Friday, 30 December 2011

Video Recordings

I've recently discovered how to upload full length video to YouTube and have gone through some old footage of Rudgate events past that were caught on camera.

Here are three services, one of which wasn't a Rudgate 'do' really as my involvement was only to go and sing the Chant (Fr. Elkin's Golden Jubilee Mass 21/07/2009) but uploaded and linked to here, because I know some people would like to see it.

Feast of Our Lady of Perpetual Succour, St. Alphonsus' Church, North Ormesby. 27th June 2009.

Missa Cantata: The Feast of the Seven Holy Founders of the Servite Order. Church of the English Martyrs. York 12/02/2011.

The sound quality on these isn't great, and the video quality not that much better, but nevertheless, they now form an important part of our archives!

2012 - The story so far.

I thought people might like to see how next year is shaping up. Not all of these events will involve the whole choir of course, but at least it gives you an idea of what many of us will be doing outside of our respective day jobs and other activities, whether they be musical or not!

St Mary's, Bishophill, York
Orthodox Divine Liturgy. A group of us have been asked to enhance the chanting (with harmonies if poss) as a member of the congregation is being received.

Ampleforth Abbey
Choral Orthodox Liturgy in the Octave of the week for Christian Unity.
As mentioned in the previous post, a reprise of the wonderful service that took place in October.

29/01/12 TBC.
Greek Orthodox Church of the Three Hierarchs, Leeds
Singing Byzantine Chant in English as part of the Patronal Feast of the parish. Details yet to be confirmed.

Church of S. James the Great, Darlington
Provisional plans to visit the Ordinariate Community there.

St Mary's, Bishophill.
Come and meet the Rudgates. A loose plan which at the moment is based on the idea of an open day for people to come and sing some lovely music, followed by a service, probably Vespers (ideally choral, but could be chanted) and then what could vaguely be called 'Fellowship' either in the Tower Room or in one of the local pubs afterwards! :-)

St Wilfred's and English Martyrs' Churches.
National Pilgrimage in honour of St. Margaret Clitherow.
As this year, except that we'll definitely be in St. Wilfred's for the Mass instead of the Minster as the Bishop of Middlesbrough is presiding, preaching, and leading the procession.

25/03/12 TBC
SS Peter & Paul, New Brighton
Possibly Solemn High Mass if the church is ready in time for it's grand reopening. It might also depend on how many Rudgates would want to be involved in another very high profile event, the day after the St. Margaret Pilgrimage and 100+ miles away.

St Hilda's Church, Cross Green, Leeds
May Devotions. Vespers and Benediction.

York Minster
A Charity Concert in aid of Homestart. As many of you know, we've never done a concert, but this is for a good cause, and good publicity too. The format is several choirs perform one piece, then all sing one or two specially composed pieces at the end. Simple, effective, and all for charity.

Ampleforth Abbey
Choral Orthodox Vespers as part of the Ryedale Festival. Not sure yet whether this will be a 'concert' setting or actual Vespers!

21/07/12? TBC
St Mary's Church, Barnard Castle
The Annual Founders' Day Requiem

08/09/12 TBC
Brinkburn Priory
The Annual Solemn High Mass

27/09/12 - 04/10/12
Schola trip to Austria & Bavaria!
Details still to be worked on, but will involve singing the Office and ideally, one or two Masses. If all proceeds smoothly, it could be the precursor to a full-blown choral tour. :-)

27/10/12 TBC
Ampleforth Abbey
Choral Orthodox Divine Liturgy

St Mary's Bishophill, York
Carols by Candlelight.

Obviously, some of these dates are a bit sketchy, and may, or may not , involve all of us. In addition to all of the above though, Compline by candlelight resumes at St. Mary's on 7th January, and will be sung on most Saturdays throughout the year at 9pm. Sunday Vespers is also resuming, but only twice a month at best, usually on 1st and 3rd Sundays. Full details will be posted to our calendar which you can access any time either by visiting our website, or just by following the link on the right of this page. You may have to scroll down a bit first though!

It may be a tad early, but when it comes, may I wish you all a very Happy and Peaceful New Year! And do come to some of our services. :-)

Thursday, 29 December 2011

Our 15th Anniversary year - a review

I don't normally indulge in such things, but 2011 was, in more ways than one, a very special year for the Rudgates. It started off fairly quietly, with a handful of us going up to sing at Ampleforth Abbey for the choral Orthodox Liturgy celebrated there each year on the Saturday during the Octave for Christian Unity. A splendid occasion, followed by an equally splendid lunch! We're going to be liaising with Ampleforth more often in the coming 12 months, as we start getting more involved with the Byzantine Rite. More of that in a later post ...

The beginning of February saw the Rudgates reduced to one - me - for 2nd Vespers of Candlemas which despite the reduced numbers(!) went without a hitch, if not entirely flawless, as I improvised somewhat during the first psalm. :-) Huge thanks are due to the Anglican congregation of St Mary's Bishophill in York (where we normally chant Compline & occasional Vespers) for giving up their own regular Wednesday evening Eucharist in favour of Latin Catholic Vespers!

The 12th Feb heralded our first fully choral event of the year, a Missa Cantata tagged onto the end of a Server Training Day for those who wish to serve Mass in the  Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite (EF). This took place at English Martyrs' Church, York, where we sang a Mass by a modern German composer (Christoph Dalitz) with motets by Mozart. It was difficult to tell the difference, despite a difference in composition of approximately 200 years ... :-)

March brought the undoubted highlight of our year and, I dare say, we're probably not alone in this! A truly historic, momentous and, for many, a very emotional event. This was, of course, the EF Missa Cantata celebrated in York Minster. Before we get to the day itself, I'm going to take you back to the previous summer where three people were sitting round a table in the Punch Bowl pub on Blossom Street in York discussing St. Margaret Clitherow and a potential EF pilgrimage to York. (St. Margaret being one of the patrons of the Latin Mass Society of England & Wales.) It was discovered, fortuitously, that her Feast Day in the Ordinary Form (OF) Calendar - 26th March - was, in 2011, on a Saturday. That set the ball rolling Needless to say there were many obstacles to overcome before the day itself. Planning a major EF Mass for a saint who doesn't *actually* appear in the EF Ordo (she was canonised in 1970) being the first. This was taken care of by the use of a Votive Mass in her honour; as the event was going to be a major EF national pilgrimage, we felt we could get away with this, and did. :-)

The original venue for the Mass, was, we hoped, going to be St. Wilfred's Church, in York City Centre, opposite the Minster, followed by a procession via the Shambles & Ouse Bridge, to the Bar Convent, where the relic of St. Margaret is kept, (her hand) concluding with Benediction and veneration of the relic. In the event, St Wilfred's turned out to be 'unavailable' and the convent chapel was eventually replaced by English Martyrs' Church on Dalton Terrace purely for practical reasons - size and availability of car parking. So, we were left with trying to find a venue for the Mass. It was at this point, sometime back in late Oct/early Nov  2010 that Fr. Stephen Maughan, then based at English Martyrs, thought of asking about the availability of the Minster, on the grounds that if you don't ask, you don't get, so we asked, and we got! This was helped considerably by the fact that Fr. Stephen got on very well with the Minster clergy & staff during his time in York, as indeed do some of the Rudgates. :-)

The help we subsequently got from the Minster authorities was immense, despite this being an additional event on top of their other services, events and concerts that they already had planned around this time, and those of us involved at the sharp end of organising the pilgrimage, cannot praise and thank them highly enough for this.

The venues now having been secured, all that was left from the Rudgate viewpoint, was to organise both services (Mass & Benediction) and get the singers to do justice to both. The order of service put together by my sister, aided, abetted and edited by me, had several draft editions before we decided that it was fit for public use. :-) The choir, besides the core element from Greater York, W Yorks and Altrincham/Warrington had extra recruits (some who had sung with us before anyway) from Cheshire, Edinburgh, Nottingham, Oxford & London. We were also helped by the Minster Organist, David Pipe, who played superbly before, during and after the Mass. I don't know how Fr. Stephen persuaded him to give up his time, but I'm delighted that he did! The tenors coped superbly, considering that there were originally 7 which for various reasons, was gradually reduced to 3, not easy when you're singing Byrd 5 with split tenor part, so I think Laurence Price, Simon Crouch and especially Alan Hardwick (a bass who volunteered to sing tenor) deserve crediting individually.

 It's worth mentioning the Schola too at this point. I had indicated that I wanted at least 10 singers (we ended up with 12) to have any chance of doing justice to the Proper of the Mass in the huge Minster acoustic. For weeks before, I had gone to services in the Quire, wondering where the best place was for the Schola to sing from, as to sing 'in situ' in the choir stalls would have resulted in a complete mess - there are only a handful of us who've sung there before and know exactly what it's like to sing quite some distance apart from your opposite number on the other side of the choir stalls. In the end I decided on the 'Ushaw' formation of bringing the Schola out into the middle and singing as one unit. This meant drawing up a plan of who was to  sing from what position in the Quire and their place in the procession so that the Schola members could move with the minimum of fuss at the right time as some singers were polyphony only, some chant only and some both. It was like planning a military operation! We also had to factor in at this point, the movement of two of the altos to sing Sop II for one of the polyphonic pieces (Byrd's Iustorum Animae). Needless to say, the best laid plans almost came to a disastrous end, when due to the sheer numbers of people ( a gross under-estimation from the organisers) extra chairs were brought out and placed exactly where we had rehearsed the chant moments earlier - this was with less than 10 minutes before the start of the Mass! I then had to dash back into the Quire and inform those who were seated there that for some parts of the service they  wouldn't be able to see as the Schola would be directly in front of them thus impeding their view of the High Altar. The number of times I had to tell people that the spaces in the choir stalls were actually *for the choir* was also beyond belief ...

The Mass itself was a huge success. Original estimates of 400 people turned out to be very wrong as approximately 800 came. The Quire was full to overflowing, literally, as there was a huge overspill into the Nave. I can't say anything about the procession, as I had to drive from the Minster to English Martyrs' with several cassocks & other bits and pieces in order to be in place in time for the second part of the day, Benediction & Veneration. The one and (so far) only time I have ever driven whilst wearing a cassock! What took the edge of an otherwise brilliant day were some of the shoddy, dare I say, ignorant remarks that appeared in the blogosphere and some local and national Catholic papers afterwards. For example whilst the Dean of York had been present in the Minster that morning to be interviewed and also to do some other recording for the BBC, it was the Chancellor & Precentor who were present for the actual Mass, and how marvellous it was to see them there. The Mass too, more than once, was erroneously described as the first Catholic Mass to take place in the Minster since the Reformation. Utter nonsense! It was believed to be the first Mass (rightly or wrongly) in either Form of the Roman Rite to take place at the High Altar since the reign of Queen Mary I, that's something quite different altogether, but give some people an inch and they'll take 10 miles it seems ...

The rest of the year seemed like a huge anti-climax after that, but nevertheless, we were still very busy! In April, two of us chanted the services for the Easter Triduum at the University Chaplaincy in Leeds, and in Easter Week itself - the day after THE Wedding, the choir went down to Stow Minster in Lincolnshire for a Solemn Sung Eucharist, the first choral C of E service we've done for ages. It was nice to see old friends Allan Barton & Adrian Furse too, now both Anglican priests, they have both previously sung with the Rudgates.

June came, and on the 18th, we all went to Scarborough to celebrate our 15th Anniversary! The venue was St. Joseph's church, where we had sung once before, several years ago, and picked this time, because it doesn't just have a very good acoustic, but also has a very spacious choir gallery and we had a larger than usual choir for the Anniversary Mass. The Mass setting was Palestrina's Missa Papae Marcelli as this was the very first Mass we ever sang, way back in 1996 in Scarthingwell. Grateful thanks are due to Fr. Michael Sellars for letting us use the church, and to Martin Richardson, the organist and choir director at St Joseph's for all the arrangements on the day.

In July, we did something slightly different. We organised a Gregorian Chant Workshop! Held at St Mary's, Bishophill, where some of us regularly chant Compline and Vespers, the event was a success despite myself and the tutor, Mark Burghagen, having massive colds! Later in the month,  we sang for the annual Founders' Day Requiem held at St Mary's, Barnard Castle in memory of John and Josephine Bowes (the founders of the Bowes Museum - hence the title). For the last 7 years, we'd only sung the Gregorian Chant Requiem here, but this year finally introduced some polyphony in the form of Victoria à 4. Hopefully next year, we'll sing another polyphonic Mass setting.

In September, we returned to Brinkburn Priory up in Northumberland, our favourite location for the Annual Solemn High Mass which takes place there. We just about scraped through this time, due to having some very timid sopranos. We do need more, so if you're a Soprano, love singing, and like what we do, please get in touch!

A slight diversion later in September was singing in Oxford for the Ordination to the Priesthood of a good friend who many (if not most) of you reading this will know as fr. Lawrence Lew OP. Fr. Lawrence (or Paul) was one of the first choral scholars in Leeds Cathedral Choir, so I've known him a long time. He also had sung with the Rudgates, and as such is most definitely worthy of inclusion here. :-)

In October, several of us joined forces with other singers and choirs to sing another Choral Orthodox Liturgy at Ampleforth. We had originally planned on singing one ourselves, provisionally at St Mary's in November, which, besides being our base for Compline & Vespers, and having its own services of course, is also home to the Orthodox Community of Sts Constantine and Helen in York. However, I'd already been collaborating with Fr. Alexander at Ampleforth on other musical matters, and since this Liturgy was taking place anyway at the end of October, already involving one or two of us, it just seemed to make sense to put aside our plans for a totally separate service and take part in this Liturgy instead. It was a truly wonderful experience, featuring music sung in English, by Arkhangelsky, Chesnokov, Rachmaninov and Kastalsky, as well as traditional Slavonic chants. This Liturgy is to be  repeated on 21st January at Ampleforth, so if you're in the area and free, do go!

November came and in lieu of singing our own Liturgy, some of us sang Vespers of the Dead on Armistice Day (Remembrance Day) in memory of all those who died in the two World Wars and other conflicts. This is probably the shortest service we've ever sung, lasting some 15-20 minutes. I notice that next year, Remembrance Day and Remembrance Sunday coincide, so there may be some scope for a more elaborate service.

This brings me to December and our now Annual Carol Service at St Mary's. This year, for the first time, I managed to get all the Great 'O' Antiphons in, something I've been wanting to do for years! As for the rest, with music including Tavener's The Lamb, Byrd - Puer Natus, Victoria - O Magnum Mysterium and even a bit of Martin Luther in the form of Hassler's arrangement of 'Vom Himmel Hoch' it proved to be another resounding success. We also sang 'Silent Night' for the first time ever! It's only taken 11 Rudgate Carol Services before we finally got round to including it. Next year, it's going to be a congregational hymn - in German. :-)

As you can see, it's been a very busy year for us. Plans are already in place for the next 12 months which will be revealed shortly ...!