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January 22, 2014


And yet ├ęglise starts with an acute. Another bit of French trickiness. I'll be back with something long (you can always depend on that) but for the moment other fish need frying.

Thank you for truly taking us there- especially the two choir solitudes! A delightful slice of life. Yes, that role is part of present-day Catholic services. Usually he or she exhorts the congregation to sing, if there is no choir, and either way, announces the hymn number.

You're absolutely right, Beth, about the remarkable collection of people in our Cathedral community whose reverence, courtesy, and understated professionalism make all these events look like par for the course. Sunday's ecumenical event was a real grab-bag, and I'll admit I couldn't resist speculating on how it might have been improved if it had been an actual Cathedral event, rather than an externally planned event happening at the Cathedral. While the readings, etc., were uneven, the choir was magnificent, a highlight of the service! Thank you all.

Robbie, I'm curious if this "eh"-ness is Quebecois -- I was taught to say the acute accented "e" the same way you were. Should ask one of my French-from-France friends.

Duchesse - thanks for the clarification of the role of animateur!

Donna, I'm glad someone else was speculating too! Thanks, too, for the compliment on the choir and for leaving a comment here!

The accretion of detail that's more than the sum of its parts: a seriousness about the whole enterprise. I suppose there's no alternative. Music, well sung, ends up being persuasive and that must be one of its aims.

Take the mass for four voices (I realise it's separate from what you're there for but the point still holds). Imagine everyday life back in 1600, not a long way from nasty, brutish and short. Yet a sequence of sounds, persuasive then, continues to persuade now. Although I myself am not persuaded I am reassured that mankind's universality is not locked into a single point in time. That humans were human then and are now. That our responses have not changed.

"Brush my teeth" - surely a North American imperative, but consonant with the need to feel prepared. The lipstick might share the same rationale but for me it's poignant, a reminder of your gender, and why I write about the things I want to write about. Clarks shoes are British and that's poignant, but in a different way. RVW's British but that's less remarkable; music isn't really music unless it's universal.

Folders, a banality in an office, are proof here of seriousness, of professionalism. Doing music well depends, among other things, on attention to detail and Patrick proves the point. Save your voices sopranos - am I prescient?

The lights and cameras. Previously I've only been a spectator; now you've taken me to the other side. I remember how cameras sometimes fix on a soprano in a choir whom the TV director regards as pretty and how this makes me uneasy. With The Sixteen, for instance, the sopranos all have marvellous voices and they're all pretty. Is this some form of discrimination? The camera, intoxicated, roams as if wanting to prove a link between beautiful sounds and beautiful faces; I can't argue with what I'm hearing and seeing, but it leaves me worried.

But here too we have televisual professionalim; the soloist is brought out into the aisle and I can't dispute that. The soloists are inviduals as well as sources of sound; they may be allowed their visible moments.

As a choirboy I have myself sung We praise Thee oh God to a different setting, of course. I wonder now about music's ability to absorb an otherwise clumsy word like "acknowledge".

I too am fascinated by the handbells. Even more so by the states of undress that are necessary; this surely is the moment of transition. I hope, for your sake, that the stupid dickey is pleasing to look at from a distance, that its stupidity is redeemed. That your arriving husband sees its effect rather than its artificiality. I don't want your contribution to be in any way minimised by something as ultimately unimportant as this. An unfortunate name, too, but perhaps it isn't official.

I understand your irreverence towards the costumes and find I'm hoping that everyone will fade into the background, there to benefit from the democracy of music. Though I sympathise with the need to deny paganism aloud, I find myself straining at this interpretation of ecumenicism.

The rest is your reflection and requires no elaboration from me. Thanks for taking time over this and for leading me all over the place. Perhaps this isn't the place to say the devil is in the detail but I'm sure you get my drift.

Roderick - thanks for your comprehensive reading and commentary, which tells me more about what I wrote than the writing itself. A few elaborations: I admit I wondered if the camera would linger on the pretty young faces rather than some of our older ones; it's a rare instance of non-egalitarianism in this endeavor, where we all contribute to the whole, and don't make many distinctions among ourselves. The handbells are a three-octave set of brass Whitechapel handbells given by a donor to mark some special occasion or anniversary in the cathedral's history. They live in velvet-lined cases and are handled with extreme care. We choir members use them every week and they also feature in some of Patrick's compositions; this year is the first we've also had a separate handbell group, led by our new Dean, who is British and has a lifelong passion for change-ringing. Not my thing to do, but I love hearing them! Dickies...well, yes. They look nice, and I am being very harsh here because Mary and I made a whole bunch of new ones last spring, so I ought to have a personal affection for the damn things. They just look so ridiculous when that's all you're wearing...And yes, the name itself is of course the occasional excuse for levity! Your own penchant for detail encouraged me to put more here than I might have otherwise; it took me a long time to write this but I'm glad I did.

Oh, I forgot: You rightly wonder about the Te Deum and the awkwardness of setting words like "acknowledge" ("We praise Thee oh God, we acknowledge Thee to be the Lord, all the earth doth worship Thee, the Father everlasting..." and it goes on from there.) As a writer, one thing I enjoy about singing Evensong, and liturgical music in general, is that the poetry and texts come up again and again, so you can really get into what the different composers do with particular lines and words. At Evensong, in particular, you have a Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis, in a different musical setting, every single week! And I'm surprised how seldom the words do become awkward, or seem like an impediment. Vaughn Williams trips easily over "ac/know/ledge", in this case. I've noticed, for instance, that the Sanctus (or sections thereof) are often set in 3/4 time, maybe because the words "ple-ni sunt/ coe-li et/ te (1-2)-rra (3)/glo-r-ia/tu (1-2) -a (1) fit into that rhythm so nicely.

And I always thought that language was meant for communication! Tut! Tut! What I found really fascinating about this 'tranche' of your life was the detail, and the normally hidden, practical and social details about life in a choir, such as the donning and doffing of clothing depending on the circumstances, the lipstick and the water under the seats. Truly fascinating.

I enjoyed your narrative if the experience. I felt like i was transported to montreal.

Thanks, Tom, I'm glad you enjoyed it. So many of our daily experiences have that kind of detail, but remain hidden...

Thanks, Lorry! Your recent skating and winter pictures with the kids make me feel transported to childhood, as well as your life at home!

Just a couple of amendments I need to make. In going on about the seriousness and professionalism of the event you describe I was of course referring to the musical half. I am hardly qualified to speak about the rest.

Am I right in saying that music which accompanies psalms - a category to which the Te Deum, the Magnificat and the Nunc Dimittis all technically belong - is a chant? A million thanks for including the RVW Te Deum chant which was utterly glorious; I say this with some degree of surprise since I fear have a rather equivocal attitude towards RVW's stuff (No doubt ascribable to "a prophet in his own land" prejudice). Having listened I then picked out the Te Deum chant I remember best on my musical keyboard and realised what a shabby, repetitive thing it was in comparison.And you're right RVW had no problems accommodating "acknowledge".

Beth: This is just amazing. Gives me an odd feeling, too, since Lapin or Lepin is one of my Canadian grandmother's family names, and yet nothing could be as remote to me and how I live than this event.I have never even been to Montreal.
How I enjoyed living this experience vicariously with you. Maybe in another incarnation I could be there in the chorus.
And Roderick Robinson's comments are wonderful.
Makes me sigh a little for what I have missed in life.
I'm printing this out for a friend of mine, a French Canadian "exile" who has not been "home" for many years.

Hattie, you will just have to come and visit sometime, and discover those French Canadian roots! I guess we all sigh for what we've missed, but don't forget that your life has contained all sorts of unique things too -- like Hawaii! And orchids!

Roderick, you're going to be sorry you asked. OK. During services, psalms are indeed chanted. The types of chants we use are usually either Plainsong http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plainchant("O Come O Come Emmanuel" is an example of a plainsong chant melody) or Anglican Chant http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anglican_chant. Gregorian Chant is a subset of Plainsong; it's in unison and preceded polyphony. Anglican Chant is in parts, and proceeds through a series of chords. (The wikipedia article gives better descriptions and examples than I can.)A lot of other service music is chant, also: the BCP and hymnal contain many chant settings of Magnificats, Te Deums, Nuncs, Phos Hilarons etc etc. But here's where it gets complicated. Composers such as Byrd and Gibbons, right on through the present day, have set these same repetitively-used texts - mainly the ones for Evening Prayer and in the Mass, but also many psalms -- to music of their own devising, not chants at all. Sometimes they base their compositions on a famous chant tune, but mostly not. These are just called motets. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Motet In Anglican church music, a motet is sung during or after the Eucharist of the Mass. Anthems are songs/compositions based on scripture or words of the liturgy, usually fairly elaborate, and they are appointed to follow the third collect during Evensong. During Evensong there is always an Introit (which can be an anthem or motet, but usually on the simpler side), a psalm, a Magnificat, a Nunc, two hymns, and an anthem. Our Ralph Vaughn Williams "Te Deum" is an anthem; it's definitely not a chant even though the words of the Te Deum are in the BCP and appear in chant settings. No doubt I have now muddied the waters considerably. Tell me when you're ready for a discussion of the "Preces" and "Responses", the other components of Evensong!

We call our musical leader a cantor, and the organist often doubles as cantor in a pinch. I've heard some talk of heavy metals in lipstick, I'm sure you'll be careful.

Here's the broadcast. Just watching it now. I think it's online for the next week. http://www.lejourduseigneur.com/Replay/Dimanche-dernier/Emission-integrale

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Who was Cassandra?

  • In the Iliad, she is described as the loveliest of the daughters of Priam (King of Troy), and gifted with prophecy. The god Apollo loved her, but she spurned him. As a punishment, he decreed that no one would ever believe her. So when she told her fellow Trojans that the Greeks were hiding inside the wooden horse...well, you know what happened.