News from around the Archdiocee of Liverpool
December in the Cathedral is a very special time of the year, but it does bring with it the tension of balancing the anticipation of Christmas alongside remaining true to the season of Advent.
We mark the beginning of Advent with the rite of sprinkling with newly blest water at the start of all our Sunday masses and later in the afternoon a service of readings and Advent music at 5.00 pm entitled ‘The Advent Sequence’. The schools Advent services are on 6th and 7th of December and it is the Cathedrals turn to organise these - the script hasn’t been finalised yet but the producer has informed the clergy that they have been demoted and won’t be playing the part of the three kings this year. BBC Radio Merseyside have their annual Carol Service on 8th December at 7.30pm
On the Second Sunday of Advent the choir will sing Benjamin Britten’s Ceremony of Carols after Evening Prayer at 3.00 pm. Later that day at 5.00 pm there is the Marie Curie ‘Light up a Life’ Service in memory of all who have been connected with the hospice and its services. The following weekend we have our own Dickensian Carol Concert at 7.00 pm on 16th December compered by Roger Philips and involving our Cathedral Choirs and a variety of other musicians and singers. The following evening at 5.00 pm there is the Festival of Carols Service incorporating readings, verse and Christmas Carols.
Our Celebration of the Feast of Christmas begins with First Vespers of Christmas and Blessing of the Crib at 3.00 pm on Christmas Eve. Archbishop Malcolm will preside at Midnight Mass which will be broadcast live on BBC Radio 4. Please note that this will begin at 11.30 pm. There are a number of Masses on Christmas morning finishing with Solemn Mass incorporating the Christmas daytime readings and full choir at 11.00 am.
A busy time at the Cathedral
by Dr Christopher McElroy Director of Music, Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral
The Cathedral Choir’s routine is never quiet. However, December is a busier month than most each year. The usual routine of choral services is augmented by concerts, carol services and other special occasions. This year is actually the shortest possible Advent as Christmas Eve falls on the Fourth Sunday of Advent.
We begin Advent with the Advent Sequence on Sunday 3 December at 5.00 pm. This is a beautiful service where we reflect on the coming of our saviour, Jesus Christ, in words and music. We make full use of the extraordinary architectural space here in the Cathedral, giving life to the words of the Advent responsory ‘High and low, rich and poor, one with another.’ The choir will sing music by Byrd, Palestrina, Tallis, Wood and Mathias before concluding with the orthodox composer John Tavener’s ethereal double choir ‘A Hymn to the Mother of God’ which he wrote in eternal memory of his mother.
The week of 4 December sees the girl choristers leading the music at the Cathedral Schools Advent Carol services, at which over 3,000 young people come from across the Archdiocese to share in the Christmas story. The same week our Youth Choir are singing carols at Moore’s House (a retirement home), our Junior choir are singing at the Action for Children concert at the Anglican Cathedral, the girl choristers are singing at the BBC Radio Merseyside carol concert (subsequently broadcast on BBC Radio Merseyside on Christmas Eve at 4.00 pm), the boy and girl choristers are singing carols in John Lewis in Liverpool One and the boy choristers are singing Benjamin Britten’s ‘Ceremony of Carols’ with harp on Sunday 10 December at 3.00 pm in the Cathedral. Quite a busy week, and we have only arrived at the end of the first week of Advent.
The week of the 11 December is in fact a little quieter, with the Youth Choir singing at the NSPCC carol concert, and the girl choristers performing at a carol concert in aid of the Whitechapel Centre at St Teresa's Church in Norris Green. Saturday 16 December at 7.00 pm sees our annual Dickensian Christmas Concert. This audience for this concert has grown dramatically over the last few years, with people coming to enjoy an evening of music, speech and drama with a Dickensian theme. BBC Radio Merseyside host Roger Phillips will once again compere, and the Cathedral choirs will be joined by musicians from the Cressington Orchestras and drama students from St Edward’s College. Tickets are very reasonably priced at £5 (£10 for a family ticket) and available from ticketsource.co.uk/lpoolmetmusic or from the Cathedral gift shop (0151 707 3525.)
Unusually (due to Christmas Eve being a Sunday) we have our Festival Carol Service on the Third Sunday of Advent, Sunday 17 December at 5.00 pm. This is a wonderful opportunity to come and sing your favourite Christmas carols with the Cathedral Choir and enjoy mince pies and mulled wine afterwards. The climax of December falls over the weekend of 23-25 December. Midnight Mass will be broadcast live to the nation on BBC Radio 4 this year, meaning that the cathedral musicians will have a rather busy few days, with a BBC rehearsal on Saturday 23 December, Solemn Mass and First Vespers of Christmas on Sunday 24 December, back again at 9.30 pm on Christmas Eve to rehearse and sound check prior to broadcasting Midnight Mass. After a few hours sleep it will be back for the Solemn Mass of Christmas morning. I wonder how many of our singers and musicians will have a snooze after Christmas dinner?