View Full Version : A Sequence for Epiphany Jan 4th 2012
A Sequence for Epiphany
Rodolfus Choir in Eton College Chapel
'A Cold Coming we had of it'
Led by Canon Jeremy Davies
Order of Sequence:
Videntes Stellam (Poulenc)
Hymn: Where is this stupendous stranger (Ottery St Mary)
Reading: Journey of the Magi (T S Eliot)
Three Kings from Persian lands afar (Cornelius)
Hymn: Brightest and best (Epiphany)
Reading: Matthew 2: 1-12
Bethlehem Down (Warlock)
Hymn: O worship the Lord (Was lebet)
Die heiligen drei Könige aus Morgenland (Richard Strauss arr. Shephard)
Hymn: As with gladness men of old (Dix)
Tribus miraculis ornatum (David Bednall)
Hymn: Lord for the years (Lord of the years)
Organ Voluntary: Dieu parmi nous (Messiaen)
Organist: Alexander Ffinch
Director of Music: Ralph Allwood
A reminder of today's broadcast at 3.30 p.m.
Bit like a sermon with choral interludes. Not a form I enjoy, and I found picking T.S. Eliot's poem to bits rather silly, e.g harassing the word 'satisfactory' for twenty minutes at least. But then I'm not of theological bent.
Some pleasing well blended singing, maybe a little lack-lustre apart from the David Bednall piece where evrything suddenly came to life. Hurrah for that.
I have a particular niggle with a mannerism many good and otherwise well-directed choirs have. In a relatively simple verse repeating piece (eg Bethlehem Down) they insert an extra beat between each line, I know WHY they do this; it's all to do with unanimity, clean starts and un-snatched phrase ends. But the effect of having a five-legged donkey-ride does become annoying after a bit. KCC do it all the time.
Ffinal organ piece good, even if Eton Romantic Beast not ideally Ffrench.
Having 6 Kings in one Epiphany broadcast is possibly OTT. Maybe Cornelius ought to be given a rest. Despite its apparent simplicity one seldom hears a convincing performance.
Got to say, I agree with a lot of ardcarp. It came to something when the organ voluntary [ if that is what you might term it?], albeit on an un-French instrument was the only thing that made me sit up, but Messiaen is such a showman, and Alex Ffinch gave it plenty of tom-tom. I love Bethelehem Down as a carol: its melancholy, its shifting harmonies suited the Eliot rather well, but it was just a tad too slow for my liking.
Singing just sounded like a rather good school choir - sops better than OK - doing their Epiphany service. Bednall was more eclectic than the rest, and welcome.
The Eliot poem is a favourite of mine and it is a great deal more austere, mysterious and downright tentative and even agnostic than the somewhat simplistic maunderings by the interpolator led one to believe. He wrestled it into every conceivable cliche of the Epiphany he could manage, and I frankly resented its use in this way.
Must confess that I actually disagree with much of the above.
Though it was certainly an unusual service - maybe some Jeremy Davies' ideas were more valid than others - I found it to be very well-structured and rather interesting.
I also found the singing of the Rodolfus Choir very impressive, clearly articulated and smooth-sounding. Soloist for Three Kings had a lovely tone (particularly considering how young these singers are), even if he struggled with the (difficult!) top E moment.
For me the Poulenc and the David Bednall were new pieces and both worked very well - great blend in the Poulenc and the Bednall was fantastically energetic. Bethlehem Down was quite slow, but the last verse was spine-tingling!
As Ralph Allwood(MBE!)'s first broadcast since leaving Eton, I thought it was thought-provoking and very well executed!
I am very pleased you enjoyed it. Indeed the Rodolfuses were 'smooth sounding'. The Poulenc, which is a staple of the choral repertory, was indeed well tuned and blended...but I'm not sure RA, for all his skill, got under its skin. One is meant to sense the awe of the Magi at seeing the star. Here it was all a bit tame; and Poulenc's signature short two-bar phrases were allowed to chop up the music into pleasant-sounding morsels rather than creating a breathless wonder. (Poulenc didn't actually like the aseptic English choral style and was once heard to remark..on hearing a performance in the UK...that it needed a bit more Maurice Chevalier.)
I didn't personally find the menu, musical or verbal, thought provoking. In fact, for me, it was just a bit ordinary and maybe a missed opportunity. Sorry!
Maybe Cornelius ought to be given a rest.
Yes please. I'm rapidly going off this piece of schmaltz. There again is there much Epiphany-specific music to choose from?
Yes please. I'm rapidly going off this piece of schmaltz.
Couldn't agree more. It's awful and spoils any service.
Apart from that, I rather like the look of the running order and will try and catch it at the weekend...
Welcome to moabimw - civil differences of opinion always a good thing, especially when well argued.
...There again is there much Epiphany-specific music to choose from?
There are plenty of Renaissance settings of Videntes stellam - and also of this curious text, which puts the Epiphany, the Baptism of Christ and the miracle of the Wedding at Cana on the same day:
Tribus miraculis ornatum diem sanctum colimus:
hodie stella magos duxit ad praesepium,
hodie vinum ex aqua factum est ad nuptias,
hodie in Jordane Christus baptizari voluit, ut salvaret nos universos.
Haec est dies illa, quam fecit Dominus; exsultemus et laetemur in ea.
Here's a setting by Lassus:
Well, jean, given the choir we heard on Wednesday, I could not possibly see them coping well with that Lassus - certainly not at that pitch! The Huelgas are a top ensemble and thanks for the link.
What surprised me a little, was that if you choose the Cornelius, presumably you do so in the knowledge that your soloist can actually reach the required notes? Apparently not. Did his problem appear at too late a stage to replace?
Welcome, mo'pot. Curious how we all hear different broadcasts, isn't it?
As jean says there is a ton of Epiphany music. Wise men, stars, precious goods, all guaranteed to elicit a musical response.
If one wanted a couple more Anglican pot-boilers there's always 'Lo star led chiefs' by Crotch (which I loved as a kid but don't any more) and the rather exhilarating 'Eastern Monarchs Sages Three' by C.S. Lang. Both easy. And then there's that Mendelssohn piece.....
Also worth mentioning Alan Spedding's Eastern Monarchs, Paul Edwards' No small wonder and Howells' Here is the little door - essential stuff. Quite fancied Carl Rutti's A Patre Unigenitus this year too.
Howells' Here is the little door
Just listening to it now...Epiphany at St Paul's with John Scott, a 10-year-old CD. :ok:
Quite fancied Carl Rutti's A Patre Unigenitus this year too.
... to be found in Carols for Choirs 5 (and on the promotional CD), so I imagine its popularity will grow quickly in the coming years.
The main problems were speed - too fast in the Cornelius (perhaps to accommodate a nervous soloist, who still managed a wobble) and far, far too slow in the Warlock (always a turgid and shifty piece). I though it was about to grind to a halt (which might have made it more interesting . . .)
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