"the gross and scope of my opinion ..." Hamlet I,1.
Monday, December 24, 2012
CHRISTMAS AT BLACKMORE
Stondon Singers in the Priory Church
and tradition were respected at St Laurence this year: ending with
Stille Nacht to send us off into the night, and beginning with
Gaudete, Ben Parry's arrangement of an ancient tune which may well
have echoed round these walls when the great Priory still dominated
there was a healthy injection of new music, too. Conductor
Christopher Tinker led us through Matthew Owens' very different
setting of The Holly and the Ivy, Thomas Hewitt Jones' What Child Is
This, with its haunting motif [Michael Frith at the organ], Will
Todd's My Lord Has Come, and Bob Chilcott's lively Sussex Carol
arrangement, rhythmic and harmonically interesting, the tune often in
the lower voices. All performed with care and commitment, the voices
of this chamber choir blending effectively in these lovely
reading this year, by Mavis Holmes, was Kipling's Eddi's Service
[where the congregation – "such as cared to attend" –
were the Ox and the Ass] looking back to an early Christmas at St
Wilfrid's in remotest Sussex, a church even older than Blackmore's
priest of St. Wilfrid In his chapel at Manhood
End, Ordered a midnight service For such as cared
But the Saxons were keeping Christmas,
And the night was stormy as well. Nobody came to service,
Though Eddi rang the bell.
"'Wicked weather for
walking," Said Eddi of Manhood End. "But
I must go on with the service For such as care to
The altar-lamps were lighted, --
An old marsh-donkey came, Bold as a guest invited,
And stared at the guttering flame.
The storm beat on at the
windows, The water splashed on the floor, And a
wet, yoke-weary bullock Pushed in through the open
"How do I know what is greatest,
How do I know what is least? That is My Father's business,"
Said Eddi, Wilfrid's priest.
"But -- three are gathered
together -- Listen to me and attend. I bring good
news, my brethren!" Said Eddi of Manhood
And he told the Ox of a Manger And a
Stall in Bethlehem, And he spoke to the Ass of a Rider,
That rode to Jerusalem.
They steamed and dripped in the
chancel, They listened and never stirred, While,
just as though they were Bishops, Eddi preached them
Till the gale blew off on the marshes
And the windows showed the day, And the Ox and the Ass together
Wheeled and clattered away.
And when the Saxons mocked him,
Said Eddi of Manhood End, "I dare not shut His chapel
On such as care to attend."