A merry Christmas and a happy New Year to you all!
Sunday 27th November - The First Sunday of Advent
Prelude: Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland (BWV 659) – Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750)
Hymns: 24, 342, 32, 28, 346 (tune 205)
Communion: Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland (BuxWV 211) – Dieterich Buxtehude (ca.1637-1707)
Voluntary: Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme (BWV 645) – Bach
'Stay awake' is today's gospel message, so Philip Nicolai's grand hymn 'Sleepers, wake!', written at the time of a great plague in Westphalia 1597/98, takes centre stage both as our offertory hymn and Bach's well-known chorale prelude on it. Two other organ versions follow in the next two weeks. 'Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland' is a Lutheran version of the mediaeval office hymn 'Come, thou Redeemer of the earth'
Sunday 4th December - The Second Sunday of Advent
Prelude: Dir, dir, Jehova, will ich singen (Op.65 no.24) – Sigfrid Karg-Elert (1877-1933)
Hymns: 27, 384, *99, *25, *221
Communion: Es ist ein Ros' entsprungen – Johannes Brahms (1833-1897)
Voluntary: Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme (Op.65 no.33) - Karg-Elert
'Dir, dir, Jehova' is the original of the tune 'Winchester New', sung today to 'On Jordan's bank' (AMNS 27). The gradual hymn, 'Lo, in the wilderness', is set to a fine tune by the Norwegian cathedral organist Ludvig Matthias Lindeman, a contemporary of S.S. Wesley, and is very well-known in its native land.
Sunday 11th December - The Third Sunday of Advent
Prelude: Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme (Op.68 no.5) – Flor Peeters (1903-1986)
Hymns: 470, *325, Longing for light (CH4 543), *407, *317 (tune 101)
Communion: Rejoice in the Lord always (from the Mulliner Book) – Anon.
Voluntary: Postlude on 'Hanover' – Eric Thiman (1900-1975)
'Rejoice in the Lord' is a keyboard arrangement of a lost anthem, taking its text from the Latin introit for today, beginning 'Gaudete' – Rejoice!
Sunday 18th December - The Fourth Sunday of Advent
Prelude: Toccata and Kyrie della Madonna (from 'Fiori musicali') – Girolamo Frescobaldi (1583-1643)
Hymns: 360. *224 (tune 185), 26, *178, 484
Communion: Toccata per l'Elevazione (from 'Fiori musicali') - Frescobaldi
Voluntary: Toccata on 'Veni Emmanuel' – Andrew Carter (b.1939)
Frescobaldi's 'musical flowers', published in Venice in 1635, comprise three sets of pieces designed to be used liturgically at Mass. The pieces played today are from the set composed for feasts of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
'O come, O come, Emmanuel' (AMNS 26) is a hymn made up of the antiphons (refrains) sung before and after the Magnificat during the last nine days of Advent. Carter's magnificent toccata on the tune is in the style of the French romantics.
The Carol Service is at St. Mary's this afternoon, during which the choir will sing the Huron Carol ('Twas in the moon of wintertime'), with its wonderful imagery of Christ's birth being relocated into a Canadian forest setting - Jesus is born in a 'lodge of broken bark' and wrapped in a 'ragged robe of rabbit skin'. He is visited by hunters instead of shepherds, and the Magi are portrayed as 'chiefs from afar' who bring him 'fox and beaver pelts' instead of the more familiar gold, frankincense, and myrrh.
Saturday 24th December - Midnight Mass
Prelude: The people that walked in darkness ('Messiah') – George Frideric Handel (1685-1759)
Hymns: 37, *58, 34, *294, 40, 35
Voluntary: For unto us a child is born ('Messiah') - Handel
Sunday 25th December - Christmas Day
Prelude: Prelude on 'This endris nyght' – Healey Willan (1880-1968)
Hymns: *103, *39, 39, *355, 35
Communion: How beautiful are the feet ('Messiah') - Handel
Voluntary: In dulci jubilo (BWV 729) – Bach
Willan, born in Balham, south London, emigrated to Canada at the age of 33 where he became one of the best-known professors and composers in that country.
Bach's exuberant setting of the well-known Christmas hymn has become the standard conclusion of the Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols at King's College, Cambridge.
Sunday 1st January - The Naming of Jesus
Prelude: Three Versets on 'Away in a manger' – Mark Blatchley (b.1960)
Hymns: 148 (tune *418), 354, 122, *21, *288
Communion: St. Peter – Charles Hylton Stewart (1884-1932)
Voluntary: Radetzky March (1848) – Johann Strauss senior (1804-1849)
Sydney Carter's wonderful 1961 Christmas hymn 'Every star shall sing a carol' is subtitled 'A carol of the universe' in AMNS. Did Christ only come to save Earthlings - are the 'sheep who are not of this fold' ETs?
As the New Year's Concert from Vienna is so much a part of European New Year tradition, it would not be right to end our service today without at least one piece of Strauss!
Sunday 8th January - Epiphany
Prelude: Wie schön leuchtet der Morgenstern – Niels Gade (1817-1890)
Hymns: 49, 48, 51, 42, *314
Communion: Interlude on the Coventry Carol – William S. Lloyd Webber (1914-1982)
Voluntary: Wie schön leuchtet der Morgenstern (BuxWV 223) – Buxtehude
Two settings of Philip Nicolai's other great hymn 'How brightly shines the morning star' today, both by Danish composers. Gade was born exactly 200 years ago on 22nd February this year.
The mention of Herod in the gospel for today prompts the inclusion of a meditation on the Coventry Carol, which our choir sang at the Carol Service.
Sunday 15th January - The Second Sunday after Epiphany
Prelude: Christ, unser Herr, zum Jordan kam (BWV 684) – Bach
Hymns: 312, 526, 53, *416, *99
Communion: O Lamm Gottes unschuldig (BWV 1095) – Bach
Voluntary: Tu es petra – Henri Mulet (1878-1967)
Bach's depiction of the baptism of Jesus requires the organist to be a juggler. In my right hand I hold Jesus and John, in my left hand I hold the river Jordan, and in my feet I have the chorale melody.
'You are the rock, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it' is the title of Mulet's great toccata, the tenth of his 'Byzantine Sketches' (1914-19), inspired by the architecture of the basilica of Sacré-Coeur in Paris.
Sunday 22nd January - The Third Sunday after Epiphany
Prelude: Chorale Prelude on 'Dundee' – Charles Hubert Hastings Parry (1848-1918)
Hymns: 345, 115, *172, *387, *75
Communion: Christ, der du bist der helle Tag (BWV 1120) – Bach
Voluntary: Overture to 'St. Paul' – Felix Mendelssohn (1809-1847)
The tune 'Dundee', from the Scottish Psalter of 1615, is set at AMNS 52 to 'The people that in darkness sat a glorious light have seen'.
'Christ, der du bist der helle Tag' is a Lutheran version of 'O Christ, who art the light and day', an office hymn for Compline.
The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity climaxes on the feast of the Conversion of St. Paul. Mendelssohn's oratorio opens with this grand overture based on the chorale 'Sleepers, wake'.
Sunday 29th January - The Fourth Sunday after Epiphany
Prelude: Chorale Prelude on 'Rockingham' - Parry
Hymns: 125, 138 (tune 237), *123, *384, *159
Communion: Après un rêve – Gabriel Fauré (1845-1924)
Voluntary: Toccata – Théodore Dubois (1837-1924)
Parry's chorale prelude on 'When I survey the wondrous Cross' is from the same set of Seven Chorale Preludes, published in 1912, as his prelude on 'Dundee' last week.
Fauré succeeded Dubois as organist at La Madeleine in Paris. The song 'Après un rêve' was originally published in 1878.
Dubois' Toccata is no.3 of a set of 'Twelve Pieces for organ or pedal piano' published in 1889, whilst he was organist at La Madeleine, which has a four-manual organ by the great French organ builder Aristide Cavaillé-Coll.