Advent Calendar Day 23: Behold I Bring you Glad Tidings – Purcell

So this one is completely and shamefully serendipitous.  I actually don’t know what I typed into Google that produced a Christmas Oratorio by Purcell, and I also don’t know how on earth I missed the fact that Purcell wrote such an Oratorio.

Anyway, I have found it now, and it really is classic Purcell, from the magnificently lavish bass solo (with those fabulous low notes) to the little minuets for the trio of alto, tenor and bass, to the big chorus just when you were wondering where the sopranos were (they were biding their time and saving their fortissimo for the chorus).  I love the little reflective bits punctuated by excitable choir, and the hyperactive halleluias at the end are a complete delight.

There is so much to love about this, and I really can’t give you a lot of analysis because I am still discovering it myself and just delighting in its perfect Purcell-ness.


Advent Calendar Day 15: Rejoice in the Lord Alway (Henry Purcell)

The third Sunday of Advent is also called ‘Gaudete Sunday’ (Gaudete meaning ‘rejoice’ in Latin).  After having candles, altar cloths and vestments of purple for weeks on end, suddenly we break out the pink – tastefully, via a single candle in the case of the more protestant churches, or with rose-coloured exuberance in the case of your more Catholic churches.  One of the churches I sing at used to drape their life-sized cross with purple satin throughout Advent, and then fling a bright swathe of fuchsia cloth of gold across the satin for what, it must be confessed, was our absolutely favourite time of the year to sing there.  The monks wear embroidered pink vestments, too.  Very fetching.

But I digress.

This being the Sunday for rejoicing, I naturally turn to Purcell, because there is nothing more joyous than singing one of his anthems, unless it is singing one of his arias.  He is truly a joy to sing.  And this anthem – also called the Bell Anthem, because of the bell-like accompaniment – is one which is frequently chosen for Gaudete Sunday, for reasons which are probably obvious.

There is so much to love in this piece of music.  I love the bell-like strings at the start and in between the choral sections, the dance-like rhythm of the main melody, and that absolutely thrilling part when the whole choir comes in like a heavenly host for the chorus.  And then the beautiful stillness of ‘the peace of God which passes all understanding’.  Such beautiful writing, and such a perfect piece of music, combining rejoicing and reflection – exactly right for this Sunday in Advent.

Now that the sun hath veil’d his light (Henry Purcell)

I’ve reached one of those points where everything is unbearably stressful and overwhelming and I can’t cope and I sort of wish I could get appendicitis or something because then nobody could possibly expect me to get everything done.  (I realise that this isn’t exactly a healthy wish, but that’s just how it is, sometimes.)

Therefore, we get the Catherine equivalent of easy listening on this blog, which is to say, very mellow Purcell sung in the wonderfully gentle and effortless tones of Carolyn Sampson.

I won’t say that this makes everything better, but it does make appendicitis look a lot less appealing.  For one thing, that would probably hamper my ability to look up the music for this and learn it myself…

Monday Music: The Cold Genius (Henry Purcell)

It was absolutely necessary that I find a counter-tenor song for today, since I’m still so very disappointed that Cezar‘s magnificent counter-tenor effort on Eurovision didn’t do better, but it’s after midnight as I schedule this, and I have to work tomorrow, so was really not up for trolling the internet in search of the perfect piece of music.

Fortunately, it turns out that I had, stashed away in my list of things to write about, Andreas Scholl singing the Aria “What Power art Thou”, also known as the song of the Cold Genius, from Purcell’s King Arthur. Continue reading

Monday Music: The Blessed Virgin’s Expostulation (Purcell)

I’m planning (hoping is more accurate, at this stage) to do the Trinity ATCL exam this year, so I’m currently collecting repertoire suitable for a recital.  This piece of music is one I ran across a few years ago, and the title immediately piqued my interest.  It isn’t often that you see the word ‘expostulation’ in a song title, after all.

Then I heard it, and fell completely in love.

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Friday Fun: When I have often heard young maids complaining (Purcell)

I know, I know, it’s more Purcell.  Anyone would think I had no imagination at all.  But the thing with Purcell is that if you are looking for gorgeous church music, there he is, writing it.  If you are looking for delicate, beautiful artsong, there’s Purcell again, writing that, too.  If you are looking for opera, or drunken rounds with impeccable music, he’s your man.

So it’s hardly a surprise that when you are in search of hilariously funny opera – in English, too, which does give us more scope, don’t you think? – Purcell is one of the names that comes up.

Incidentally, if you are watching this at work, you may want to switch it off as soon as the initial aria is finished.  The aria itself is mildly naughty, but the naughtiness is largely from the words.  What happens after the aria is probably not something you want the boss watching over your shoulder.  (There’s no nudity, but it is still decidedly not safe for work)

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