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.