Monday, 29 November 2010

This is the Record of John

Most of us have devotion to particular saints (it's at least likely if you read this blog). This blog has an icon of St. Sharbel Maklouf on the left as a tribute to my Maronite heritage. Having attended an elementary school and my local parish named in her honour, and having been FSSP Schola Master during their short stay here in Toronto with Mass celebrated at her Shrine, St. Theresa of Lisieux is a favourite. We can all learn from her "little way." My favourite saint from a personalty perspective is St. John the Baptist. How we need one like him today crying in the wilderness of the public square.

The next two Sundays in Advent have very profound readings all focused on the coming of Messiah and His herald, "the voice of one, crying in the wilderness." The revised lectionary gives us a diversity of readings over the three year cycle on Advent II and III related to the great herald. The English liturgy gives us something else not available in the Extraordinary Form or Traditional Latin Massand that is the English Verse Anthem (though, one could provide an English motet or hymn in a Low Mass with hymns) A particularly Anglican form of music. Perhaps soon, the Traditional Anglicans coming home will help us reform our music in the Latin Rite to come closer to an English equivalent of a traditional Latin liturgy.

Orlando Gibbons followed William Byrd by about a generation in the English school. Gibbons wrote some forty verse anthems the most well-known being O Clap Your Hands in 8 parts and This is the Record of John originally scored for Countertenor, alternating with full SAATB choir and two viols. It is a beautiful and joyful and profound composition and a joy to sing. For most parishes, however, it is out of reach. In fact, if your speaker are on, you are probably hearing it now playing in the background.

A few years ago, I had the temerity to edit Gibbons' greatest work for a small parish choir. Being a Bass myself, (and since I always wanted to sing it), the solo line was no longer the possession of the modern Alto (originally the Countertenor). The choral parts are arranged for two-part and sometimes three-part mixed choir with organ and violin.

With a little shameless self-promotion, my arrangement is available and is published and under copyright at CanticaNova Publications; it is suitable for the Advent II or III or the Solemnity of St. John the Baptist particularly when if falls on a Sunday.

Here is a most excellent performance by the Kampen Boys Choir followed by the sheet music for all the voices as Gibbons' wrote it, though not in the original key; enjoy:

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