At the time of writing this segment (late November), the Senior Choir is up to their ears in Christmas music. In no other season of the church year is there so much musical choice - and so much music of high quality. Many of the carols that everyone knows such as 'Away in a Manger' or 'Silent Night' are products of the 19th century, and are rendered in safe, secure four-part harmony. But if one goes further back - say to the 16th century - then one can find music that has a very different flavour.
'Gaudete', which we will be singing as a part of "Nine Lessons and Carols" is from a collection of songs with the title 'Piae Cantiones' (Holy Songs) and the date is 1582. 'Gaudete' has a rhythmic drive - a constantly changing meter (or no meter at all) - and was probably performed with a hand drum and singers who sang and moved. It is interesting to reflect that our word 'carol' comes from the French word 'caroler' -which means to dance in a ring.
However, I can reassure parents that we will not be doing any kind of Renaissance dance in the Cathedral - even if such an activity might be an authentic 16th century practice.
Meanwhile, out in the real world, at my local Safeway, 'Christmas Pop' music started playing on November 13 - two days after Remembrance Day. I know - because I was there and talked to my check-out lady. After suffering through multiple renditions of "Do they know it's Christmas" or "I saw Mommy kissing Santa Claus", employees have every right to run screaming from the store, claiming that this amounts to cruel and inhuman punishment.
To all, best wishes of the season:
Malcolm V. Edwards
Malcolm Edwards was born in Halifax, England and emigrated to Canada in 1967. He is a graduate of Sheffield College of Education (UK), Trinity College of Music, London, the University of Lethbridge, the University of Montana and has done further graduate work at the University of Northern Colorado. He taught music in junior and senior high school for twelve years in southern Alberta before joining the University of Calgary as a Professor of Music Education in 1980. He retired from the university after thirty-one years of service in 2011. In the community he was affiliated with the Youth Singers of Calgary for 21 years directing the Act Three and Senior divisions. In his retirement, he is now employed as an Adjunct Professor of Music at St Mary’s University, as the Artistic Director of the Calgary Men’s Chorus and as the Senior Choir Director at St John’s Choir Schola. He has held leadership positions within the Alberta Choral Federation, the Association of Canadian Choral Communities, served on the Board of the Alberta Foundation for the Arts and is active as a choral adjudicator and workshop leader in schools and churches. He is the recipient of two awards from the Provincial Federation – one in recognition of advocacy in arts education and the second in recognition of exemplary service to choral music within the Province of Alberta. In 2004 he received recognition from the national body (ACCC) for twenty-five years of service to the Canadian choral community.