The St Mary Magdalen Choir are off to the beach

The choir are now on their summer holidays.

We will be back on Sunday 4th September .

Thank you to everyone who came to sing for our feast on Friday.

To everyone who sang on Sunday for our feast day part II

To everyone that has supported us over the last year

And thanks to the strange green presence that the camera picked up during the consecration on Friday evening…

Well, it was the extraordinary form.


Nuns and Sandcastles

Yesterday, my schola (Schola Scholastica) went to the Isle of Wight to meet with Sister Bernadette, the choirmistress of St Cecilia’s Abbey.  This was the first of our monthly instructions on Gregorian Chant with Sister.

To say that to be in the company of Sister Bernadette or any of the other sisters from St. Cecilia’s feels like a privilege is an understatement. You cannot help but be bowled over by the humility, the contentment, the kindness, the intelligence (l could go on…) of these devout, down-to-earth, gentle, spiritual women.

The sense of happiness in this remarkable community is apparent as soon as you walk up the driveway of the convent as you are greeted by impeccable beds of roses still magnificently holding their summer blooms, coupled with the scent of lavender lingering in the sea air. Entering the public hallway of the convent, the neatly arranged wall of photos of the sisters going about their busy daily cloistered lives fills you with a palpable sense of something quite special. The parlour with its grey painted grill can be intimidating at first but the barrier soon becomes immaterial when the sisters are in the room. This is a place of great joy.

We spent over an hour with Sister Bernadette studying the Introit and the Alleluia for the Missa Salve Sancte Parens, the propers sung for Our Lady’s Saturday.  I imagine Sister could easily fill an entire day discussing a single Introit and still find more to say about it. You find yourself hanging on every word, every sentence she utters, it is all relevant, nothing is said that does not have value. It really is extraordinary listening to someone talking about chant when you know this is the backbone of their daily routine. She is not just talking about a piece of music that she has studied and quite likes. These texts, these groups of neumes, these prayers, are everything and in everything they do. They permeate their entire lives.

After our wonderful lesson, the Schola went off to do what they do best and that is to lunch. We then returned to the convent during the nuns recreation time which is from 2pm until None at 2.40pm and two of our group performed an impromptu concert for the sisters. Martina, one of our Schola, conveniently just happens to be an incredible singer; she studied at the Royal Academy of Music, so she performed the Domine Deus and Mozart’s Laudate Dominum. Jenny who had joined us for the trip to the Isle of Wight, just happens to be a professor of music at an American universtity and also a concert pianist, so she performed a couple of pieces of Bach (the younger) and Bach (the elder.)   She is also a specialist in Messiaen and is actually over in the UK to given a paper on this ‘Marmite-like’ composer.  She finished the repertoire with a synopsis on Messiaen’s life, his faith and of course his music, at the request of the fascinated sisters.

None at St Cecilias, tea and cake and then a high-speed visit to Quarr and the day was sadly at an end.

When you consider it is only two hours door to door from Brighton to the Isle of Wight and with various special offers on the trains at the moment, you can get there and back for only £15 return. So grab your Triplex and bucket and spade and go and listen to the sisters singing the Divine Office and then you can go and build sandcastles afterwards.

Thank you to Candy who organised the day for us. (CLICK HERE FOR MORE PHOTOS)

What we are singing for the Feast of St Mary Magdalen on Friday

All the propers – Score HERE

For those not proficient with Gregorian chant, just have a look at the Introit and the Communion chants.


Ordinary –  Haydn’s Missa Brevis Sancti Joannes De Deo ‘Little Organ Mass’

NB – we are singing the longer Gloria (with prolongation by Michael Haydn) P.5 in Oxford edition, NOT the original sing every line at the same time version.   WE ARE NOT SINGING the Haydn CREDO.

There are lots of practice files for individual parts on You Tube

Navigate from this clip to find more.

(and if you are a liturgical-muso aficionado and want to know why we are singing this particular ordinary on this particular feast day it’s because we don’t have many polyphonic Masses in the music cupboard or in our repertoire at the moment. Thanks to St Barts who have kindly loaned us a set of music for the evening. )



Offertory Hymn – Magdalae Sidus   Score HERE

This is the Vespers hymn in the Ordinary form office.   (We will be singing this again on Sunday for another installment in celebrating our feast day.)

Communion Hymn – Votiva Cunctis Orbita   Score HERE

This is the Lauds Hymn.

Score – HERE .  Tom Windsor has set it to a tune which is rarely used.

Translation found on Google –

. Votive offerings of all the orbit
celebrates a triumph over the grace of light,
NATIVE which climbs the stars,
Mary of Christ shining.

2. LURID treader of the Blessed

age to the engine ruentis

the ardor of the Holy Spirit

slippery subdued the fires.

3. These sacred tears of Jesus

Watered plants inmost,

Clean hair kissing,

Cleansing the darkness of the mind.

4. Thee we beseech Thee, very acceptable

I request pardon us,

Heavenly Court Ringing

Which may enjoy organs.

5. Hail, blessed Trinity,

while remaining perennial joy,

Service, creative, world

which reign for ever.     update – Tom and Stan have both done their own translations for this hymn (show-offs!) SEE COMMENTS PAGE FOR DETAILS

Extra info for Office hymn junkies:-

Image of early manuscript –  HERE

Another source from way back in the Chant Database uses the tune of the Epiphany office hymn Hostis Herodis Impie which we sang in January (twice!). There are quite a few other references in Dutch, but the Analecta finds it in a Stuttgart Breviary 11th century, and in other Germanic Breviaries from the 15th century.

Recessional  – O quam gloriosum – Victoria – SCORE HERE     

or P.355 in ‘European Sacred Music.’

(See picture at the top)

Thanks to Tom who has been frantically setting these office hymns for us all week. He hopes to have a sequence for us next year.

Music resources for the Feast of St Mary Magdalen in the Extraordinary Form

PDF of Mass Sheet (courtesy of Maternal Heart of Mary in Sydney)   CLICK HERE

PDF of propers Missa Exspectaverent in square notation (compiled from the 1961 Graduale Romanum by ME!)  CLICK HERE

Other resources for propers-

Introit Me Exspectavérunt  P. 498 in Graduale Triplex (GT)

Organ Accompaniment – Graduel Paroissial Vol 4. Pub. Desclée and Co P. 70

Gradual  Dilexisti P. 499 in GT

Alleluia. Diffusa Est. P.413 GT


Offertory. Filiae regnum P. 505 GT

Organ Accompaniment – Graduel Paroissial Vol 4. Pub. Desclée and Co P.79

Communion Feci Judicium P. 529 GT

Organ Accompaniment – Graduel Paroissial Vol 4. Pub. Desclée and Co  P.76

Vespers Hymn  in the Ordinary Form MAGDALAE SIDUS (taken from the Liber Hymnarius)    PDF CLICK HERE

Tom has compiled  a page of office hymns for the feast day.

 UPDATE MONDAY 18th He has just completed two hymns from his “150 most popular Hymns of c.1100” file. Votiva Cunctis Orbita and Jesu Christe Auctor Vitae

Keep checking this page for updates.

St Mary Magdalen EF Vs OF by Stan Metheny

I asked my learned friend Stan, if he would kindly write something on the differences between the propers of the extraordinary form and the ordinary form for our patronal feast of St Mary Magdalen (this year we need to sing both sets.) Within minutes (almost) this pinged into my inbox. Stan reveals why we have left behind the medieval portrayal of Mary Magdalen as prostitute and sinner to rejoice in her historic place as the first witness to see Jesus after his resurrection from the dead.

Mary Magdalen(e) [MM] has a long and complex history in Christian writings and devotion. She has been variously identified with almost every woman in the Gospels, except the mother of Jesus. The literature is so vast that the history of the debates about who she was or wasn’t is itself the subject of many books and articles. Like any debate with a long history, some of these are good and many are pure rubbish. I’m obviously not attempting to outline all the facets of this now, but here is a quick & very sketchy overview as relates to the choice of texts in the EF vs. the OF. (And with apologies to those who are well acquainted with the literature.)

The early Greek Fathers spoke of three distinct persons:

  • the “sinner” of Lk 7:36ff
  • the sister of Martha and Lazarus (Lk 10:38ff; Jn 11)
  • Mary Magdalen(e)

On the other hand most of the late patristic and medieval Western writers held that these three were one and the same, most famously expressed in a sermon by Pope Gregory the Great in 591. It is impossible to demonstrate without doubt the identity of the three, and in fact, the confusion has been even compounded by the fact that there are several people named Mary in the Gospels, as well as several unnamed women who seem to share characteristics with MM. Most modern commentators have rejected the medieval conflation of the three, and have worked to unravel the strands of legend and hagiography that have become wrapped around her through the centuries to attempt to identify who she really was. Although it’s impossible to draw many. conclusions with any absolute certainty, some of the wilder flights of vivid imagination since the appearance of Holy Blood Holy Grail in 1982 and its woefully pathetic descendant, The DaVinci Code, can safely be dismissed out of hand.

The texts in the EF formulary for her feast reflect the medieval conflation of Mary Magdalen(e) with the sinner of Lk 7:36ff and her image a repentant prostitute. (You will notice even the title of her feast in the Missal and Breviary is that of MM, penitent.) The Introit Me expectaverunt speaks of one who was first a sinner, then repented and understood the new law (=love in the NT) and saw it as her real purpose in life. The Communion Feci judicium extends this idea by speaking of her as one who kept that law faithfully, despite what others who knew her past might say of her. Then, after her conversion, she loved righteousness and hated wrong doing (the Gradual Dilexisti) and was filled with the grace of God’s redeeming love (Alleluia: Diffusa est gratia and the Offertory Filiae regum). Note that many of these propers come from the Common of a Virgin Martyr. This reflects the belief of some early fathers that her virginity was restored after the Resurrection.

OTOH, the OF formulary refers (almost) completely to her role as the first person to see Jesus after his resurrection from the dead, following the majority of modern commentators in rejecting the medieval view of her as the repentant sinner/prostitute. This scene, popularly known as the Noli me tangere, is a very popular one in Christian art, especially in the Renaissance, and is the inspiritation for the choices. The Introit Tibi dixit is that for the two feasts of the Transfiguration (6 August; 2nd Sunday of Lent) as she was the first person to see the Risen Lord in his glorified body. The Gradual Audi filia is a reference to details of that encounter with its vide et inclina aurem tuam. Mary saw Jesus only after she listened to his voice. The Alleluia speaks of the risen Lord’s appearance to Peter, as MM carried the news to him before he saw Jesus for himself. The Offertory’s text of levabo manus meas refers to her reaching out her hands to touch Jesus, the light for which she had kept vigil, which action precipitated his cautionary response, Noli me tangere. The Communion Notas mihi again refers to her joy in seeing Jesus face to face.

The ethical demands of the OF texts, then, are somewhat different from those of the EF. We are challenged to seek the face of the risen Lord. Although we cannot now do that directly as MM did, we can see him in one another. And what we see, we are called in the Collect to proclaim to the world as His witnesses. (…Christum viventem praedicemus, et in gloria tua regnantem videamus.) 

Hymns for 16th Sunday in Ordinary Time A

Taken at harvest time last year on the South Downs

Thematic hymns for the 16th Sunday in Ordinary Time A:

I think ‘agricultural’ themed hymns can be tricky .

The Introit this week ‘Ecce Deus’ focuses on ‘God as my helper’ “Lord the protector of my name.’


The ‘big seeds’ everyone will know:

Come ye thankful people come

All people that on earth do dwell

Faith of our Fathers

Holy God we praise thy name

Holy, holy, holy

Bless the Lord my soul

Amazing grace

Praise my soul the King of heaven   Score here on Choral Wiki with a great descant for Verse 4

The church’s one foundation


The ‘medium sized seeds’ that the congregation may not know:

God is working his purpose  out (There are two tunes for this)

O thou who at thy Eucharist  (Orlando Gibbons)

God your glory we have seen

The Kingdom of God (to the tune of ‘O Worship the King’ – William Croft)


The seeds that won’t  be germinating in our parish:

The seed is Christ’s

Unless a grain of wheat

All that is hidden (Bernadette Farrell)

Bring forth the kingdom (Marty Haugen)

He’s got the whole world in his hands

Spot the Catholic at Evensong

I was asked to sing yesterday for Choral Evensong at our neighbouring Anglican church,  St Nicholas of Myra, which is often referred to as the ‘mother church of Brighton.’ It is the oldest building in Brighton and dates from medieval times which of course means pre-reformation it would have been a Catholic church. The rood screen which has been recently restored, dates from 1480.

This Evensong service was the culmination of a ‘festival of Flowers and music’ which had been held in the parish over several days.

Inside the church were a series of floral displays, each representing one of the sacraments.

It is always a privilege to be asked to sing in other churches. At the end of the service yesterday,  the Vicar Fr. Robert Chavner, proudly announced a roll-call of local parishes who were represented in the choir yesterday, including my own, St Mary Magdalen’s.  A couple of singers from their choir will be coming to sing at out parish for our patronal Mass on 22nd July.

I have now sung for several Evensong services and I find them quite fascinating. So much of the backbone of  the musical heritage in the Church of England relies on a great polyphonic tradition and to do that justice,  you need a core of excellent singers. I am always so impressed with the structure in Anglican churches to promote good singing  to aid a prayerful liturgy. St Nicholas’ like many Anglican churches is affiliated with the Royal School of Church Music and the Choir Master is a paid position. They even have a team of bellringers.

(You can just about make out the bellringers in the background of this photo. They were apparently doing a ‘quarter-peel’ )

I am also always struck by the quality of singing amongst congregations in Anglican churches. No one seems to complain if you sing one too many verses of a hymn, in fact it is not uncommon that ALL the verses of a hymn are sung. Yesterday amongst all the sung prayers (preces) and the Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis (which always seems to be affectionately known as ‘the Mag’ amongst singers) they sang four hymns, and of course they sang all the verses of those four hymns with great gusto.  And then there is the psalmody. This is where the Catholic is always ‘outed’ in an Anglican choir.  I apologised to the person standing next to me as I stumbled through the recitation, trying to work out when I was supposed to change note. She asked me afterwards how different our psalmody was. I could hear myself starting to explain that it was modal  and then thought she is going to wish she had never asked so I left it at that.

It was thoroughly enjoyable evening.   MORE PHOTOs HERE

Photos from Fr Frederich Kernbach’s first High Mass

Many congratulation to Fr Kernbach on this the feast of Ss Thomas More and John Fisher. PHOTOS HERE

Fr Frederic was joined by Fr. Sean Finnegan, deacon, Father Ray Blake, subdeacon, Father Richard Biggerstaff (who preached a fantastic sermon) and Fr Aaron Spinelli.

Andrew Wagstaff, our superb MC with Fr Frederic

Thank you to my schola who travelled from London and Blackfen to sing today. It was a great honour to be able to sing at a priest’s first Missa Solemnis and to receive a blessing afterwards.