Sunday, November 27, 2005

Day 6: Advent Sunday in Cambridge (and the hymn I can’t sing)

Today was a very special Advent Sunday for me. It was simple, but wonderful. First, I went to St. Mary’s the Less (or “Little St. Mary’s”) for Solemn Mass. Yep, incense and bells, including ringing the outside bells at key points in the service, which is a touch I like. The worship was excellent.

And it’s a very lively parish with a good mix of people. Lots of old folks but lots of students and families with young children, too. The custom is for the children to leave before the Liturgy of the Word then return for communion. And when they return with the parents, they sit up front. I walked by a fun cacophony when I went up to take the sacrament.

I was invited to stay for Advent lunch, and that was nice, complete with nice wines and excellent apple pudding. Now in the States, we call it apple cobbler or apple crumble, but if they want to call it pudding, that’s fine. They’ve been eating it longer than we have.

After a rest, I did a quick run through the Cambridge Illuminations exhibit again. Yes, I had to see that pope get it again among other things.

Then I went to the St. John’s special Advent service, which really was special. Not all the songs were my speed, but still. And this one chorister soloist was excellent. They worked him out, too, giving him two solos.

And the generous organ music before and after was excellent as well. I’ve discovered I really dig Le monde dans l’attente du sauveur (from Symphonie-Passion (Op. 23)) even if it is French.

The walk back in the night was special, too. At one spot, I heard O Come, O Come Emmanuel from King’s College and the bells of Great St. Mary’s ring joyously for Advent.

There is something I wasn’t able to do today, however, and I had two chances. Both the Little St. Mary’s and St. John’s services had Charles Wesley’s great Advent hymn Lo! He Comes. . . . And I couldn’t sing it all the way through either time.

At LSM, I barely made it through the first verse, if even that, when my emotions made me take a break from singing for a bit.

At St. Johns, I was doing really well and thought I’d make it through easy. But then the last verse got me and got me good. I was able to sing little of it. So I took in instead how beautiful it sounded in the full chapel with all the voices sounding great together and with the choristers singing a ringing descant. But then though my tears, I did whisper the last word:


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