blending an assortment of thoughts and experiences for my friends, relations and kindred spirit

blending an assortment of thoughts and experiences for my friends, relations and kindred spirit
By Alison Hobbs, blending a mixture of thoughts and experiences for friends, relations and kindred spirits.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Singing, then more singing

At the carol party (me conducting, with Jennie on the left)
Photo by Chris.
I am hoarse. On Saturday night we sang for hours at Bill's and Jennie's Christmas carols party, some of the diehards still going strong at 11pm when most other guests had left. Then we were so tired that we left too, driving carefully through the blizzard down the Sir John A. MacDonald Parkway (Ottawa River Parkway, as it used to be known). There'd been a blip last year when Bill and Jennie were away living in France, but normality has resumed and we met the usual people back at their house; all of us had remembered Bill's warm up round (I heard the Bells on Christmas Day from The Canadian Pub Caroler) pretty well, and it sounded harmonious! We didn't have a pianist for the harder carols this year so had to tackle them a cappella. I did a bit of conducting to keep the pace going.

When we took a break I chatted to a gentleman who used to run the Ottawa Kiwanis Music Festival, a music competition for about 10,000 local students young and old. He'd been Vice Principal of an Ottawa high school too, where he'd encouraged the music to great effect. That school still has a reputation for excellence which I'm sure is no coincidence. Another person I talked to at the party was Tina Fedeski, mentioned in my previous blogpost! She comes from Bedford in the UK.

Yesterday evening in imitation of the Kings College Cambridge Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols, which I'll hear on the BBC tomorrow, Christ Church cathedral on Sparks Street offered its own service, the choristers carrying candles and starting their processional not with Once in royal David's city (that came second) but with Tomorrow shall be my dancing day, very well sung. I liked that.

I thought the whole thing a considerable improvement upon last year's service, after which I'd made a few criticisms––maybe someone had noticed my blogpost!––though they still had a choir boy read the first Lesson in unnecessary French, and still wanted us to "hear what the Spirit is saying to the Church" all the time.

Never mind. I do like the way that Matthew Larkin, the cathedral's Director of Music, chooses unusual items for his competent choir to perform (the long, mystical and complex Seek him that maketh the seven stars, by Jonathan Dove, for example, by which I was utterly enthralled despite the restlessness of some of the people in the nearby pews, or an African one, a Yoruba carol with drum accompaniment, Betelehemu). Even the more familiar ones are sung to in unusual arrangement, such as I saw three ships, arr. Simon Preston, and Il est nĂ©, le Divin Enfant, arr. Paul Halley, which cleverly combined chorus and verse melodies together in the last verse and served as a very bouncy introduction to the first chapter of St. John's gospel, which followed, solemnly read by the Bishop.

The congregation joined splendidly in the hymns. We did all the verses and descants were added by the girls' and boys' choirs. After a final Hark the herald... , Mr. Larkin repaired to the organ seat to give us the closing organ voluntary, full throttle: the last movement of Louis Vierne's Symphonie 1. Those of us who stayed till the last ringing chord applauded.

Afterwards I put my hood up against the freezing wind that funnels down Sparks Street in our winters, passing the trees with their beautiful blue Christmas lights around the war memorial, and met Chris for a rather too substantial but tasty pub supper on Clarence Street.

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