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!