Sorry to have missed the 12th Day of Advent, but I have a very good excuse.
Last night, I sang in a Christmas concert at the University Church of St Mary the Virgin, here in Oxford.
image courtesy of Wikimedia.org
It’s called the University Church because, apparently, it was from this church that the current University grew. It’s on the High in Oxford and the bit you can see above looks out on the Radcliffe Camera, another of Oxford’s famous landmarks. It was tremendously exciting to sing in such a place – a church that dates back to Anglo Saxon times, and where the Oxford Martyrs – bishops Latimer, Ridley and Cranmer – were tried for heresy in 1555. Amy Robsart – unfortunate wife of Robert Dudley – is buried here too. The place is full of stories.
Interior of the church: image courtesy of redbubble.com
The event was billed as an evening of traditional music and readings. Therefore, it was another way of telling a story – through music and words. We sang a large selection of choral music in different languages, including:
Jauchzet Frohlocket – Bach (Germany)
Quem vidistis pastores dicite? and Hodie Christus, Natus Est – Poulenc (France)
Convidando esta la noche – Juan García de Zéspedes (1619-1678) (Latin American)
Riu Riu Chiu – Mateo Flecha the Elder (Spain)
Sans Day Carol – (Cornwall!)
We also sang traditional carols and Christmas ‘cheese’ as our conductor likes to call it, including White Christmas by Irving Berlin.
The order of the music reflected the structure of the Christmas story, with complementary readings. What I enjoyed about it (apart from the opportunity to be part of such a talented group of musicians) was that the readings were nearly all new to me. One stood out particularly – The Yorkshire Messiah – which was a hilarious account of the story of the Messiah with a wonderful Yorkshire accent (you can see and hear a performance of that here).
I’ve been to many Christmas services before and sung in some of them but the opportunity to do something a little different was welcome. Quietly, I was glad not to hear one of the readings that always makes me a little annoyed, from the Old Testament, in which Eve is blamed for tempting Adam, and much of mankind’s misfortunes are laid at her feet. Christmas is a time for celebrating, whether in a Christian tradition or the older pagan version, so blame and guilt should be absent.
Today I am nearly voiceless (I sang on an already incapacitated voice!). But I can still hear the music in my head and am carrying a festival smile. 🙂
Do you have a favourite Christmas song or reading? Please share!