Tuesday, December 25, 2012
For Christmas Day, a lesson in a cappella
I’ve never been much of a fan of a cappella singing, even when you go back to Palestrina. The adult human voice doesn’t have the overtones of instruments – even given the excitement that opera divas can generate.
Nevertheless, I went back to Trinity Presbyterian in Arlington late Christmas morning to have a most informal service, after the moving formal Christmas Eve service late Monday night. The twenty or so of us were rehearsed to go over to the Virginia Hospital Center, floor to floor, with poinsettias, and sing carols for patients and particularly staff. This was territory I had seen a lot of during the last years of my own Mother’s life. There are some medical information signs on the walls (about strokes and arrhythmias.) We had the help of a “pro” from a college (VA Tech) glee club. Though when I substitute taught, some high schools had madrigals groups, that sung all a cappella. I think Yorktown High School in Arlington had this. And the high school students who sung it were very dedicated and good. For me, the musical area is a bit too narrow.
The Christmas Eve service performed some of the now familiar music of Chilcott (Dec. 9) but added “Night of Silence” by Daniel Kantor. Carol Feather Martin played as organ preludes the “Fantasy on ‘Divinum Mysterium’” by Gerte Hancock and the more familiar “Variations on ‘Puer Nobis’” by Michael Burkhardt. The Hancock piece is quite jubilant and triumphant (reminding me of Dupre), and would be a good thing to hear soon on the new organ at the First Baptist Church of the City of Washington DC, whose new organ is supposed to be ready in February, to the best of my knowledge.
On Christmas days in the past, I've often played a 1969 recording with David Wilcox on EMI-Angel of Ralph Vaughn Williams's "Hodie" -- "This Day". It is loud and virile.