come.

What was in the Wassail?

The contents of the bowl varied in different parts of the country, but a popular one was known as 'lambs wool'. It consisted of hot ale, roasted crab apples, sugar, spices, eggs, and cream served with little pieces of toast. It was the toast floating on the top that made it look like lamb's wool.

A Wassailing Carol

One of the most popular Wassailing Carols went like this:

Here we come a-wassailing
Among the leaves so green,
Here we come a-wassailing,
So fair to be seen:
Love and joy come to you,
And to you your wassail too,
And God bless you and send you,
A happy New Year,
And God send you,
A happy new year.

There's more, all from this site which you can explore at your own leisure, but I think this gives you a rough idea of what the evening will be about! Should be great fun, but I can't be too late back because I'm going over to Gtr Manchester tomorrow to celebrate Theophany (incidentally the traditional date of celebrating "Wassail" in the Old English Calendar!) with my Ukrainian friends now that the weather's improved.

Until next time...

Waes hael!