Wednesday, 2 March 2016

Forthcoming performances

The Orkney Schola will sing parts of the reconstructed office of St Magnus at the following events:

On Thursday 14 April 2016, at 6 p.m. in St Magnus Cathedral, Kirkwall. A public lecture by Dr Barbara Crawford (University of St Andrews) on Seals in Medieval Orkney: communal and personal identity, as part of the Third International St Magnus Conference.

On Friday 15 April (the eve of St Magnus' Day), at 7.30 p.m. in the St Magnus Centre, Palace Road, Kirkwall. The launch of Alison Gray's new book George Mackay BrownNo Separation (Gracewing).

This is the first time any of this music will have been performed in public since 1560, so please come! Both events are open to all.

Friday, 26 February 2016

LA5 Fit mestis

Fifth psalm antiphon at Lauds in the office of St Magnus.

Fit mestis letítia, *
egris medicína,
Spes firma perículis,
salus in ruína.

There is joy for the sorrowful, 
medicine for the sick, 
firm hope for those in peril, 
rescue from ruin.

Click here for a practice recording.

Model: Tu per Thome (office of St Thomas). Recordings: Schola Hungarica (track 23); Schola Gregoriana of Cambridge (track 10; starts at 23'53").

Friday, 19 February 2016

LA4 Ferro vincti

Fourth psalm antiphon at Lauds in the office of St Magnus.

Ferro vincti mártyris *
ope relaxántur;
Naufragántes néxibus
mortis liberántur.

From irons the enchained are released
by the martyr’s aid;
the shipwrecked are delivered
from the clutches of death.

Click here for a practice recording. (Updated with a better version, 26/2/16.)

Model: Ad Thome memoriam (office of St Thomas). Recordings: Schola Hungarica (track 22); Schola Gregoriana of Cambridge (track 10; starts at 16'49").

Thursday, 28 January 2016

LA3 Surdi muti

Third psalm antiphon at Lauds in the office of St Magnus.

Surdi, muti, précibus *
Magni reparántur;
Claudis datur sánitas,
leprósi mundántur.

The deaf, the dumb are cured 
by the prayers of Magnus; 
health is given to the lame, 
lepers are cleansed.

Click here for a practice recording. A somewhat shaky recording, I fear; this mode 3 melody never goes quite where you expect it to, but these *are* the notes you're looking for. I'll upload a better version in due course.

Model: Aqua Thome (office of St Thomas). Recordings: Schola Hungarica (track 21); Schola Gregoriana of Cambridge (track 10; starts at 11'27").

Wednesday, 27 January 2016

The Modes Demystified

Click here for Francis Koerber's simple but brilliant demonstration of the eight 'church modes' and how they relate to major and minor scales.

Music plays after a few seconds, so look to your volume controls if you are at work!

"O tempora! o mores!" - O Times! O Daily Mirror!

There was an interesting article about St Thomas of Canterbury in The Times on Saturday, so I wrote them a letter about St Magnus, the 'Becket of the North'. I know they printed it because my wife's publisher saw it! I'm not a subscriber, however, and one doesn't often see a copy of the newspaper out in these parts, so if any Times-readers have a copy of the relevant issue, could you kindly let me know? Thanks.

I didn't write to the Daily Mirror, by the way; I just couldn't resist the Flanders & Swann allusion.

Tuesday, 26 January 2016

LA2 Vir sanctus

Vir sanctus is the 2nd Psalm Antiphon at Lauds (hence LA2) in the office of St Magnus. There are two other antiphons in the office which also begin Vir sanctus, so the 'serial number' is useful for avoiding confusion.

Vir sanctus occíditur, *
cujus dant stupórem
Signa: cecos lúminant,
témperant furórem.

The holy man is killed, 
whose miracles cause astonishment: 
they enlighten the blind, 
they restrain madness.

Click here for a practice recording. 

Model: Totus orbis (office of St Thomas). Recordings by Schola Hungarica (track 20) and Schola Gregoriana of Cambridge (track 10; starts at 7'25").

LA1 Favus stillans

Favus stillans is the 1st Psalm Antiphon at Lauds (hence LA1) in the office of St Magnus.

Favus stillans frángitur, *
mellis dans dulcórem;
Mala queque fúgiunt
cujus per odórem.

The dripping honeycomb is broken, 
releasing the sweetness of honey; 
at whose scent 
all evils flee.

Click here for a practice recording. N.B. These recordings are rehearsal aids only; no claims are made for the quality either of the singing or of the recording!

The model for this antiphon was Granum cadit from the office of St Thomas of Canterbury. Recordings of Granum cadit [N.B. not from the same manuscript that I am using] can be found on the CDs by Schola Hungarica (track 19) and Schola Gregoriana of Cambridge (track 10; starts at 4'58"). See here for details of these recordings; the Schola Hungarica recording is on Spotify.

This is the first of a series of posts illustrating chants from the medieval liturgical office of St Magnus of Orkney. For this and subsequent excerpts from the office of St Magnus, I have established the text by collating all four pre-Reformation sources; however, I am indebted to Alan McQuarrie for his excellent edition of one version of the office in Legends of the Scottish Saints: Readings, hymns and prayers for the commemorations of Scottish saints in the Aberdeen Breviary (Four Courts, 2012), and I largely follow his punctuation of the texts. The translations, the setting of the texts to ancient melodies, the practice recordings, and any errors occuring in these posts, are my own.

Thursday, 21 January 2016

St Magnus of Orkney evening class

I am again offering my evening class on St Magnus of Orkney. Today is the official deadline for enrolment, but in fact bookings will still be accepted for a few days yet. The course was very successful last year, and it will be a NEW and IMPROVED version this term!

The course now starts on Tuesday 9th February, a change from the date previously advertised, and runs for eight weeks. To book, phone Customer Services at the Council on (01856) 873535, or print off & send in the form that can be downloaded here:

Stained glass window by Oscar Paterson, St Magnus Cathedral, Kirkwall
Photographer unknown; if this is your work, please let me know!

From the Community Learning Directory:
B142: St Magnus of Orkney
As we approach the 900th anniversary of his martyrdom in 1117, this course looks at the background, life, death and legacy of St Magnus of Orkney. Drawing on historical sources, archaeology, art, music and literature, we will explore how the twelfth-century saint has continued to intrigue and inspire both here in the Northern Isles and further afield.
 Tutor: Dr Ben Whitworth.
 Tuesdays from 2 February (8 meetings).
 19:00 - 21:00.
 Course fee: £58.00.
Maximum class size: 20 students.

Wednesday, 13 January 2016

St Magnus of Orkney: the Becket of the North (updated)

We are approaching the nine hundredth anniversary of the death of St Magnus, which may have taken place in 1117. I have been conducting research for some years, with a view to reconstructing the medieval liturgy for the feast-day of St Magnus, as it would have been celebrated at his shrine in St Magnus Cathedral.

Last summer I had a breakthrough with this project. I noticed that the proper rhymed office of St Magnus, as it is found in the Aberdeen Breviary (1509/10), the Roskilde Diurnal (1511), the Roskilde Breviary (1517) and the Lund Breviary (1517), is closely based on the office in honour of St Thomas Becket, which was written and composed by Becket's friend Abbot Benedict of Peterborough in around 1173. So close are the parallels, that the greater part of the Magnus office can be (and probably was) sung to the melodies contained in the Becket office. This is rather fortunate, since the printed sources of the Magnus office, listed above, contain text only, whereas there are numerous surviving copies of the Becket office with musical notation.

I know of three four CD recordings of parts of the Becket office, and would be glad to hear of any others. The ones I have are as follows:

The Martyrdom of Saint Thomas Becket by Schola Gregoriana of Cambridge/dir. Mary Berry (Herald HAVPCD 192), 1996 - contains three Matins responsories (Thomas manum, Post sex annosEx summa rerum), the complete Lauds, and the antiphon Felix locus.

Memory of Thomas Becket by Schola Hungarica/László Dobszay & Jank Szendrei (Hungaroton HCD 12458-2), 1983 - Matins invitatory, nine antiphons, three responsories (Thomas manum, Mundi florem, Christe Jesu, Jacet granum), the Lauds antiphons, and Felix locus.

Gregorian Chant from Canterbury Cathedral by Lay Clerks of Canterbury Cathedral Choir/David Flood (MetronomB000024G60), 1994 - Matins invitatory, responsories (Studens libor, Lapis iste, Mundi florem, Ferro pressos, Jesu bone), and two antiphons.

UPDATE: There is also this - 
O felices lacrimae by Ensemble de Caelis/Laurence Brisset (Studio SM B00006370G), 2002 - first Vespers Magnificat antiphon (Pastor cesus).

Apart from the Schola Gregoriana of Cambridge CD, all these albums are available to stream on Spotify.