Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

I apologize for that last post, which evidently put some of you right off the Stilton if my meager sitemeter stats are anything to go by.

Allow me to right the ship a bit.  This morning was ol’ Robbo’s turn to take teh Middle Gel along to chorister duty down the Cathedral.  I’ll spare you a rant about what it’s like for me to sit through a progressivist Episcopalian service, and instead focus on two musickal points which did much to, if not redeem said experience, at least palliate it.  (I might note that the Cathedral tapes all its 11:15 am services and makes them available on its website,  and that I was sitting right up close.   I hope teh camera caught me rolling my eyes at appropriate points.)

Well, let’s say two and a half.  The Introit was a Locus iste by Anton Bruckner (1824-1896).  I’ve only ever heard bits and pieces of Bruckner, and never any of his religious works, and I was pleasantly surprised by this one.  There was nothing especially outstanding about it, but it was appropriately solemn, competently put together, obviously sincere and all around acceptable.

The first notable item was the Offertory Anthem, “We Would Be Building”.  Although the programme only stated that the arrangement was by the Canon, I immediately recognized it as the serene section from Jean Sibelius’s Finlandia, a piece of which I have always been quite fond even though I always have to fight hard to get images of Bruce Willis kneeling in the snow out of my head when I hear it.  I couldn’t remember off-hand time whether Sibelius actually penned the tune or whether he merely incorporated it from elsewhere.  I see now that it was his own idea.  The hymn (or at least the tune) is in the TEC hymnal, and I recall having sung it once or twice at RFEC.  I’ve always thought it quite lovely, very mellow and contemplative.

The second, more notable item was the Communion Anthem, Factum est silentium by Richard Dering (1580-1630).   The translation of the text (from Revelations 8:1, 12:7, 7:11 and Daniel 7:10) is:  There was silence in heaven while the dragon fought with the Archangel Michael.  Then came the voice of thousands of thousands, crying:  Salvation, honor, and power to Almighty God, Alleluia.

And it goes something like this:

I admit that I had never heard of Richard Dering before.   A  quick Wiki-check says that he was, like your humble host, a Protestant in his misspent yoot who later swam the Tiber, and spent some time in Brussels aiding the Benedictines during the reign of Queen Bess before returning to serve Charles I and Henrietta Maria.

I will leave for another time my opinion about Protestant Unitarian appropriation of Orthodox works, except to say that I would imagine Dering is rolling in his grave right about now.   I will say here only that first, I was quite taken by the narrative expressiveness of this piece and, second, that my joy in hearing teh gel get to sing such lovely Renaissance  polyphony so well completely overcame any lingering regrets that I myself could not produce musick at that level.

 

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