The Anglicans know how to do this…

Evensong and Lessons and Carols…no one does them quite like the Anglicans.

This is one of my very favorite hymns, and a surprisingly difficult one to sing with control; we Catholics – assuming the male pronouns were allowed in by the music ministers – would still very likely have minor breakdowns in confidence and tonality trying to do justice to this lovely, hushed and reverent piece.

But the English, God love ‘em, they are uncowed and unintimidated. They take on Christina Rosetti’s vivid text – so full of certainty and longing – and Gustav Holst’s challenging composition, and make it glorious without so much as a tremble or quake.

Thanks to Gerard for the exquisite break from wrapping, baking and so on…Perhaps lessons and carols are what I’ll try to offer you folks while I’m dropping bowls of flour and chasing the dog out of the mess.

Over at Inside Catholic, Deal Hudson has more on Lessons and Carols and a comparison of this video to another version of this hymn.

Also – don’t miss this – fascinating and almost unbelievable video of an artist sent by Pianogirl.

About Elizabeth Scalia
  • Jeanette

    I’ve never heard the hymn before, but listening to it
    really tells the entire story of the birth of Christ,
    doesn’t it? It’s beautiful and reverent.

    Watching the candles reminds me of our candlelite service,
    held on Christmas Eve each year. After some traditional
    singing and a short message the ushers start going to the
    seats (we have a multi-purpose sanctuary with very comfortable chairs until we start our new phase of building
    with a real sanctuary and prayer garden and chapel etc.).

    They light the candle of the people on each end of the row
    and we put our candles up to the one next to us until the
    entire congregation has a lit candle in hand.

    The lights go out and the video camera picks up the
    beautiful scene of a few hundred people lit by candlelite
    and we sing “Silent Night”, the hymn that always brings
    me to tears.

    Then the lights come back up, the candles are blown out, a
    final prayer is said and we reverently walk out of the
    sanctuary, wishing all we see a Merry Christmas.

    Because the Salvation Army has been banned from so many
    stores lately, we have a Salvation Army kettle outside
    the doors for the month of December, and Christmas Eve is
    no exception.

    We have a large and generous congregation and they collect
    more than they would at Wal-Mart.

    That’s what I enjoy about Christmas. The only gift I care
    about is the One Gift given to us the First Christmas.

    Just out of curiosity: Do you think because He is God,
    Jesus was aware of Who He was even as a baby or that it
    came to Him later in life? I’ve often wondered that.

    Either way, I’m happy God became man so that we can have
    eternal life and fellowship with Him.

    Merry Christmas, A and family, from my family and from Savannah.

  • jakewashere

    God bless the English, but this French interpretation of another old hymn is also worth noting.

    (Trying this again in case the filter’s doing something to it…)

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  • culperjr.

    Oh, Anchoress! What a day–my first taste of Mystic Monk coffee at breakfast and now (be still my heart) my favorite carol on my favorite website!

    In The Bleak Midwinter is, to my mind, the perfect Christmas song. It combines beautiful, insightful lyrics with a soft, gentle tune. I think of it as a lullaby that we all get to sing to the Infant Christ.

    In December of 2001, in the wake of 9/11, an excellent op-ed piece appeared in the New York Times called “The Third Verse of Christmas.” It recommended singing through the early verses of the old carols to get to the later verses. Some of them are weird, dark and unfamiliar, but they contain essential truths we would be well-advised to remember. I think of In The Bleak Midwinter as a song that is “all third verse.”

    A blessed Christmas from an Anglican reader.

    [Funny, I always think of it as a lullaby, too! - admin]

  • Anglican

    Thank you, Anchoress, for this lovely recording. I used to be part of the choir at an Episcopal church with a fine music program. I had to leave because of the current “troubles” in the church, and while I am very happy at my new, and faithful parish, I very much miss all those wonderful pre-Advent/Christmas rehearsals, and the glorious sound we would produce at services. We Anglicans have many problems, but God blessed us with a gorgeous Prayer Book (now all but forbidden by the US church) and a very rich musical heritage.

    If you’ve never been to the service of Lessons and Carols, then try to get hold of a recording or video. (King’s College, Cambridge does it best). There are still Episcopal churches that do it well (St. Thomas Fifth Avenue in NY,
    just up the street from St. Patrick’s does an especially fine job). I would add to what Dean Hudson wrote in his blog. The Lessons (between 6 and 12, depending on the parish) are
    a series of readings from the Bible, which begin with the Creation, continue through the history of Israel and prophecies of Isaiah, and end with the Annunciation and the Nativity.
    So the wonderful music (usually alternating choral pieces, and familiar hymns for the whole congregation), is interwoven with the history of the Incarnation, told in the words of Holy Scripture.


    That was absolutly beautiful Thank-you, I’d like to record it and play it back for the members of my local ward, who I have to beg and I mean beg them to sing each Sunday in Church, this would inspire them I think, it did me!

  • Maggie45

    Thank you. I saw this over at Gerard’s and I can’t hear (and see) enough of it. Just beautiful!

  • amcalabrese

    I have thought the Anglicans have the best hymns, especially the old high church Anglicans. I believe, only half jokingly, that we Catholics should sinply take over the old Anglican hymnals.

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