As in previous years, I’ll be helping to sing the Exultet, an ancient Christian chant that is sung (in our Anglo-Catholic tradition anyway) just once a year: at the beginning of the Great Vigil of Easter, in the darkened church, on what’s called “Holy Saturday.”
Unlike previous years, this is the first year at the combined St Nicholas with the Holy Innocents mission parish, and some things will be different. The new combined choir and our new-ish choir mistress have been working very hard for the last 6 weeks on all the special music, and what with the timing of the arrival of the new organ and some new singers who recently came to us, all the rehearsals have been very intensive the last couple of weeks. AndI was off on vacation bobbing around the Caribbean, so I missed a lot and had to catch up.
But tonight, instead of singing the Exultet as a duet with Katie by candlelight, I’ll be one of 3 solo singers of just a couple of short portions of the piece, and I’ll have a nifty little clip-on booklight for my copy of the music, which is all set up and ready to go in my binder. And based on last night’s rehearsal, it may be a little rough, but my voice will just have to be whatever it is when I get there. I’m still battling the damn cough, but have regained enough singing voice to give a creditable solo-chantperformance.
I had one solo Thursday for the service otherwise known as “the foot-washing and stripping one,” which is not as exotic and exciting as it sounds. This was one verse, in Latin, of the ancient hymn Pange Lingua (Let My Tongue Tell The Story). And during the pre-service rehearsal, kids, it were not pretty when I opened my mouth and a sort of whistly croaking noise came out, because I had unwisely gulped down some tea with a big slug o’ honey in it at work and had a big glob of something stuck in my craw.However, with the aid of a friend’s Altoids and some sips of hot, unsweetened ginger tea, the glob became unstuck just in time for the beginning of the service, and I was more or less ready for my big number when it came up.
I was singing third, after a choral “tutti” singing verse 1, and my friend Katie singing verse 2, which was a bit rocky because she’s been having voice problems, too. Choir leader Mary was ready to play the third verse and “cover” if I couldn’t sing, but I got going all right, and then something musical and faithful to the spirit of the words and melody actually came out of my big mouth. What a relief.
I was careful not to lay on anything too thickly and tried to give an impression of echoing cloisters, without personality or too much color, but with a touch of resonance, and luckily had enough voice for that. Went all right, and the Latin came out with just a bit of rolled-R prrroper enunciation to make our musical dominatrix happy.
Whew. It was nice to be congratulated for the solo after the service (very quietly, in the nursery that’s the de facto choir room for the moment, as all services this week end in silence except for tonight’s Vigil).
I guess… I’m not sure, but I think that’s the only time I can remember doing an actual solo. And tonight’s is to be a capella, too. So wish me luck, I’m off to crash the service (I hope not).
Last night’s service was the Good Friday one. I missed the way things were done at Holy Innocents the previous night (what? No pretty Altar of Repose dressed in candles and white draperies?) and last night I missed the way that at Holy Innocents everyone, including the choir, had a chance to participate in the adoration of the cross. It’s no big deal, but we were singing at the time and none of us participated. The funny thing is, in the bulletin it said that it was traditional to remove the shoes before approachingthe wooden “traveling” cross that was laid on the altar. So, I had taken my shoes and socks off and was ready in case Mary gave us the nod to go forward while she noodled some coverage music on the organ.
She didn’t, and I sort of forgot to put my shoes on, owing to singing and whatnot, until it was time to go forward to take Eucharist (which was stale bread from the previous night’s service, and the wine was all in a big vessel like a flower vase). So there I went, barefoot and all, to get Communion looking all penitential and folk-massy. Nobody said anything, but nobody else was barefoot, either. I expect I’ll hear about it tonight, after the service when we’re all relieved it’s over.
One of the ringer-singers that Mary has brought over from her previous choir is a fellow with a beautiful trained voice; for the very end of the service he did a solo on the Gospel-tinged hymn “Were you there?,” and he totally blew the room away, as they say. Started out all husky and strained and emotional for the first verse, and then raised the roof for the second verse before reining in and being more personal again for the third. It was really amazing, and of course I was suckered by the emotionalism.He did a great job.
Tonight, for the better torturing of the choir and organist, we have a TON of stuff to sing, most of which is mandated by the requirements of the Holy Saturday Vigil. Also, lots and lots of readings, interspersed with choral psalmody. At least there, we simplified the antiphons (it’s all the same refrain for each psalm, and the tunes for the psalms are all one note: the interesting music is in the accompaniment, which is all tone clusters). But still, we have to go throughGenesis and making the world and the critters and the people, and then the Flood and all the begattery until we get to Jesus and tell the whole story again, and then finally, FINALLY, it’s “Alleluia” for the first time since Lent began.
And then the rest of the service begins, with extra music and panoply and Anglican whickety-whack, and a special choral Gloria that’s all sprightly and fast, and a bunch of extra anthems and singing while the church is magically re-decorated before our eyes (apparently, all the flowers are hidden away at the beginning, and brought out and arranged while we sing a covering piece that goes on for a bit), and eventually we get to the end, hurray! Hurray! Bring me the head of a chocolate bunny! I feelfaint!
That’s just tonight, mind you. Tomorrow, there’s a whole Easter Sunday service for the hoi-polloi that turn up but twice a year, but the real deal is tonight. Tomorrow, there will also be an Easter egg hunt after the service, from what we hear.
At Holy Innocents, we used to just skip Easter Sunday service entirely, because there were so few of us and we were exhausted from being up til all hours the night before. This was probably the main reason we didn’t grow the last few years, because new people often come for the first time on Easter Sunday, with their kids. And they were no doubt non-plussed to find that the church wasn’t even open on that day. Meanwhile, we’d all be at home, sleeping in and then eating brunch.
Not so tomorrow. Drat. But afterwards, maybe some form of brunch will be found and eaten. Along with the rest of the headless chocolate bunny.