Like most English people these days I would not claim to be a committed Christian believer, and the same is true of our Chorus. But unlike most English people, and unlike most of the Chorus members, I was brought up as a regular Anglican churchgoer, and am therefore very familiar with how church services are ordered and with what church choirs do. One of the things we had to do last night was to process (prəˈses), while singing, from our seats in the chancel and choir onto the chancel steps to perform our special numbers. Our custom is to sing “off-book”, i.e. without holding a music score to read from. We had the printed service sheets to use while still sitting in our choirstalls, but once on the move we had to leave them behind. It was a revelation to me that most of my fellow choristers did not know the words of the Christmas hymns off by heart, still less their tenor or bass parts. Before the service they were grumbling about the hard work they’d had to do to memorize them — stuff that I have been singing every Christmastide since I was a boy, stuff I could sing in my sleep.
It means that in future when the other Chorus members know the words and music of songs from the shows, and I don’t, I shan’t feel so bad about it.
Last December I discussed with you the pronunciation of deity, which features in the hymn Hark the herald-angels sing (blog, 3 Dec 2008).
…Veiled in flesh the Godhead see;I can now confirm that again in Southwark last night the choir and congregation were (as far as I could tell) unanimous in singing ˈdeɪəti. I wonder if this pronunciation will eventually catch on in America too.
Hail th’incarnate Deity…
The lessons were read by various local dignitaries and representatives of London public services (police, fire fighters, transport workers, ambulance staff). I am not sure whether it was with delight or with dismay that I heard once again the classic tonality error, the multioccupied manger:
And they came with haste, | and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe | lying in a manger.— which I was trained to avoid when I was about eleven.
Although I say so myself, the marvellous cathedral acoustics with the high vaulted ceiling and wide nave meant that our performance last night sounded truly magical, particularly I think in Hope for Resolution (blog, 8 Sep 2009).