Friday, December 24, 2010

Christmas Eve Suite

Given events in my life (see my “BillBoushka blog” Dec. 21), I thought this would be a good day to really celebrate Christmas Eve (without Rimsky-Korsakov – I think I have his Christmas Eve Suite lying around on a CD, but it was a favorite of a high school friend, along with [Ippolotov-Ivanov's] “Caucasian Sketches”).

The First Baptist Church of the City of Washington DC held its Christmas Eve service at 4 PM. It was similar to the carols service Dec. 12, with candles.

The music was different. There was an anthem “On This Day Earth Shall Ring” from “Personent Hodie” by Gustav Holst, which ended not on the tonic but the second chord (Doian I think), that is a D Major Chord in a work written in C, a taste of pastorale modal polytonality. That reminds me of a substitute teaching assignment in 2007 in a music class, where the students had a quiz and had to identity modes from staff melodies, and the best grade in the class was a 75 (as I recall, a student in that class went on to act in the musical comedy “Senioritis”). Beethoven, remember, had used Lydian Mode in one of his late quartets. There was also a carol “On Christmas Night” as transcribed by Ralph Vaughn Williams.

Dr. Jeffrey Haggray made an interesting point in his homily. He said that a baby (whether conventionally or “immaculately” conceived) is more mysterious and miraculous than any human invention, even going to the Moon. In scientific terms, life is the most evolved form of matter, continuing itself through reproduction (I’ll get more into the “soul” again in a book review soon); but the pastor also said that the “Good News” was for all people of any persuasion, race, or gender identity (interpreted loosely).

On the way home, I found a gathering outside Mount Olivet Methodist Church in Arlington at 16th and Glebe, and Lo! There was a real manger with real sheep and goats, woolly and eager to be petted. And there was a hot chocolate stand.

Then I found that Trinity Presbyterian, about a mile west on 16th St, was holding three(!) Christmas Eve services: a “family service” at 5:30, a “contemporary” at 7:30, and a formal at 11 PM. I think they were pretty similar in content, but I attended the “contemporary.” (This church sometimes holds its less formal services in warm months in its gym rather than sanctuary.)

There were three anthems: “Carol of Prophecy” and “Lumen Christi” (no composers given), and “The Time of Snow” by Bob Chilcott, as well as a piano rendition of Vaughn Williams’s take on “Greensleeves”.

Here’s the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir (ABC, Dec. 23)

Conversation after the first of these events: Oh, yes, it takes a long time to become a good composer!

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