Inside the unassuming church of Old Saint Paul’s in the city centre of Edinburgh last night, the congregation gathered to hear the choir sing the service of Tenebrae for Maundy Thursday.
The service comprises psalms and readings sung to plainsong and faux-bourdon settings. This evocative rite with simple but dramatic ceremony helps to draw us into the darkness of the Passion. During the rite the lights are gradually extinguished until just one candle, representing Christ, remains shining in the darkness. This is a foretaste of the Resurrection; the light that banishes darkness.
When I was living in Edinburgh the Tenebrae service was always my favorite one of the year, and this is the first time in 12 years that I’ve missed it. The service is sung throughout (except for a small amount of spoken text at the end), and is performed from a booklet compiled for All Saints, Margaret Street in London (including the instruction to the choir to “exit to the south grill”).
One year I cut short a business meeting in Washington DC, to catch a flight home to Edinburgh to attend Tenebrae. And for me, it’s always been an important part of Holy Week; one that I miss very deeply now that I’m in Dublin.
On Easter Monday the Christ Church choir head off on tour to Loreto, Italy, to perform at the International Sacred Music Festival. The choir will join the Orchestra of the Marche Region to perform Handel’s Messiah.
It’s just a little bit after ten in the morning, and as I type I can hear a load of drummers having a warm-up practice prior to the big St Patrick’s Day Parade through Dublin’s city centre later on today. According to press reports, there are some 4,000 participants taking part in the parade, and an estimated one million spectators expected.
The parade is just one of the events being held today (and over the weekend) to celebrate Ireland’s saint. The St Patrick’s Festival has included concerts, film, street theatre, children’s events, and a funfair. And, of course, St Patrick’s Day itself is a public holiday here in the republic – so everyone can take part in the fun.
This is all of a marked contrast to the saint’s days in the UK, which hardly ever get mentioned these days. I know that Scotland has been trying to raise the profile of St Andrew’s Day, and the Scottish parliament have been exploring the idea of making it a public holiday. But in England it seems that almost nothing is done to mark St George’s Day. Indeed, a survey taken last April found that a third of all English people didn’t know the date of St George’s Day.
Green hair, green clothes, green Guinness, and even green milkshakes from McDonalds. I’ve heard that pretty-much the whole of Ireland turns green for St Patrick’s Day. And so in the spirit of the celebrations, I’ve updated the colour scheme for the site. Hope you like it. And a very happy St Patrick’s Day to you on Monday.
This evening we’ve got a concert at Christ Church, as part of the St Patrick’s Day Festival celebrations here in Dublin. It’s a bit of a mixed bag – with music from 8 different countries – which is a lot of fun to perform, and hopefully to listen to as well.
The full programme is:
Mozart Missa Brevis in D (K194) – Austria
Bach Cantata 182 “Himmelsknig, sei willkommen” for Palm Sunday – Germany
Araujo Los Coflades De La Estleya – Latin America
Poulenc Seigneur, je vous on prie – France
Pablo Casals O vos omnes – Spain
Howells Hills of the north rejoice – England
Traditional (arr. Runswick) She moved through the fair – Ireland
Chilcott The Making of the Drum – Africa
Parry I was glad – England