On this Fourth Sunday of Advent, the Vision and Light of Christmas grows nearer illuminating the receding and darkening days of wintertime.
In the morning, the birth of one to be known as "Immanuel" (God with us) is foretold. A prayerful and jazz-laced setting of "Veni Emmanuel" begins the services and opens our hearts to the coming of Christ. At the early communion service, two Marian songs will be offered by soprano Blair Carpenter: "A Slumber Song of the Madonna" by Samuel Barber and "The Stable" by Royal Brantley. "How Fair and How Pleasant Art Thou" by Marcel Dupré began as a series of improvisations based on Vespers Antiphons for the Assumption of Mary. So well-received was this music that he was compelled to notate them for publication. Dupré's antiphons have been described by Pipedreams host Michael Barone as "grave yet rapturous."
Gustav Holst was a pioneer of the now common hymn-anthem for church choirs. His setting of the Marian-themed communion hymn "Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence" will be offered at the 11:00 a.m. choral service.
The annual 6:00 p.m. Longest Night Service celebrates the hope of Advent while acknowledging the Winter Solstice (December 21) and the inevitable colder days and longer nights ahead. Accompanied by harp, flute, cello, organ and piano, songs and musical expressions of solace, hope, and ice will be offered in this richly contemplative service.
The Chamber Choir will sing Bob Chilcott's setting of the ancient text "Nova! nova!" (News! news!) reminding us that even in darkness, the Good News of the Birth of Light in Christ will soon be upon us.
At all three services this weekend, we experience a taste of the Anglican Advent Carol Service through lessons of prophecy and carols from this season of Advent.
From the organ this Sunday morning, Brahms' adored setting of "Lo, How a Rose E'er Blooming" brings us to a time of centering silence. An inventive setting in irregular meters of "Savior of the Nations, Come" by Kevin Hildebrand accompanies the early service communion. From the Advent portion of Bach's Orgelbüchlein, "Lord Christ, the Only Son of God" brings the services to a majestic close.
At the 11:00 a.m. Choral Service, two traditional responses for an Anglican Advent Carol Service will be sung by a quartet: Palestrina's Matin and Vesper Responsories. The Chancel Choir will offer Libby Larsen's "Lord, Before This Fleeting Season," a setting of a poem by Mary Ann Jindra widely circulated this time of the year. Be inspired and enlightened by these words in this busy season:
Lord, before this fleeting season is upon us, Let me remember to walk slowly.
Lord, bless my heart with love and with quiet.
Give my heart a leaning to hear carols.
Grace our family with contentment,
And the peace that comes only from You.
Lord, help us to do less this busy season;
Go less; stay closer to home; kneel more.
May our hearts be Your heart
May we simply, peacefully, celebrate You.
The Second Sunday of Advent takes us to the proclamation of John the Baptist: prepare your hearts for baptism in the Spirit by one greater than he. The foretelling of Christ's birth and the arrival of Light and Peace to the world becomes this Sunday's muse.
The morning services begin with excerpts from Georg Böhm's twelve movement partita "Freu dich sehr, O meine Seele" (Rejoice Greatly, O My Soul). The tune, originally composed by Louis Bourgeois for inclusion in the 16th century Genevan Psalter as Psalm 42, is most well-known today as the Advent carol "Comfort, Comfort O My People." The playful and highly imaginative variations on this sprightly tune effortlessly evoke the affect of Baroque Joy. During the early service communion, an intimate setting of "Rorate caeli" by virtuoso French organist Jeanne Demessieux will be played from her collection Twelve Choral Preludes on Gregorian Chant Themes. "Rorate caeli" is the opening Latin text of The Advent Prose, first line translated as "Let the heavens drop dew from above," originating in the Roman Catholic tradition. At services' end, a joyous setting of the Advent hymn "Lift Up Your Heads, Ye Mighty Gates" by Dutch organist Jan Bender manifests well the hymn writer's exclamation in the closing verse: "Thy Holy Spirit lead us on until our glorious goal is won; eternal praise, eternal fame be offered, Savior, to thy name!"
The Chancel Choir presents "Come, Jesus, Come," an elegant setting of an insightful and contemporary text by the Reverend Carl Daw, an Episcopal priest and respected hymn writer. Organist Linda McGinn and flutist Aaron McGrew will also join.