The 12 hours of Christmas

1. Our fabulous crib. It really is astonishing. Go and see it. It was created by Beata. The figure in black in front of the crib is not a permanent addition to the scene.


3.  Last minute preparations for Midnight Mass

4. Some of the  choir warming up for the carol-fest.

5. Midnight Mass 2011.  The church was packed and surprisingly few people left during Mass – usually a common occurrence when Mass starts at 12am.

6.  9am Mass in the EF in the beautiful village church of Steyning. I was the cantor!


7. The multi-talented Dominic Scarborough, when not MC, jobbing organist

8. Fr Sean Finnegan’s excellent sermon. (In case your are about to spit your mince pie into your Boxing Day Bucks Fizz, no l’m not on the sanctuary…  it’s just a very small church.)

9. Still not on the sanctuary.


10.   A hi-speed car journey back to St Mary Magdalen’s just in time for more carol singing at the 10.30am. “fa la la la lah la la la lah…”


11.  Adam the organist who played a total of 21 carols during 12 hours.


12. 11.15am Christmas Day

Photos on FLICKR

Henry has put some photos on FLICKR

A very happy and holy Christmas to everyone. Here’s to a wonderful 2012.

Chanting in Horsham

On Thursday evening, I was asked by Fr. Richard Biggerstaff, the new parish Priest of St John the Evangelist, Horsham to run an introductory session in Gregorian Chant in their parish. I was terribly nervous, I have never taught outside my own parish before. Where do you begin teaching about 2000 years of music? Would I inspire people or send them running for cover looking for the latest Marty Haugen Mass?

There was a good group of parishioners in attendance of all ages and they sang extremely well. We started with some warm up exercises to familiarise everyone with the names of the neumes, Doh, Ray, Me etc. and then I talked briefly about Sacrosanctum Concilium and ‘that’ article that is so widely quoted and so rarely applied, that plainchant should be held ‘pride of place’ in the liturgy. We then moved onto looking at Mass XVIII, and then the Simple Tone Alma Redemptoris Mater. I used the excellent ‘Beginner’s Book of Chant‘ from St. Michael’s Farnborough Abbey as a resource. I tried to get the group familiar with the importance of singing ‘in the half voice’ an expression l was helpfully taught by Fr Sean Finnegan a few years ago. Trying to create the purest sound possible with no vibrato, no big voice and imagining that the sound is produced from the resonators in your head rather than bursting out from the mouth. I tried to keep the focus primarily on the importance of the text . I always start by reading the text aloud so the group become familiar with the rhythm of the words before we start to tackle the notes  or neumes.

I really enjoyed the evening. It flew past so quickly and sadly we never got to sing Puer Natus in Bethlehem or  look at Gloria XV. I found the teaching incredibly rewarding. It is a great indicator of how much you know and more importantly how much one still needs to learn. It is frightening how easy it is to rattle off the responses of the Mass from week to week without ever really considering their meanings or their origins. Needless to say I dashed back to swot up on the Sanctus…

I have been asked to run another session in January. If you live locally then please come. It will be on Thursday 26th January at 7.30pm. We will be looking at some of the music for Candlemas.

Sankta Lucia

Today, the feast day of Sankta Lucia as she is known in Swedish, is a particularly important Saints day in Sweden and Norway. We have some Swedish friends in Brighton, well Hove, actually, who always hold a Sankta Lucia party. This year it was celebrated on Sunday. The children process all dressed in white holding a single candle each, which this year were battery operated rather than the flame-inducing kind. They are led by someone dressed as Saint Lucy wearing a crown of candles, which were real incidentally. She wore a wet flannel on her head to avoid hot candle wax dripping onto her scalp.

In Sweden, the procession is traditionally formed of women and girls exclusively. I believe that each of the cities, each year,  will elect someone to be Sankta Lucia. An honour indeed.

During the procession on Sunday, which took the elaborate route of down the stairs and round the living room a couple times, we all sang the hymn Sankta Lucia, without an accordion. It was interesting to see that anyone who was Swedish at the party, could sing this hymn from memory. Singing this is such an integral part of their culture. I always feel sad that in England, we have lost so much of our ‘folk’ tradition. Apart from the annual Christmas carol-athon we never sing together as families or friends anymore. If you look at the selection in the Oxford Book of Carols, for example. carols were pieces of music sang at all times of the years. Bring back wassailing!

Missa Cantata this Thursday, but what’s the weather report?

This Thursday at 7.30pm we have a Missa Cantata for the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. Please pray for Our lady’s intercession that the weather is good because everytime we have a Missa Cantata in our parish at this time of year it either:-

a.) snows

b.) something goes wrong with the building works (last year’s Missa Cantata on the 8th Dec had to be cancelled)

or c.) rain, howling gales, bolts of lightening, plague of locusts etc.

‘O gloriósa Virginum Sublimis inter sidera: Qui te creávit, párvulum Lacténte nútris úbere.’

Ora pro nobis.


(‘O glorious Lady! throned on high, Above the star-illumined sky; Thereto ordained, thy bosom lent To thy Creator nourishment.  From the Lauds Hymn for the Feast of the Immaculate Conception.)

Music for the 2nd Sunday in Advent

When you are preparing the music for Mass, it is important to remember that a sung Mass is NOT A MUSICAL.  They don’t sing Gregorian Chant on Broadway or stop at the interval to say a decade of the Rosary, so why would you think it is appropriate to sing a song from a hit-show at Mass?

For example, this week’s Introit is Populus Sion taken from the Prophet Isaiah:-

People of Sion, behold the Lord will come to save the Gentiles, and the Lord will make the glory of his voice heard to the joy of your hearts.

This glorious introit filled with optimism and hope perfectly sets up the theme of waiting, waiting with joy in hearts as we prepare for the coming of the Lord.

So why would you ever think that THIS would be a suitable replacement?





The perfect Christmas gift

Calendars are always terribly useful Christmas presents, the difficulty is deciding which one to purchase for your loved one. Olly Murs is sold out, you bought the fluffy cats one last year and your mother wouldn’t approve if you bought your father the Pamela Andersen calendar (again.) So how about the Latin Mass Society Calendar  2012 -one for all the family.

And if you turn to June, there we all are…..

Well, I was never going to make it into the Pirelli calendar.