Sunday, 23 October 2016

Chant courses in Scotland, November 2016

1. Introductory workshop on liturgical plainsong at St Mary’s Cathedral, Aberdeen, on the afternoon of Saturday 12 November. The workshop is led by Benjamin Saunders, Diocesan Director of Music in Leeds diocese, who will also talk about the wonderful work he’s been doing to promote singing, especially among children, in Leeds and Bradford. Full details, including how to reserve a place, here: I intend to be there.

2. Gregorian Chant Weekend at the St. Ninian Institute, Dundee, 19-20 November: see the poster below for details (click on the picture to make it full size). The Institute is very happy to provide overnight accommodation for participants who may need it - the rate is £30 per person, per night on a B&B basis.  Lunch will be provided as part of the course.

Sunday, 4 September 2016

Echoes and Traces

Apologies for the short notice, but tomorrow (Monday 5 September) at 7.30 p.m. in St Magnus Cathedral, Kirkwall, the Glasgow-based choir Cappella Nova will be performing eight new works inspired by the thirteenth-century song in honour of St Magnus, Nobilis humilis.

It is going to be great. Full details on the website of the project, which is called Echoes and Traces.

Friday, 19 August 2016

Happy Saint Magnus' Day ...

... according to the traditions of Roskilde in Denmark. Most places keep the Orkney martyr's feast on 16 April (the day of his death) and/or 13 December (the day his relics were translated), but Roskilde was one of the main centres of the Magnus-cult, and they celebrated him in summer.

My apologies for this blog's half-year of dormancy. I will shortly post a belated report on our April performances; and news of another choir's forthcoming Magnus-related concert in Kirkwall (link here if you can't wait to learn about this).

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.

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.

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.