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Devices and desires - shadows of echoes of memories of songs
j4
j4
Devices and desires
Yesterday was my first full choral evensong with Peterhouse choir. (There was a shorter evening service on Thursday, with no sermon, no hymns, and only spoken responses.)

It's amazing what the body remembers. The walk, measured and dignified but not too slow, for processing and recessing ("For a proper Anglican procession, you should walk as if you're holding a 10p piece between your buttocks," a particularly camp organ scholar once told me, and I wish I could lose the memory, but I remember him and his lurid Warhol waistcoat every time I walk in and out of chapel); the bow to the altar at the beginning and end of the service. The standing, the sitting, the half-kneeling. The constant awareness, without self-consciousness, of where the body is and what it's doing.

The brain remembers too, though with singing and speaking it's a fine line between mental memory and muscle memory: the whole of Tallis's If ye love me, for which I only realise halfway through that I've not needed to look at the music, though the miracle there is that I've not sung the tenor part by accident; the arcana of Anglican chant; the Apostles' creed; the collects, which are buried somewhere deep enough in the brain that the shivers along my arms at the Lighten our darkness catch me by surprise.

I remember the general confession that we have left undone those things which we ought to have done, and we have done those things which we ought not to have done, and how the simple phrases cut through the modern language of stress and faff and guilt and angst like a knife, like a flaming sword.

What I had forgotten, though, was the pace, and the peace; the way each word is weighed and set in place; the solemn gravity of the dance. There is space for contemplation, or for merciful release from contemplation; there is fragile, precious space between people and words and notes like the inch of air between the flame and the glass. Inside the chapel time slows down, falling like flecks of dust through the candlelit shadows. Even the flurries of activity are quiet: the choir creaks and scurries its way up and down the stairs to the organ loft, depositing bags and coats and folders out of sight; the Master and the Chaplain walk swiftly past, gowns swirling and billowing through the small doorway as the choir rustles into white surplices, fluttering in the gathering dark like wings outside a window.

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Comments
From: rgl Date: October 17th, 2005 12:10 pm (UTC) (Link)
I thought Anglican services used the Nicene creed rather than the Apostles' creed?
From: rgl Date: October 17th, 2005 12:21 pm (UTC) (Link)
Having googled a bit it seems different creeds are often used for different services. How strange.
j4 From: j4 Date: October 17th, 2005 12:39 pm (UTC) (Link)
Parallel googling duplicates effort, sorry!

For the Nicene creed everybody always mumbles the "God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God" bit, the same way as they always sound a bit confused about the underlay in the "God of God, Light of Light" ("Lo! he abhors not the Virgin's womb") verse of O Come all Ye Faithful. What is it about those words? Perfectly reasonable rhetorical device, though I can't for the life of me remember what it's called.

(Bah. In my day, etc. Jumpers for goalposts. Isn't it.)
From: rgl Date: October 17th, 2005 12:51 pm (UTC) (Link)
Perfectly reasonable rhetorical device, though I can't for the life of me remember what it's called.

I wish I knew the answer, just because I'd like to start a comment with the phrase "I am not a rhetor, but..."
j4 From: j4 Date: October 17th, 2005 12:30 pm (UTC) (Link)
Interesting. (Genuinely interesting, not "interesting" as in usenet-ese for "you're wrong"!) I'm wandering around the web right now looking for anything even vaguely definitive, and failing to find it (and getting distracted by Wikipedia).

Anecdotal evidence may not count for much, but we always used the Apostles' creed at Coll. Pemb. Oxon. (Anglican, obv., but with high church pretensions) -- except for communion, when we used the Nicene creed. It sounds from the CofE's website as though either is valid.

The assertion on Wikipedia that use of the Apostles' creed "appears to be restricted to churches whose rituals are derived of the Latin rite" may be relevant here, but I'm not sure whether they're talking about the choice of language, or *cough* Romish tendencies. Or whether it's the same thing. But Pembroke would have done the whole service in Latin* if it could have got away with it.

* or nearest equivalent. (I remember one hapless choir member asking if we would be doing the Kyrie eleison in English or Latin, and receiving a withering stare before being told "In Greek".)

Further reading:

Wikipedia: Apostles' creed; Nicene Creed

CofE: Creeds and Authorised Affirmations of Faith
From: scat0324 Date: October 17th, 2005 03:48 pm (UTC) (Link)
Nicene is default, but Apostles', Athanasian or "an authorized Affirmation of Faith" may be used, which basically means it is at the discretion of the priest.

http://www.cofe.anglican.org/worship/liturgy/commonworship/texts/word/creeds.html
From: yrieithydd Date: October 19th, 2005 05:27 pm (UTC) (Link)
Nicene is default for the Eucharist. Apostles is used at the Offices and at Baptisms (even where they are within a Eucharist, as should be the norm). The origin of the Apostles was a baptismal statement which is why it is used then. I'm less sure of the history of the creed in the Offices. It might be a Cramnerian innovation or it might be that at least one of the monastic offices had it in.

(I followed a link from emperor's LJ)
imc From: imc Date: October 17th, 2005 12:58 pm (UTC) (Link)
I miss choral evensong. It's now 14 years since I was axed from the Queen's College chapel choir (doesn't time fly).

I've got If ye love me as an earworm now.
j4 From: j4 Date: October 17th, 2005 01:18 pm (UTC) (Link)
I just asked on ucam.adverts.wanted for a College choir that would take random non-College-members, and got loads of suggestions; certainly Coll. Pemb. Oxon. took non-College and even non-University folk from time to time, so it's probably worth asking on ox.general or nearest equivalent (oxonians?) if you're interested & have the time for it!
imc From: imc Date: October 18th, 2005 02:37 pm (UTC) (Link)
Sadly I don't think I do have the time for it at the moment. I also seem to be on a break from singing in Wesley Mem choir, having picked up shepherding duties on Sunday mornings — but that won't last forever.
(Deleted comment)
j4 From: j4 Date: October 17th, 2005 01:22 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: In ceremonies of the horsemen

Little St. Mary's (next door to Peterhouse) smelt gloriously of incense when I last stuck my head round the door.

(BTW AFAIK anybody can come to evensong...)
(Deleted comment)
juggzy From: juggzy Date: October 17th, 2005 03:54 pm (UTC) (Link)
Talking about that particularly camp organ scholar, he is No More. He is an ex. Yay! He was an absolute cunt to Mel.
j4 From: j4 Date: October 17th, 2005 03:56 pm (UTC) (Link)
Did we ever actually for-definite establish whether it was the same bloke?
juggzy From: juggzy Date: October 17th, 2005 04:23 pm (UTC) (Link)
Well, we rather did at this end. Pembroke choir, right?
j4 From: j4 Date: October 17th, 2005 04:26 pm (UTC) (Link)
Right. If it is the same chap, I hope Mel's recovered. :-)
juggzy From: juggzy Date: October 17th, 2005 04:40 pm (UTC) (Link)
Being propositioned by spotty postgraduate classicists, from all directions, as I gather. And a rather swish American; her recovery is about the only thing in the Universe faster than light, I reckon.
venta From: venta Date: October 17th, 2005 07:50 pm (UTC) (Link)
The other day I ambled along to Evensong at my church of choice in Oxford. The church in question switches about between which liturgy it uses for services, based on a logic I have yet to understand. A week or so ago I managed to find something I could never have imagined would be allowed to happen:

I hit the Common Worship version of Evensong. Quite apart from the fact that I repeatedly got all the words wrong, because I was still stuck in a BCP time-warp, it's just not a patch on the proper words.

Stupid bloody linguistically bankrupt service, it was an abomination in the sight of the Lord. I reckon.

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