Thursday, September 27, 2012

The Feast of St. Michael and All Angels: St. Peter's, Chicago and Full Homely Divinity

This video has last year's full service of the Feast of St. Michael and All Angels celebrated at St. Peter's, Chicago (observed in 2011 on October 2).



Here's the blurb at the YouTube page:
For more information, visit our website at http://www.stpeterschicago.org/. St. Peter's celebration of the Feast of St. Michael and All Angels (transferred from September 29) was truly a feast -- for the senses and for the soul. Hymns included "Christ, the fair glory of the holy angels"; "Praise the Lord, ye heavens adore Him"; "Ye holy angels bright"; "Let all mortal flesh keep silence"; and "Ye watchers and ye holy ones." The choir also performed a fantastic anthem written by our organist and choirmaster, Br. Nathanael Deward Rahm, based on Psalm 96.

St. Peter's welcomed its former rector, the Very Rev. James H. Dunkerley, back to the pulpit to help dedicate some portions of the most recent capital campaign -- Visions, Voices, and Devotion. And the rector, the Very Rev. Sarah K. Fisher, sang the Mozarabic chant for Eucharistic Prayer D, which appropriately enough for the day tells of "countless throngs of angels [who] stand before You to serve You night and day."

A beautiful liturgy by beautiful people, in a beautiful church for a beautiful God.

"Christ, the fair glory of the holy angels" is is the English-translation version of Christe, sanctorum decus Angelorum, the traditional hymn at Lauds for this feast day. As you can see, there are loads of other angel-themed hymns as well, including the wonderful and spooky "Let all mortal flesh keep silence," with its references to "six-winged seraphs" and "cherubim with sleepless eye," sung at Communion. And you don't often get to hear Eucharistic Prayer D chanted Mozarabic-style - but you do hear it on this video (beginning at around 52 minutes). (They also say the Prayer of Humble Access at this parish - nice to hear it.)

And Full Homely Divinity has a new (or revised) version of its posting for this day; don't miss it!   It's got a full rundown on all the orders of angels:  watchers and holy ones, bright seraphs, cherubim, and thrones; dominions, princedoms, powers, virtues, archangels, and angels' choirs. (Plus a bit about the Theotokos, even "higher than the cherubim, more glorious than the seraphim!") Here's an excerpt:
We suspect that ... colloquial and figurative uses of the term "angel" are rooted in an uncertainty about and, quite probably, a discomfort with the true nature of angels. In our experience, many people reject the existence of angels out of hand. Their objections often appear to arise from an intellectual objection to the existence of anything that cannot be seen or verified "scientifically," which, we might note, puts God in a somewhat tenuous position, as well. However, we suspect that a deeper objection for many, if not all, has to do with the realization that angels are not merely the Christian version of a fairy godmother who goes around smiling sweetly and doing nice things for people. At some of the principal appearances of angels in the Bible, the first words out of the mouth of the angel are, "Fear not!" It is not necessary to tell people not to be afraid, unless they are afraid, or think they have some reason to be afraid. When we contemplate the story of the appearance of the angels to the shepherds of Bethlehem, we hear the words, "Fear not," but it is likely that what we see (in our mind's eye) is a child, perhaps our own daughter, or the child of a friend, dressed in a flowing white gown and aluminum foil wings. The effect on us is to feel warmth and affection. Fear is the last emotion that would occur to us. And then we immediately fast forward to a vision of a sky full of twinkling stars and angels singing "Glory be to God on high!" Beauty and wonder are the things we imagine--but it is very likely that the shepherds were frightened half to death and needed to be calmed and reassured before it was possible for them to hear the truly wonderful news the angels brought. We recall a story told in class by the church historian Jaroslav Pelikan. He told us how one evening his young son was agitated and unable to sleep and came to his father for comfort. The problem, he told his father, was that there was an angel in his room. The famous scholar did not dismiss his son's story as a bad dream, the product of an active imagination, or even a ploy to delay going to bed. Rather, he took the boy seriously, and assured him that the angel had come to protect him, not to harm him. The child's fear was genuine, and understandable. The father's belief was also genuine, and no one in that class of graduate students had any doubt about that.

"We believe in one God, the Father, the Almighty, maker of heaven and earth, and of all that is, seen and unseen...." or, as the older translation puts it, "all things visible and invisible." Is the Creed referring merely to those technically "unseen" aspects of creation which are discernible to some of the senses but not to the naked eye, such as the wind, which blows where it will but cannot be seen, or to microscopic matter, whether animate or inanimate, which is so small that it is virtually invisible? Or were the Fathers of Nicaea and Constantinople referencing a realm of creatures of another order, either in heaven or perhaps even existing side by side with us in this world in an unseen, spiritual state? Scripture and the Liturgy leave little doubt about the answer to that question. When it deals with angels at all, popular culture tends to reduce them either to the putti of Renaissance art, adorable pudgy "cherubs" adorned with wings, or else the more stately, but delicate, and almost always feminine, winged adults in flowing robes. This is a far cry from the biblical cherubim, fearsome four-faced creatures who are ever-watchful by the throne of God and who were set at the entrance to the Garden of Eden to guard the way to the Tree of Life when Adam and Eve were cast out. Far, too, from the archangels named in canonical and apocryphal Scripture, who are not characterized by gender and, in any case, are hardly delicate. Jacob Epstein's monumental Michael at the entrance to Coventry Cathedral (above left) is formidable in his triumph over Satan in the apocalyptic confrontation between good and evil. And even the usually playful putti seem distressed by the appearance of Gabriel in El Greco's painting of The Annunciation....

There is another important application of the term "angel" which must not be overlooked here, though it is not our primary subject. There are occasions in Scripture when angels appear on earth who are not actually angels. The most significant instance of this is the visit of the three men to Abraham by the oak of Mamre in Genesis 18. The story is sometimes (intentionally?) vague in its identification of the men. At a point in the story, the Lord himself speaks to Abraham. Is the speaker one of the three men or not? It is not clear, but at the beginning of the next chapter, only two of them travel on towards the doomed city of Sodom and the two are explicitly described as angels. Christian tradition has generally interpreted this appearance in trinitarian terms. No mortal may look directly upon God and survive, but God does occasionally appear in person, taking the form of an angel or, in the case of Abraham's visitors, three angels. Later in Genesis (chapter 32), Abraham's grandson Jacob is confronted in the night by a man with whom he wrestles until daybreak. The man does not prevail and Jacob refuses to let him depart until he has blessed him. The man (or angel as tradition almost always identifies him) not only blesses Jacob but gives him a new name, Israel--"he who strives with God."

Much, much more at the article.  The artwork to the right above is Viktor Vasnetsov's Seraphim, from 1896.  And here's the El Greco Annunciation mentioned in the quote above (I'm not sure of the dates of some of these, but El Greco lived from about 1541 to 1614):



EG didn't stop there, though; he was Annunciation-mad, it would seem.  Here are several more:




See the office hymns for St. Michael and All Angels, and more about the feast day, here. Other posts about St.M & AA are here.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

A renovated Church of the Resurrection, Mirfield

From the YouTube page, this is:
A tour of the newly-refurbished Church of the Community of the Resurrection, Mirfield, West Yorkshire.


Walter Frere was a co-founder of the monastic Community of the Resurrection in 1894, and became its superior in 1902.  There's a theological college at the same location.

The Community had been worshipping elsewhere - perhaps in a chapel - until this past December, when the refurbishing of their church was complete. 

Here's another video, "an excerpt from the Vigil of the Resurrection, sung on the Eve of Palm Sunday, 2012." Sounds very Orthodox-chant.



And here's a third, from this past spring, "Easter Day Solemn Mattins."



The blurb at YouTube says:

This is the beginning of Solemn Mattins on Easter Day 2012, as sung by the Community and College of the Resurrection, Mirfield. It begins with the entry of the Officiant, the Regina Coeli, the chanting of the opening response, the Easter Anthems, and finally the Haec Dies, which is sung in place of the Office Hymn from Easter Day until the First Evensong of Low Sunday.

Anglican Chant XX: Psalm 62




The YouTube page says that this is "Psalm 62 sung by Westminster Abbey Choir at the 70th Anniversary Service of the Battle of Britain."  That would have been in 2010.

They are singing only verses 1-8 of that Psalm - but here's the whole thing, from the 1662 Book of Common Prayer (Coverdale) Psalter:
Psalm 62. Nonne Deo?
MY SOUL truly waiteth still upon God : for of him cometh my salvation.
2. He verily is my strength and my salvation : he is my defence, so that I shall not greatly fall.
3. How long will ye imagine mischief against every man : ye shall be slain all the sort of you; yea, as a tottering wall shall ye be, and like a broken hedge.
4. Their device is only how to put him out whom God will exalt : their delight is in lies; they give good words with their mouth, but curse with their heart.
5. Nevertheless, my soul, wait thou still upon God : for my hope is in him.
6. He truly is my strength and my salvation : he is my defence, so that I shall not fall.
7. In God is my health, and my glory : the rock of my might, and in God is my trust.
8. O put your trust in him alway, ye people : pour out your hearts before him, for God is our hope.
9. As for the children of men, they are but vanity : the children of men are deceitful upon the weights, they are altogether lighter than vanity itself.
10. O trust not in wrong and robbery, give not yourselves unto vanity : if riches increase, set not your heart upon them.
11. God spake once, and twice I have also heard the same : that power belongeth unto God;
12. And that thou, Lord, art merciful : for thou rewardest every man according to his work.
 As always:  if anybody knows the composer, I'd be grateful....

[EDIT:  Scott comes through again - and with lots of informational tidbits!  "It's a double chant in E-flat by William Boyce (1711-1779), MusD (Cantab); Organist of the Chapel Royal, 1758-79; Master of the King's Music, 1755-79. Conductor of the Three Choirs Festival and the Festival of the Sons of the Clergy. Buried in the crypt of St Paul's Cathedral [London]. Credit: John Scott's New St Paul's Cathedral Psalter."  

Scott is, truly, a Jolly Good Fellow!]

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Hildegard of Bingen: Spiritus Sanctus

Hildegard's feast day was two days ago, September 17. This is from the YouTube video description:
"Spiritus Sanctus, the second Antiphone and Psalm 110/111 from the vesper of Hildegard von Bingen.
Admiring the height of God´s Creation, praising him, thanking him."


The antiphon sung at the start is one of Hildegard's own compositions, and one of my favorites:
Spiritus Sanctus vivificans vita,
movens omnia,
et radix est in omni creatura,
ac omnia de immunditia abluit,
tergens crimina,
ac ungit vulnera,
et sic est fulgens ac laudabilis vita,
suscitans et resuscitans omnia.
And here's my favorite translation of this bit of verse:
Holy Spirit,
Giving life to all life,
Moving all creatures,
Root of all things,
Washing them clean,
Wiping out their mistakes,
Healing their wounds,
You are our true life,
Luminous, wonderful,
Awakening the heart from its ancient sleep.

The Psalm sung here is #111 (#110 in the Roman numbering system. The following comes from this Parallel Latin/English Psalter:
____________________________________________________________

Psalmus 110 (111)

Psalm 110 (111)

1 Confitebor tibi Domine in toto corde meo in consilio iustorum et congregatione1 I will praise thee, O Lord, with my whole heart; in the council of the just: and in the congregation.
2 Magna opera Domini exquisita in omnes voluntates eius2 Great are the works of the Lord: sought out according to all his wills
3 Confessio et magnificentia opus eius et iustitia eius manet in saeculum saeculi3 His work is praise and magnificence: and his justice continueth for ever and ever.
4 Memoriam fecit mirabilium suorum misericors et miserator Dominus4 He hath made a remembrance of his wonderful works, being a merciful and gracious Lord:
5 Escam dedit timentibus se memor erit in saeculum testamenti sui5 he hath given food to them that fear him. He will be mindful for ever of his covenant:
6 Virtutem operum suorum adnuntiabit populo suo6 he will shew forth to his people the power of his works.
7 Ut det illis hereditatem gentium opera manuum eius veritas et iudicium7 That he may give them the inheritance of the Gentiles: the works of his hands are truth and judgment.
8 Fidelia omnia mandata eius confirmata in saeculum saeculi facta in veritate et aequitate8 All his commandments are faithful: confirmed for ever and ever, made in truth and equity.
9 Redemptionem misit populo suo mandavit in aeternum testamentum suum sanctum et terribile nomen eius9 He hath sent redemption to his people: he hath commanded his covenant for ever. Holy and terrible is his name:
10 Initium sapientiae timor Domini intellectus bonus omnibus facientibus eum laudatio eius manet in saeculum saeculi10 the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. A good understanding to all that do it: his praise continueth for ever and ever.



Saturday, September 08, 2012

"Barton Turf rood screen - a glimpse of heaven"

Here's a video made by Fr. Allan Barton, author of the wonderful Medieval Church Art blog, about the painted rood screen at Barton Turf in Norfolk.

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

Missa Albanus - Robert Fayrfax (1464-1521):

Saturday Chorale  points to this video - a beautiful 15th Century mass by Robert Fayrfax (a name new to me).   Read SC's post below the video.



I've picked Fayrfax's Missa Albanus for this week's "Sunday Playlist" to serve as a further introduction to Fayrax and his work. It's a lovely piece of music with soaring ethereal polyphony that is very restrained and spare and all the more beautiful for that, it's a piece of music I listen to often. During his life Fayrfax was recognised as a leading composer by King Henry VIII who acknowledged his status as a  leading composer of his generation and rewarded him handsomely. A Lincolnshire man, Fayrfax was born in Deeping Gate on April 23, 1464. There's no surviving record of his schooling or of his earliest musical training but he's known to have had Lady Margaret Beaufort (1443–1509), Countess of Richmond and Derby and King Henry VII's mother as a patron. Her patronage would have led to Fayrfax being established at court and by 1497 he was sufficiently well thought of both as a musician and as a courtier to be appointed a Gentleman of the Chapel Royal. He studied music in both Cambridge and Oxford receiving the degrees of MusB (1501) and MusD (1504) from Cambridge and was awarded Oxford University's first ever doctorate in music in 1511. He's known to have been present at such important state occasions as Henry VII's funeral, Henry VIII's coronation, the burial of Prince Henry, and the meeting of the kings of England and France at the Field of the Cloth of Gold in June 1520. He died in 1521.

His "Missa Albanus" Mass setting was most likely written for choir of St Alban's Abbey, like his Marian antiphon "Maria plena virtute"  it's based on a nine note theme found in a plainsong antiphon "Primus in Anglorum", in the rhyming Office of St Alban "O Albane Deo grate". It's a fairly traditional English festal Mass which omits the Kyrie which would have been troped under the Sarum rite usage his setting also truncates the Credo. The four movements – Gloria, Credo, Sanctus & Benedictus, and Agnus Dei are of approximately equal length and are each introduced by a head motif which looks forward to the cantus firmus. His treatment of the cantus firmus was very original he presents his theme backwards – both inverted and in retrograde inversion, this supplements his use of contrasting freely composed three part sections and cantus firmus based sections for the full choir.  It's sung below by The Cardinall's Musick conducted by Andrew Carwood.

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