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I think it's dark and it looks like rain - shadows of echoes of memories of songs — LiveJournal
I think it's dark and it looks like rain
Last Sunday's evensong, with Peterhouse College choir singing at Little St Mary's, was interesting -- but I'm not going to bore you all with descriptions of church ritual and musings on liturgy, and I'm not even going to speculate on the fermenting bitterness between the choir and the church that apparently went on behind the scenes, as it's all gossip and probably inaccurate. So that's all right then.

I ran through the rain to get there, weighed down with hat and gloves and umbrella, and coat swirling through the night. At least, "swirling" was the aim, but the reality was more like "splashing" as my hem trailed in the puddles and soaked my ankles. It's a full-length coat, which would be great if I were a full-length woman; as it is, I'm not quite tall enough for it, even in heeled boots. And to make matters worse, said heeled boots -- my favourite smart boots, stalwarts of concerts and interviews -- have started letting in water. At least I wasn't alone in being somewhat the worse for weather, surrounded by a chorus of coughs and colds that sounded more like a bronchitis ward than a choir.

It was a welcome change to do the music so differently, anyway, with a plainsong psalm (in which emperor acquitted himself admirably as cantor despite a sore throat) and a plainsong hymn. It's amazing how if you put a line of something that looks a bit like this above modern musical notation, everybody panics and fails to realise that the 'real' music is exactly the same as the plainsong, so they don't really need to worry about reading the funny blocks. Fortunately I'm used to it, as Pembroke always observed Lent musically (throughout Lent the choir only did plainchant: the organ was turned off on Ash Wednesday, turned back on for Easter Sunday), but I'd still rather read what my dad used to describe (before he learned to read music) as "black puddings on sticks".

The hymn was "Blessed City, Heavenly Salem", and for all that I love (quite unfashionably and quite unironically) Parry's glorious Victorian pomp, it was lovely to hear the un-puffed-up version for a change with its gorgeous modal melody. (Modal? Corrections invited from people who actually remember their music theory...) Even a bit of suppressed sniggering up the sleeves of our gowns (a borrowed gown in my case) didn't spoil it -- bonus point for the first person to guess what we were giggling at in the lyrics:

Blessed City, Heavenly Salem

Blessed City, heavenly Salem,
Vision dear of peace and love,
Who of living stones upbuilded,
Art the joy of heaven above;
And with Angel cohorts circled,
As a bride to earth dost move!

From celestial realms descending,
Bridal glory round her shed,
To his presence, decked with jewels,
By her Lord shall she be led;
All her streets, and all her bulwarks
Of pure gold are fashioned.

Bright with pearls her portals glitter,
They are open evermore;
And by virtue of his merits,
Thither faithfu1 souls may soar,
Who for Christ's dear name in this world
Pain and tribulation bore.

Many a blow and biting sculpture
Fashioned well those stones elect,
In their places now compacted
By the heavenly Architect,
Who therewith hath willed forever
That his palace should be decked.

In looking for the lyrics I discovered two things: first, that sites with sound-clips combine unexpectedly and interestingly in my headphones with Autechre's new album Untilted (the result in this case being like Enigma only more so); and second, that Radio 3 broadcasts choral evensong every Wednesday.

Frankly, choir is practically killing me at the moment, with this term's punishing schedule of rehearsals and services meaning that I'm stacking up double-bookings faster than a cheap airline. I'm determined to make the Advent Carol Service on Sunday 27th November, though, and you're all welcome to come along -- I don't even know what we're singing yet, but I'm sure it will be great. I'm looking for other carol services to attend, too, so if you know of any good ones (I'm tending more towards tapers than tambourines) then do let me know. Only 45 singing days till Christmas!
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bopeepsheep From: bopeepsheep Date: November 9th, 2005 02:46 pm (UTC) (Link)
Bridal party, sure. Bridal trousseau, check. Bridal make-up and hair-do, yup. Bridal shed? They missed that one out of the books. k425 and oldbloke should have had one, at least.
bopeepsheep From: bopeepsheep Date: November 9th, 2005 02:47 pm (UTC) (Link)
Oh, and 'bulwarks'. If it's pronounced properly. But I prefer the bridal shed in all its glory.
j4 From: j4 Date: November 9th, 2005 03:06 pm (UTC) (Link)
You're quite right, it was the shed. :-) Though once we'd started giggling the bulwarks seemed pretty funny as well.
bopeepsheep From: bopeepsheep Date: November 9th, 2005 03:09 pm (UTC) (Link)
It wouldn't be so bad if they weren't bulwarks of pure gold.

Now I have Tim McInnerney in my head saying 'made of pure green', which is even sillier. (Particularly if you saw the post imc made the other day about smallclanger and the green...)
From: besskeloid Date: November 9th, 2005 10:56 pm (UTC) (Link)
"Bore" & "decked" make me smirk too.
emperor From: emperor Date: November 9th, 2005 02:49 pm (UTC) (Link)
I know what you lot were sniggering at ;-)

I have emailed mark to aplogise for being a wet blanket today, but should be there tommorow, assuming I continue to improve.
k425 From: k425 Date: November 9th, 2005 03:04 pm (UTC) (Link)
As Bopeep says, I'd've loved a bridal shed!
bluedevi From: bluedevi Date: November 9th, 2005 03:43 pm (UTC) (Link)
My first suspicion was the shed, but I was also wondering about her beautiful, ever-open portals. Though that's probably too cheap a shot...

BTW, sorry for abandoning my hat and shoes with you for so long! I'll be back in England in a week or so, so I can relieve you of them soon.
imc From: imc Date: November 9th, 2005 04:27 pm (UTC) (Link)
her beautiful, ever-open portals.

Bedecked with pearls, no less.

Though that's probably too cheap a shot…

Indeed so.
bluedevi From: bluedevi Date: November 9th, 2005 06:11 pm (UTC) (Link)
Trying to write a children's book has apparently given me a seven-year-old's sense of humour :)
imc From: imc Date: November 9th, 2005 04:37 pm (UTC) (Link)
Blessed City, Heavenly Salem

Not knowing any better (nor having a computer which can play MIDI at the moment), I'd sing that to Westminster Abbey, which is a tune of Purcell. But perhaps I'm confusing it with something else similar.

Advent Carol Service

Duly noted, though I don't know if we'll be in the area then. (Carol services in November? Gosh, takes me back to my student days.)

At a guess, Wesley Memorial's will be on December 18th. I don't know what will be in it either, because I haven't been to choir since… well, since last year's, it would seem.
imc From: imc Date: November 9th, 2005 09:40 pm (UTC) (Link)
OK, having looked that hymn up I now know why it's familiar. For some unknown reason, Hymns and Psalms has the first verse of that (with a couple of minor differences) tacked on to the beginning of the hymn that everyone else calls "Christ is made the sure foundation" — which is generally sung to Westminster Abbey, though it seems that the plainsong melody is also sometimes used.
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