Advent Calendar Day 19: The Angel Gabriel from Heaven Came (Trad. Basque)

Today’s carol is a very special one, because it is sung by a very dear friend of mine, Shakira Searle, with whom I used to sing regularly before she and her partner moved to Portland, Oregon.  After that, singing regularly became a bit more of a challenging.  But we still sing together in spirit, because she has a regular series of gigs at The Grotto, which is a Catholic shrine and sanctuary in Portland that sounds absolutely gorgeous, not least because of all the singing they have there during their Festival of Lights in December.  And meanwhile, I, too, am singing carols and Catholic music at every possible opportunity during December, so we may be singing at different times, but we are definitely singing from the same songbook!

Given that I’m doing a bit of an Annunciation series this week, it was irresistible to use Shakira’s recording of ‘Gabriel’s Message’ (also known as ‘The Angel Gabriel from Heaven Came’), recorded at the Grotto last year.

Isn’t she gorgeous?  I really do miss singing with her.  I’ve always loved this carol, which I first encountered in primary school (where we invariably sang ‘most highly flavoured lady’, and thought this was *hilarious*), and there are some very lovely harmonised versions of it around too (this one, by All Angels, is another favourite of mine).  But I can’t help suspecting it would sound even better if one was listening to it in a candle-lit garden.  If you are anywhere near Portland, I would certainly recommend this festival to your attention.

On another note, I can’t express how strange it is to see someone I have carolled with regularly performing a Christmas carol all rugged up in a woolly jumper.  I know, of course, that everyone else in the world gets Christmas in winter (and it isn’t as though Melbourne Christmases are reliably hot, either), and I’m quite used to seeing other people carolling in heavy coats, but I feel a real sense of cognitive dissonance seeing Shakira carolling in what is obviously the middle of winter!


Advent Calendar Day 14 – The Angel Gabriel from Heaven Came (Trad. Basque)

My little work choir had its first performance today (I’m so very proud of them!), so I’m beginning to feel as though Christmas can’t be far away… time to sneak in a Christmas carol or two, albeit a fairly Adventy one.

The school I went to for late primary had a daily assembly with hymns. If you had been good, you got to pick the hymn for the day. In retrospect, some of the choices were a little odd – one friend always picked ‘Glad that I live am I’, because it was really short. I liked ‘I Vow To Thee, My Country’, because I was really into Rosemary Sutcliff and then the English Civil War, and the whole romantic patriotism thing. We would have Christmas Carols in September or April, and Easter songs in November. We especially liked the one about Mary Magdalene washing the feet of the Lord with her hair. And another very popular choice at any time was Gabriel’s Message, also known as ‘The Angel Gabriel From Heaven Came’. Why? Because you could sing ‘most highly flavoured lady’ at the end of each verse and the teachers wouldn’t notice and we thought this was hilarious. It just got funnier with every verse, I tell you.

(in retrospect, it seems likely that the teachers did notice and just didn’t feel it was worth the argument. Given all the giggling going on, they must surely have known we were up to something.)

(in later years, we liked to sing ‘who knows the swell of the glamourous belle’ instead of the clamorous bell in our school song, because we thought this was terribly risqué. Trust me, the song had it coming.)

So this is a bit of a nostalgia piece for me, though now I’m not ten any more I actually like it because it has a pretty tune. The group performing are just lovely – I hadn’t heard them before, and I hadn’t heard this arrangement, but I am very fond of close harmonies, and they execute them perfectly. Also, they look like they are having fun, which is always a bonus.