Yesterday was Advent Sunday. The beginning of the church year, a reminder there are only 3 and a bit weekends until Christmas Day, a time to take stock and think ahead.
We’ve also been thinking back a bit, prompted by some lovely music. The Advent Sunday service from John’s College Cambridge has been broadcast by the BBC since 1985, an Advent companion to the Christmas Eve service from King’s. Yesterday’s programme is available now (probably only until a week from today) on the iPlayer service.
We used to ride our cycles down to Cambridge market on Sundays (see our ace trike above!) & park outside John’s, listening to the choir as we locked up. Listening to them always reminds me of our Sunday market rituals..
This year there is also a CD, which takes in music for Advent & Christmas, recorded quite beautifully for the Chandos label. It includes a few familiar carols, like O Little Town of Bethlehem, I Saw Three Ships, & O Come, All Ye Faithful, some that are not so well known, and others that you may know in different arrangements. This balance makes for a very attractive, enjoyable programme.
It’s hard to pick out a few highlights when there is so much good music. Pieces which stood out on my first listen were a gorgeous performance of Elizabeth Poston’s Jesus Christ the Apple Tree, John Joubert’s simple & moving setting of There Is No Rose, Matthew Martin’s 2006 meditative version of Adam Lay Ybounden, and the carol which lends the CD its title, one of the carols I love the most.
If you follow this link to the Chandos website, you can listen to Silent Night. So nice to hear this sung well. There’s also a link there to the download version, or you can find the CD at MDT for £11.25.
The John’s choir have another super Christmas album, from 2006, Christmas at St John’s, combining plainchant & carols. It’s on the Hyperion label and like On Christmas Night it combines music for Advent and Christmas.
This CD also has that lovely, full sound of the John’s choir, alternating some beautiful, spare chant with some of my absolute favourites, including Peter Warlock’s Bethlehem Down, Herbert Howells’ A Spotless Rose, & Holst’s This Have I Done for my True Love. We’re glad to have both of these records to listen to together later in December.
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