|Matthew Cann gently guides his choir of Cathedral singers|
|Bass Michael Vian Clark|
Director of Music at Buckfast Abbey
An antiphon is a 'responsory' chant in christian liturgy. Usually sung at vespers (the 7pm service). They can be sung by a choir or by soloist. They are based on christian scriture - usually the psalms.
During the week before christmas eve the 'O antiphons' are sung. These celebrate the different names that are given to Jesus Christ in the new testament. Jesus is addressed (in Latin) as:
'O Sapientia' (wisdom)
'O Adonai' (lord)
'O Radix Jesse' (root of Jesse)
'O Clavis David' (key of David)
'O Oriens' (east - i.e. morning star)
'O Rex Gentium' (king of the gentiles)
'O Emmanuel' (name from Isaiah - God with us)
|Bass Charles Blamire-Brown|
sings the Antiphon for 22nd December
'O Virgo Virginem' (virgin of virgins)
This last is an Anglican addition to the Catholic Liturgy.
As an alternative to one each day, all can be sung at once as at Saturday's concert. In a Catholic church, like Buckfast Abbey, they will be sung in Latin. In Exeter's Anglican cathedral they will be sung in English.
In addition to the antiphons, each sung by a soloist, the new choir 'Antiphon' sang many beautiful songs in between them. They opened with 'Rorate Coeli' (Isaiah 45.8: 'Rorate coeli desuper et nubes pluant justum' - 'Heavens fall from above and rain down righteousness'). This is from the 'divine office' (obligatory prayers) for advent. First the traditional plainsong version (from the days before harmonising was allowed by the church) was sung (from some mysterious location) by the altos, and echoed by the tenors. Eventually the altos appeared from their hiding place - in the transept - and the whole choir harmonised in William Byrd's polyphonal version from the sixteenth century (when harmonising was allowed).
The choir are phenominal, and so are the acoustics at the Abbey. Standing in the Quire their voices resonated in the transepts, sacristy, nave - and tower. Five echo chambers! In a few short minutes the choir demonstrated, not only their great talent, but also the historical transition from plainsong to harmony. Superb stuff.
|A familiar alto|
David Acres (front)
This was choral singing at its very best. Coming from all over south of England, the individual singers rehearsed only once, on Saturday afternoon. However, with their combined talent - and Matthew Cann's expert guidance - the sound at the evening's recital was sublimely beautiful. The setting was perfect and, with Father Abbot's approval, the choir sang in the perfect position to produce an unforgettable sound.
Can we hear more? Matthew has plans to reconvene 'Antiphon' in March next year - an Easter theme no doubt. Watch this space for details.