Wednesday 1 January 2020

2019. A Review

Happy New Year!

Apologies in advance for the length of this musing, but, as last year, my review of the previous year will take place once the old year has ended, unlike other organisations who insist on doing this sort of thing whilst we're still only halfway through December or even earlier!

2019 was a very quiet year for the Rudgates as a singing group which I can attribute to a number of factors, not least me getting involved with other musical/liturgical projects, either with other singers & choirs or by myself – the latter often involving time consuming & energy sapping admin, which has left little time to do what I’d rather be doing! This is, simply, restoring sacred music to church services in its original (or as close to it as possible) liturgical setting, especially in churches and other venues where such music has rarely – if at all – been heard as it was intended. I’ve never forgotten two separate conversations with clergy friends who I have the utmost regard for, one from North-East England, the other from the East Midlands discussing the Rudgates’ ‘mission’. One even described it as an apostolate which for me, hit the bullseye so to speak. I’ve never forgotten that and I’d like to think that 2020 will bring a renewed vision of what the Rudgates and its Schola were founded to do! If this means reducing my ordinary activities for others, outside of Rudgate services, then that might not be such a bad thing, especially with our 25th anniversary looming in 2021 which will require careful planning and preparation. After all, I’m not getting any younger!

This review then, will be more of what I’ve done independently of the Rudgates than with them

Let's start back in January. The schola sang 1st Vespers of the Epiphany at our adopted home of St Mary’s in York. I’m keen to do more services like this when time (& energy) permit so next year’s review may look slightly different. J

Towards the end of January I renewed my role as Reader for the annual choral Orthodox Liturgy held at Ampleforth Abbey during the Octave of Christian Unity week. Always an enjoyable occasion, and not just for the excellent sherry and lunch which follows it!

Back to St Mary’s for Candlemas, which was marked by the schola singing 2nd Vespers of the Feast. In mid-February, I joined the Northern Cathedral Consort again to sing the weekend services at Bradford Cathedral, a venue I had only visited before & not sung in, and that was some 30+ years ago...

For some time now, I have occasionally drive down to Wakefield to sing chant & polyphony with the excellent St Austin’s Parish Church Choir. My first visit there this year was to sing a Solemn Gregorian Chant only Mass for the Feast of the Chair of St Peter. If you’re a catholic anywhere in the West Riding of Yorkshire outside Leeds, wanting decent liturgical music on Sundays and other Feast Days, then Wakefield is the place to go!

On to March, which heralded the first fully choral Rudgate service of the year in the form of Choral Evensong for the York Ordinariate Mission at St Mary’s. This was only the second Evensong we as a group had ever sung, both times for the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham, so we still haven’t sung Evensong for the C of E even though we have sung a number of Anglican services! Our door is always open, subject to the usual conditions of time, venue & availability of singers etc...

Later in March, the day before the Annunciation, I visited one of my former Cathedrals (St Mary’s, Newcastle upon Tyne) to attend Vespers & Benediction on the eve of the Installation of the new Bishop of Hexham & Newcastle. I’m not prepared to put into print what I really thought about Vespers as this blog, believe it or not, is occasionally read by women, children & clergy. J Suffice to say I thought it was awful, especially for a cathedral service with most of the catholic Hierarchy present. Benediction was nice though!

At the end of March, I made my first trip of the year up to Ushaw College, a venue I love, and would dearly love to go back to with the Rudgates (and other groups), for the Annual Mass in honour of St. Cuthbert. One of the advantages of me taking a back seat elsewhere will mean I can visit here a bit more often in 2020, and I’m very much looking forward to that.

Earlier in the year, I was invited to join the small choir which sings for the Russian Orthodox Community in York. As I love Eastern/Slavonic church music, I didn’t need to think about it. J In April we were asked to sing in Leeds for a Liturgy whose principal con-celebrant was the Bishop. A huge baptism of fire if ever there was one – especially when sight-reading music and transliterating from the original Cyrillic alphabet at the same time! There are occasions, particularly in faster pieces, when I just let everyone else sing because the time it takes me to work out what’s written in front of me & then sing it would be too great & I could end up being about 3 staves behind everyone else, never mind bars... It was also a little strange, singing a Russian Orthodox Liturgy in a Latin Rite Catholic church! An arrangement that works very well.

At Easter, I made the 200+ mile round trip to the Dome of Home, the Shrine Church of Sts Peter, Paul & Philomena which is under the care of the Institute of Christ the King. I had promised, rather foolishly, to help out with the chanting for the Easter Vigil, and as a promise is a promise, there I went. Despite getting stuck in very heavy traffic on the Liverpool side of the Mersey, I made it in good time & also back to York quicker than anticipated. Whether this becomes a regular occurrence remains to be seen...

During May, I made the first of a number of trips up to Tyneside to sing with the really rather wonderful Westland Singers directed by Paul Dewhurst. This was a Requiem for Terry Middleton, who I had got to know quite well as a result of my regular jaunts up to what I fondly call Toonside, although the church most visited is St Joseph’s,Gateshead, which is of course on the south of the river & therefore not part of Newcastle at all! On the train up to Newcastle I noticed someone who looked vaguely familiar, but couldn’t place where I had seen him before. It was only when he was getting off the train at Darlington when the penny dropped. The legendary (in these parts) Glen Durrant, 3-time back-to-back BDO World Darts Champion, now plying his trade with the PDC. If you’re not a fan of the arrows – tough. J Just move along now...

At the beginning of June I swapped roles, putting my liturgical photographers hat on and venturing into curry-land (also known as Bradford) acted as unofficial photographer for a Pontifical (Ordinariate Use) Solemn Mass at St Joseph’s Church. I found this disappointing for a number of reasons. The Mass itself was beautiful, with appropriate music, but the congregation must have numbered only about a dozen people, half of whom I think were only there because of the presence of the Ordinary (Bishop in all but name.) I was also put off by overhearing disparaging remarks made by one of the choir about both the Ordinariate & the Catholic church in general, both of whom he’d just sung for!! Let me just state for the record that that will NEVER happen with the Rudgates, whose members come from several different denominations (or none at all) & whilst respecting each other’s differences, would certainly not indulge in what I could only perceive as denominational snobbery of the highest order! OK. Rant over. J
Later on in the month, I was back in Wakefield singing the Chant for Solemn Vespers of Pentecost Sunday. Even Later on, back in York at St Mary’s, the schola provided the singing for the First public Mass of the newly ordained Fr John Konstantin Tee, whose ordination had taken place in London the week before. Both services were very moving occasions.

In July, I was back at Ushaw College for a very special occasion. An Extraordinary Form Mass which was the final act of an academic conference held at the college & the University of Durham. Entrance was restricted to ticket holders only (I did have a ticket) & I was left rather bemused afterwards wondering what the delegates  would have made of it all. The Ordinary of the Mass (Kyrie, Gloria etc,) was a setting written by Mgr Charles Newsham, a previous rector of Ushaw, but the chant propers & Salve Regina at the end were incomprehensible to me, being so sllloooow. I can’t believe, having taken part in medieval chant reconstructions, also on academic basis, that the chant at Ushaw in the 19th century would have been taken so slowly. But there you go...

On the 20th, I was at a brand new venue for me, St Joseph’s Church, Longsight in Manchester. This was for a wedding which I and any of the other singers (from St Austin’s, Wakefield)   weren’t going to be involved in at all initially! Prior to the wedding, there had been a number of messages on Facebook asking for a schola or choir to sing, as the original singers could no longer go. Once this was brought to my attention, I made some recommendations regarding singers in the region, with a note to the groom (Michal) that if he was really stuck to come back to me. Well, as you now know, a promise is a promise, and other singers not being available, I volunteered and made enquiries which yielded the wonderful singers from Wakefield who also came and helped out. We even provided polyphony as well as the chants of the Mass of the day.

In September, the schola sang a Missa Cantata at St Mary’s for the York Ordinariate Mission. A significant occasion, as it was believed to be the first sung catholic Latin mass to have taken place there since the reformation! Some of us then visited the Manchester Ordinariate Mission to help with the singing at Evensong & Benediction for the Solemnity of Our Lady of Walsingham

In November I sang the first memorial Requiem mass (for All Souls) to take place there for centuries, where I was joined by some excellent singers from the University of Durham. Earlier that day, some of us had visited the lovely people at the Manchester Ordinariate Mission to sing a very different All Souls’ Mass in the Ordinariate Use.

On 7th I returned to one of my other previous cathedrals (Leeds) to sing with St Austin’s again. This time it was Solemn Pontifical Vespers with the Diocesan Bishop on the occasion of the visit of the statue of Our Lady of Walsingham to the cathedral. Moving on to the 20th November, a small but perfectly formed group of Rudgates sang for the Pilgrimage Mass to commemorate the 450th Anniversary of the Rising of the North at Markenfield Hall. At the end of the month, the Rudgates returned to Manchester to sing the Advent Procession. An event that is also now fixed into our calendars each year!

Onto December, and yet another historical service, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. I went back to Gateshead to sing with the Westland Singers for the first Pontifical Mass celebrated by the Ordinaray Bishop in the Diocese of Hexham & Newcastle for over 50 years. It was lovely to see a very full church too to mark the occasion. The following week, I was back in Wakefield with St Austin’s chanting Vespers for the 3rd Sunday of Advent. This brings us back almost full circle, which can never be completed before our now annual Carol service with the community of St Mary’s Church. It was lovely to a much higher turnout (both singers and congregation) this time and equally lovely to receive so many compliments afterwards! This is always one of the highlights of the Rudgates’ year, and long may it continue. As last year though, it wasn’t quite the end of my year, as I was once again proto-psaltis (principal cantor) for the Greek Orthodox Liturgy (also held at St Mary's) on Christmas Day Morning!

There were many other concerts & services that I managed to get to during 2019, principally involving the Clerkes of All Saints, York Cantores & the Ebor Singers. If I mentioned them all here, this post could well end up being twice as long!

What will 2020 bring? You will find out here. J Meanwhile, can I take this opportunity to once again wish you all a very Happy New Year!

Tuesday 12 February 2019

Richard Ainley RIP.

I was deeply saddened to hear about the death of a former Rudgate Singer, Richard Ainley at the weekend. Richard was one of the very first Rudgates, recruited from the ranks of the then Taverner Choir of Halifax who sang for our inaugural service in Scarthingwell back in June 1996. I had the pleasure of singing Bass alongside him with the Rudgates and other ad-hoc groups for over 10 years after our first service including the superb Choral Evensong a few of us sang for at St Mary Redcliffe, Bristol, to a congregation of precisely zero!

Our sincere condolences go to his wife Margaret and daughter Catherine – both also former Rudgates

As a reminder of the good times we shared, here is the Offertory Motet Tallis’ Loquebantur variis linguis from the former Norbertine Priory of St Chad (nowManchester Oratory) 

Vigil Mass of Pentecost, 10th May 2008.

Requiescat in pace.

Tuesday 1 January 2019

2018. A Review.

Happy New Year!

Apologies in advance for the length of this musing, but I did threaten to write a review of the year a while ago, and unlike other organisations who insist on doing this sort of thing whilst we're still only halfway through December, decided to actually wait until 2018 was officially over!

Let's start at (almost) the very beginning. A very good place to start!

In January for the Epiphany weekend, I sang with the excellent St Austin's parish choir from Wakefield for an Extraordinary Form Mass in Wakefield, and then on the Sunday, joined them again to sing an Ordinary Form Solemn Mass in Leeds Cathedral, the first of a few visits to my old musical hunting-ground of the year. Later that month, a small group of Rudgates met in York to sing an Ordinariate Use Mass at our base (which is also now the base of the York Ordinariate Mission) in St Mary's Church, Bishophill Junior.

February brought me back to St Austin's for an EF Solemn Mass for the Purification of the BVM (Candlemas) and later on, for the Parish Mass of Ash Wednesday. For the first weekend of Lent I was in Ripon Cathedral singing the choral services there with the Middlesbrough Cathedral Consort. At the end of the month, I was over in Manchester visiting the new home of the Manchester Ordinariate Mission, singing a Pontifical Mass and then having lunch with their wonderful priest (Fr. Andrew Starkie) and his family and the Ordinary (Mgr. Keith Newton) too.

Catholic readers, especially those who prefer traditional Forms, will know that you can request a Requiem Mass in the Traditional Latin Rite for your funeral. This was so for the late Frank Marshall and so in early March, (being a rare example of an experienced singer who can handle the entire Officium Defunctorum by himself without assistance from anyone else) I journeyed to the small Catholic church of St Mary & St Joseph in Hedon in the East Riding of Yorkshire to sing Frank's Requiem. Later in the month I was back at St Austin's in Wakefield helping out with the arrangements for (and singing naturally!) Extraordinary Form Vespers of Passion Sunday with the added complication of a commemoration of St Joseph, whose Feast Day was the day afterwards. Someone was heard to remark to the clergy afterwards “can we have this every week?” Now that's the kind of feedback I like. :-)

Digressing slightly, a big pastime of mine is visiting churches, cathedrals and other places of historical interest. One of the items on my own personal “bucket list” is to visit all the Catholic & Anglican cathedrals in England & Wales (others too on an ad-hoc basis) and I finally ticked Guildford off the list leaving me with what I thought was just Truro to do. I've now discovered that there's a Catholic cathedral in Aldershot where the Bishop of HM Armed Forces is based, and a Syro-Malabar (Indian) cathedral in Preston, so I've still some way to go before the list is complete!

Also in March was my first trip up to Ushaw College just outside Durham. Many of you will know that I'm a paid-up 'Friend of Ushaw' and as such, am supposed to hear in advance of special occasions and services (this was the St Cuthbert's Day Mass) I shall expand on my thoughts about their poor publicity when it comes to actual services (as opposed to other Events/Concerts/recitals etc which are well advertised on their website) as I go on through the year – stay tuned! Needless to say, for such an important occasion as this, I only got to hear about it with less than 48 hrs notice, which I mentioned in passing to the Bishop-elect (now Bishop) of Lancaster who was there along with most of the Hierarchy of the Northern Province.

I do like to listen to other choirs (preferably in a liturgical setting) as well as singing myself, and towards the end of March was able to hear the excellent Sunderland-based Westland Singers, and the equally excellent Clerkes of All Saints back in Yorkshire.

After Easter, I joined up again with St Austin's for their mini-tour of Norfolk, which consisted of a well-received recital in the delightful church of St Joseph the Worker in Sheringham, followed by Solemn Mass of the 2nd Sunday of Easter in the Catholic Cathedral of St John the Baptist in Norwich. Later on that month, I was back in Leeds Cathedral, again with St Austin's for a recital during one of the regular series of 'Nightfever' events. Nothing to do with the Bee Gees I assure you! To find out more about it, just click on this link.

One of the highlights of the year for me was in May, with what is believed to be the first ever Pontifical Catholic Mass (in any Form or Rite) to take place in St Mary's, Bishophill. Nothing is known about what took place before the Reformation, but it's highly unlikely that a Bishop would have visited the place – if anyone reading this knows for sure, do please get in touch! This was on behalf of the York Ordinariate Mission, and took months to plan for! It was a full Rudgate Choral Service (the first of the year) and I'd planned it to be a Tallis-fest with lip-service being paid to other composers. :-) What particularly pleased me was that we had enough people in the main choir to actually have the Schola set up as an entirely separate group and sing the Proper of the Mass from the stalls in the Sanctuary. Being an Ordinariate Mass, you might expect the Proper to be sung in English from the English Gradual, but I prefer my own patrimony and, whenever possible, use the full Proper from the Graduale Romanum! If you ever go to a sung Ordinariate Use Mass in York in the future, you know what you're going to get from me. ;-)

Later in May, along with regular parters-in-crime Michael and Lloyd (more about Lloyd later) we went on one of our fairly regular European Road Trips, slightly conservative this time around with only 4 countries (Slovenia, Austria, Italy and Croatia) being visited. A wonderful time with unseasonably hot weather and fermented 'fruit juice' of many varieties including Slovenian cider. You'll have to believe me on this as I disposed of all the evidence whilst I was there! One lesson I learned from this particular trip is that I'm NEVER getting into a small boat again!

In June, I was back with St Austin's to sing for a Solemn EF Mass at St Ignatius' Church in Ossett. Later that month I made one of my semi-regular trips up to my own Diocesan Cathedral in Middlesbrough to sing Vespers with the Cathedral Consort. I also managed to catch up with another choir I like to listen to whenever I can, Caelestis, the student-based and led choir who sing on Sunday evenings at St Lawrence's church in York. Highlight of the year for some I'm sure was their superb liturgical performance of Vaughan Williams' Mass in G minor.

At the end of June, I was in Bordeaux on the afore-mentioned Lloyd's stag do. A fairly restrained affair considering what you see in York most weekends, but it was still accompanied by ample quantities of excellent local food and (particularly) drink! A particular highlight of this trip was of 3 of us attending Sunday Vespers in the church of St Eloi and the startled look on the faces of the Schola (akin to rabbits being caught in car headlights – and not the first time I've observed this in France) You can imagine the conversation they were having amongst themselves along the lines of “Mon Dieu, there are people in the congregation who actually know what they're doing!” One of the singers actually walked down the church and presented me with a copy of their choir-book opened at the pages they were using. :-)

July was the one month of the year I think when I didn't have any 'official' singing to do outside of one Ordinariate-Use Mass in York and Compline which continued more or less weekly throughout the year sung by a group of Rudgates and friends, so I was able to take in some other services and events elsewhere.

One of these, at Ushaw College, annoyed me intensely. Billed as Gregorian Chant Vespers, whilst sung well, it turned out to be (as far as I'm concerned) an arty-farty reconstruction/recital which had been made up for that particular performance. It *was* sung well mind, but to call it Vespers was to my mind a great deception, being that it was sung in a Catholic chapel. It was disturbing enough to have the antiphons sung in Latin from the Roman Breviary but the psalms sung in English from the Book of Common Prayer! It got worse. There were readings, two of them, from the Gospel of James – not even officially sanctioned scripture! There were other things included to make it look like an actual service, which it couldn't possibly have been. I got the feeling that is was designed to look like a service and that no-one would be able to tell that it wasn't – well I certainly could! I'd go so far as to say that this kind of performance (albeit well sung) shouldn't be allowed anywhere near a Catholic place of worship, or indeed an Anglican church/chapel too for that matter.

What I find particularly upsetting about this, is that the Rudgates having sung Gregorian chant Vespers of the Blessed Virgin Mary in October 2017 (the real deal, not an artificial reconstruction!) hadn't been invited back to Ushaw despite initially positive email correspondence suggesting that we could possibly have a minor role in singing a service sometime in 2018 as part of the 450th Anniversary celebrations of the original founding of the College. Despite speaking to one of the event organisers, as well as a couple of follow-up emails and also contact via their social media page we heard nothing else about it. To say that I'm disappointed is the understatement of the year so far!

On a more positive note, the arrival of August meant the wedding of the year, that of Lloyd and his lovely wife, Katie, in Hexham. Despite 11th hour planning trying to find (successfully) extra singers for the main choir as well as a sub-deacon for the Nuptial Mass, everything proceeded without a hitch. On the day itself, I had three different 'hats' to wear being one of the Ushers, the Sound & Video Technician and also Director of the Schola, complete with costume change from Ushers Morning dress for before the service and the Wedding itself, into choir robes for the Nuptial Mass which followed, and then back into Morning dress for the reception! A lovely time in Northumberland, marred (only slightly) by the torrential rain on the Saturday night which obscured what would have been a wonderful sighting of the Perseid meteor shower.

The weekend after the wedding took me to Derby, where I was part of the Eldon Singers who sang all the cathedral services that weekend. The Eldon Singers are a group who come together each year to sing in a cathedral (Anglican, so far) during the month of August. Under the direction of Tim Knight, who is a very fine fellow – despite what he jokingly calls me from time to time (!) the weekend consists of high quality singing, good food, drink and company, and is well worth going to either as a singer, or just to support those who are singing. On top of all that my overnight accommodation was in a Real Ale/Cider pub just a few hundred yards away from Derby Cathedral. :-D

To finish August off, I had 3 different services in three different locations across Northern England over the Bank Holiday weekend. First off was singing Vespers from the Little Office of the Blessed Virgin Mary in St Mary's Bishophill as part of the Yorkshire Medieval Churches Festival in conjunction with Church Explorers. This is an event that I've supported for two or three years now, and long may it continue. Event two, was driving over to Blackburn Cathedral (via Manchester) to sing Evensong with the Northern Cathedral Consort, and finally, back on the right side of the Pennines, reprising BVM Vespers in Castle Howard Chapel. I'm willing to bet that it's (probably) the first ever time that a Catholic Office has been sung there!

September brought me back to St Austin's in Wakefield for the wedding of one of the choir members Thomas and his wife Rosalind, swiftly followed the following weekend by the first Ordinariate Use High Mass to take place in Leeds Cathedral, for which the Rudgates provided 4 singers to sing Merbecke, the Proper and some quality hymns. I was told afterwards that the standard of singing (aided by a very enthusiastic congregation) was so good that nobody had realised that we didn't have an organist...

Then it was off to Manchester on the 23rd to sing Choral Evensong followed by Benediction with the community there in honour of Our Lady of Walsingham. The party which followed in the newly refurbished church hall was super. Plenty of food & drink, a band hired for the occasion and also being treated to a 'clerical' rendition of some classic Bob Dylan songs. I'm sure there'll be at least one video of 'the evidence' floating around the cybersphere somewhere, so go and look for it! A truly wonderful community and if I lived in the north Manchester area, I wouldn't go anywhere else.

At the end of September, Michaelmas day dawned, and despite having been in our calendar for ages, too many singers not being available, or pulling out at the last minute meant a complete change of programme for the Rudgate's Sung Mass in Wakefield. Fortunately I had a Plan 'B'. (Plan 'B' is always very useful to have – don't leave home without one!) and had prepared a chant only alternative which saved the day. I know one or two people were disappointed (as was I) at the lack of a full polyphonic Rudgate turnout, but in the end the quality didn't suffer apart from one minor blip during the Gloria of the mass which changed key, Eurovision style, towards the end!

In October, a few of the Rudgates were back in Manchester again to sing Byrd's Mass for 3 voices for the Patronal feast of St Margaret Mary Alacoque – another splendid evening. I sang the Proper for this Mass from the Plainchant Gradual, which is essentially based on the Graduale Romanum, but sung in English. A very weird experience as most of the music was familiar with just a few minor tweaks here & there, the text and subsequent word pointing was very different. It's a good exercise to do this occasionally (where circumstances permit) as it definitely keeps you on your toes..

At the end of October, I was at Ampleforth Abbey, swapping one chant (Gregorian) for another (Carpatho-Rusyn) for the bi-annual Orthodox Liturgy that takes place there. For some time now, I've gone specifically to chant the Epistle while the rest of the Liturgy is fully choral, provided by local Ryedale choirs under the Direction of the Monastic choir master Fr Alexander, who has (directly & indirectly) taught me so much about Gregorian Chant. As for the Carpatho-Rusyn, I have my Ukrainian friends to thank for that. I'm obviously doing something right, because immediately after this service, I was booked for the next one which takes place later this month on the 26th January (The Saturday during the octave of Christian Unity.) Another good reason for going is that the after-service sherry and subsequent lunch is legendary!

If you're Catholic, you'll know that November is the month of the Holy Souls, and on the 2nd, All Souls' Day, I was in Wakefield singing a Solemn EF Requiem Mass with St Austin's choir. Gregorian chant and Victoria's Requiem for 4 voices. The following day, I was back at Ushaw College, for the corner-stone event of their 450th anniversary celebrations. Now, for such an important event, whose Principal Celebrant was no less then the Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster, you'd have thought there would be a blaze of advance publicity on their website and beyond wouldn't you? Wrong! At less than 48 hours notice before said event, I did at least get an email telling me it was happening, which was just enough time for me to re-arrange my plans for the 3rd of November. I had a very good conversation about this with my own Bishop (+Middlesbrough) who was astonished, as it had been in his diary for months! And this, don't forget, comes to you from a paid-up Friend of Ushaw, who at the very least, should be receiving advance notice of important events such as these. Well, it simply isn't happening! The only services I saw outside of the weekly said Mass given proper publicity were the Remembrance Service and Carol Services in December. I'm coming around to the opinion that the organisers would like to turn it into just another Ecclesiastical Theme Park. If anyone from Ushaw College sees this and would like to contact me to reassure me that this is not the case, I'd be delighted to hear from them.

Mini-rant over, on Remembrance Day itself (the centenary of the Armistice of course) I was back in Bishophill Jnr, but this time listening to a Concert of Remembrance performed by the Heritage Singers directed by Tim Knight, with readings about some of the local people from that area of York who died during the conflict, including the last known fatality of the war who was killed just 90 minutes before the ceasefire. A very sobering experience and a lovely concert. The Heritage Singers, are, like the Rudgates, a choir whose primary focus is liturgical performance, and so are very dear to my heart. Tim reminded me afterwards that he would like to collaborate with the Rudgates at some point in the future, so we'll see if we can make it happen this year!

On the 20th, two of us (thank you Nicola!) made the trek to Markenfield Hall near Ripon to provide the music for the Annual Pilgrimage and Mass to commemorate the Rising of the North. To find out more about this moment of our history, and Markenfield's place in it and why this event is always held on the 20th November without exception, then follow this link. It will tell you everything you need to know. :-) This year is the 450th Anniversary of the Rising, so I hope we could do a bit more to help. Given enough notice, we might even get a full choir there.

And so we arrive in December, the 1st seeing a small but hardy group of Rudgates back in Manchester singing for the Manchester Ordinariate Mission's Advent Procession. This is the third time we've been involved with this, and it's always a lovely occasion, one that is now well and truly established on our calendar! Following a Solemn Ordinariate-Use High Mass at Bishophill on the 8th, I dashed up to Middlesbrough Cathedral the day after to provide the Bass voice for a Charpentier Magnificat sung during Vespers by the Cathedral Consort. Later in the month, The Rudgates (albeit severely depleted from last year) sang for the annual Traditional Carol Service for the Parish and Community of St Mary's Bishophill, something we've done now for well over 10 years. Although depleted this time, for various reasons, we were still able to have a fully choral Carol Service which was very well received by the congregation. One person told me afterwards that he couldn't believe how we could be so consistently excellent each year – so I'll quite happily settle for that! The Carol Service is always a wonderful way to end the Rudgates year, although I wasn't quite done as I ended up being proto-psaltis (principal cantor) for the Greek Orthodox Liturgy (also held at St Mary's) on Christmas Day Morning!

This brings me back to DOH – sorry Epiphany – from where we began this time last year. This time I'm not venturing too far, as I'm chanting 1st Vespers of the Epiphany on Saturday at St Mary's BHJ here in York. I have secured the services of a priest Celebrant though, so I don't have to wear two hats and officiate at the same time. :-) I'm sure there will be more to come from the Rudgates as 2019 progresses, but if you're at a loose end on Saturday, do come along to St Mary's at 6.30pm. It would be lovely to see you! Meanwhile, can I take this opportunity to once again wish you all a very Happy New Year!

Wednesday 24 October 2018

This weekend

Services this weekend which I have (more than a little) hand in. :-)

Friday 26/10/2018 7pm
Feast of SS Chad & Cedd
Evensong with the York Ordinariate Mission.
St Mary's Church, Bishophill Junior, York.

Saturday 27/10/2018 10am
Ampleforth Abbey
Orthodox Liturgy of St John Chrysostom

I'm not actually singing in the choir for this. My role, as it has been for a number of years now, is to chant the Epistle in English, but to the authentic Carpatho-Rusyn chant which I learned from a Ukrainian friend of mine!

Saturday 27/10/2018 4pm.
York Ordinariate Mission.
Anticipated Mass for the 22nd Sunday after Trinity.
St Mary's Church, Bishophill Junior, York.

If you're at a loose end on Saturday afternoon and want to come along and sing some decent hymns along with Merbecke Creed and chant Mass setting, you'll be made very welcome I'm sure! I've enclosed the link to the music below. :-)

Wednesday 10 October 2018

Gregorian Chant Vespers

I was originally going to write a post about what I'd been doing since the last entry about the Pontifical Ordinariate Mass in York (quite a lot!) but as that would have taken some time to compose, I thought it could wait for a bit longer and be incorporated into a general review of the year's activities.

I shall talk about Vespers instead! As many of you know, members and friends of the Rudgates meet regularly at the oldest church in York - St Mary, Bishophill Junior to chant (usually) Compline from the Divine Office, and, more recently, from the Little Office of the Blessed Virgin Mary. I had been asked a few months ago, whether it was possible to chant Vespers more often, so we're going to introduce it on a trial basis for certain feasts and see how it goes. This of course will depend on the availability of the church building (we don't have exclusive access to it of course!) and singers. I may be capable of singing (and have done so) Hours of the Office by myself, but it's not really desirable. :-)

The first of these is at 7:30pm tomorrow evening, when Vespers for the Feast of the Motherhood of the BVM shall be sung, quite appropriate really, as it's St Mary's church. Do please come along if you're free!

Thursday 12 April 2018

The Year so Far...

Up to now, it's been a quiet 2018 for the Rudgates with only a chant mass for the York Ordinariate Mission and a Requiem in the Extraordinary Form in Hedon. This has allowed me to sing with other excellent choirs such as St Austin's, Wakefield and the Middlesbrough Cathedral Consort (links to both on the right) and in such locations as Leeds Cathedral, Ripon Cathedral and (new to me) Norwich Catholic Cathedral. I've also managed to catch up with supporting/listening to the excellent Westland Singers, Clerkes of All Saints and the as yet unlinked Caelestis Consort who sing Evensong during term time at St Lawrence's Church in York. I shall rectify that omission soon!

For the Rudgates though, things are about to change! We have a Pontifical Mass (Ordinariate Use of the Roman Rite) coming up next month at St. Mary's Bishophill Jnr, where some of us sing Compline and which is also the home of the York Ordinariate Mission in addition to being a C of E Parish Church which also hosts the local Greek, Russian and Coptic Orthodox Communities. Talk about diversity!

What makes the service we're singing for particularly exciting, is that it is believed to be the first time *ever* that a Pontifical Mass, certainly in this Form, will be celebrated in an existing Anglican Church - so we're about to create another slice of history to go alongside the York Minster EF Mass of 2011 (believed to be the first Mass of it's type since the reign of Queen Mary Tudor) and Vespers at St. Mary's Abbey in York, where the Solemn 'York' Salve Regina, written for the monks there, was sung in situ for the first time since the Reformation!

If you're at a loose end on the 12th May at 4pm, do come along - especially if you like Tallis. :-)

Friday 29 December 2017

Review of 2017

Since several people/organisations have done these already (some as early as the beginning of December!) I've decided that the Rudgates should have their own annual review, only 21 years after we first started! As we're not doing anything between now and the end of the year - and I'm unlikely to get involved in anything else due to recuperating from yet another cold - now is as good a time as any to look back.

On 28th January, some of the schola joined together with the excellent Clerkes of All Saints to chant 2nd Vespers (albeit prematurely) of Candlemas in All Saints' Church, North Street, York.

The following weekend (4th February) the schola visited St Mary's Church, Lastingham to sing Compline by candlelight in the crypt chapel. 

A lovely occasion which we are likely to repeat soon, having received an invitation to return! The Blacksmith's Arms, just across the road from the church is also highly recommended. :-)

In April, the Rudgates returned to North Street, again collaborating with the Clerkes to sing the Solemn Liturgy of Good Friday.

On 21st May, the schola visited what for us was a brand new venue, the church of Our Lady of Mount Carmel in Doncaster
to sing a full Gregorian Chant Mass, Proper, Ordinary and appropriate Paschaltide pieces. :-)

We then visited Markenfield Hall in July, joining forces with the wonderful St Austins's Choir from Wakefield to sing a Votive Mass in honour of St Maria Goretti. This was a very special occasion, as it was the first time that the Proper of this Mass had been sung in Europe. It had only been composed two years previously in Chicago for a Pontifical High Mass in St John Cantius' Church as no music for it had existed previously. The 6th July, St Maria's Feast Day, is normally only kept in the EF Roman Rite Ordo as a Feria or Octave Day of SS Peter & Paul.

When I knew the Rudgates were going to be singing for this, I did my homework and found out about the Chicago Mass, and asked their music department if we could use the Proper which they had composed. They very graciously emailed it to me by return, hence Markenfield became the venue for 21st Century American Gregorian Chant! St Austin's added to the occasion by singing the superlative Mass for Four Voices by William Byrd and other appropriate motets.

In addition to singing Compline by Candlelight and other services (mainly from the EF Catholic Divine Office) at our York base of St Mary's, Bishophill Junior, we have for the previous 3 years also contributed tho the Yorkshire Medieval Churches Festival which takes place in locations across (mainly North) Yorkshire throughout August.

This year was no exception, and we contributed to this by singing Roman Rite Vespers of the Blessed Virgin, followed by Dominican Rite Compline on the first Saturday of August. Later on in the month, The Rudgates premiered a liturgical performance of Michael Week's Choral Vespers, written for us and the church some years previously.

In October, St Mary's became the venue for the inaugural Mass (Divine Worship, Ordinariate Use) of the York Ordinariate Mission, which I sang on behalf of the schola. This was repeated in December for the 3rd Sunday of Advent.

Also in October (a personal highlight for me) was the return of the Rudgates to sing in the stunning venue of St Cuthbert's Chapel, Ushaw College.
It's a place I have long-since wanted to return to after being in charge of the music for the EF Training Conferences held at Ushaw in 2009 and 2010. I didn't think we would ever get the opportunity after the seminary closed down in 2011, but thanks to it re-opening as a Visitor Centre which also holds conferences, concerts and occasional services, we were eventually able to go back!

We reprised the Roman Rite Vespers of the BVM, which went down so well that we've been invited back to sing next year as part of the 450th Anniversary Celebrations. :-)

In November, the Rudgates went to Hull to sing a Mass for the Feast of St Charles Borromeo in St Charles' Church.
A service that was billed as a City of Culture Event. We sang the Byrd 4 Mass with motets from Johan Kaspar Aiblinger, Tallis and Schubert.

Later in November, we returned to Markenfield Hall to sing for the Annual Mass to Commemorate the 'Rising of the North', an event that is held at Markenfield every year on the 20th November. You can read more about the Rising and Markenfield's place in it here.

At the beginning of December, we visited the lovely church of St Joseph the Worker in Heywood.
This is the home of the Manchester Ordinariate Mission, and we've been there a few times now, firstly to sing Evensong, and latterly to sing for the Advent Procession which is a wonderfully atmospheric candlelit service of readings, hymns and choir items sung here on the eve of Advent Sunday. December 1st next year is already on the calendar!

Finally, we returned to Bishophill, for our Traditional Service of Lessons and Carols,
something we've been doing now for well over 10 years.

We have lots to plan for next year already, so here's to 2018!