Last weekend was one of those minor extravaganzas that happen at St Mary’s that one should never quite get used to. On the Saturday afternoon we had an extra Evensong which the assistant organist Geoff Woollatt brought together. A bunch of people who’ve never sung together before appeared under the label – The St Mary’s Cathedral Chorale and helped us to sing out the old liturgical year with an extra evensong for the week of Christ the King. Sunday morning was a good strong service. Congregation numbers are encouraging at the moment and the worship was exciting and joyful, even in the face of Advent’s rather stark themes. Then in the evening it was back for more – an Advent Carol Service.

We tinkered quite a lot with the shape of this service this time. Last year it was based around the Advent Antiphons and though it was enjoyable, I was never convinced that the structure was right, nor that many people made much sense of the Antiphons themselves, however gorgeous they are. This year it was all based around the four collects that we will read on Sunday mornings through Advent. Alongside those, I’d chosen four readings, all from the book of the prophet Isaiah. I think it hit the spot and I was much more pleased with the liturgical shape than I was previously.

[It is worth noting in passing that the mantra that we can’t do same-sex blessings because we don’t have a liturgy for doing so is rather undermined by the fact that we seem to be able to have such things as Advent Carol Services when we don’t have a liturgy for those either, but perhaps we should let that pass for today].

Then on getting home, I noticed on twitter that people were commenting on Sunday Half Hour on Radio 2. St Mary’s choir was indeed the featured choir this week, something that the Director of Music and I had both forgotten in the midst of all else that was going on.

It was a typically eclectic repertoire. Eclectic is the only way we can describe our tradition. (It sounds so much more West End than “random”).

So, on the radio, we were represented by the Choir singing the Advent Prose, Freedom is Coming (complete with fabulous drumming from Jane Bentley, Jesus Calls us O’er the Tumult for the Feast of St Andrew and Will You Come and Follow Me (tune – Kelvingrove, and don’t you forget it).

So, amidst a very busy weekend, the Radio 2 audience got plainsong, an African number with drumming, a trad hymn and something modern to a local folk tune. That’s who we are, you know.

Eclectic. Very Eclectic.

If you want to hear the Sunday Half Hour Broadcast, you can find it here until next Sunday. You might want to nip forward by 15 minutes or so to find the bit where St Mary’s Choir starts.

Evensong (with Dragons)

Quite an exhilarating Choral Evensong last night.

Three ribbons to give out to young choristers to indicate their achievements and then straight into an exciting musical service.

The psalm was 148, which is one of my favourites, particularly in the setting that they sing here. In common with very many choral churches, we usually sing from the Coverdale translation of the psalms. It is a glimpse back to a time when the scriptures were first being translated into English and sometimes you can catch how exciting that must have been.

Apart from the fact that the following couplet appears to contain the perfect Glasgow weather forecast, who can’t enjoy singing about dragons and all deeps praising the Lord?

Praise the Lord upon earth ye dragons, and all deeps;
Fire and hail, snow and vapours  wind and storm, fulfilling his word;

If even the dragons can be part of the world’s great symphony of praise, there must be hope for us all.

The language of the Coverdale psalms, tricky, anachronistic, out of date and bizarre is also paradoxically wonderful for talking about faith with children.

After the psalm and an highly chromatic office hymn that was new to me, we were swooping along into the Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis by Dyson in D. (Dicing with Death, the choir call it). Magical moments, particularly at the end of the Mag. However, the choir managed to save something special for the anthem, I saw the Lord by Stainer. High point of the day was reached at the k in the phrase, “and the temple of the Lord was filled with smoKe”

And yes, if you were paying attention, I did, in the intercessions, ask the Holy and Blessed Trinity to protect us from religion that is dull or humourless.

Let all the people say,