Advent is the season of holy questions that belong to the pageant of God’s Word coming to us as light opening us out to hope, joy, and peace. Nowhere is that concentrated more profoundly than in the Service of Nine Lessons and Carols, a service first instituted at King’s College, Cambridge, just after the devastations of the First World War. It spoke to a world in darkness and despair and in the agony of loss. So, too, it speaks to us at King’s-Edgehill in these challenging times. Like Mary’s question, it opens us out to a kind of miracle.
We were unable to have the ‘big’ service of Grades 6 through 11 at Christ Church this year or to be allowed to have congregational singing but we were able to find creative ways to have services for all the School within certain groupings; in short, four services involving a wonderful range of readers, musicians, and servers, and all in the Chapel. While not all together as one, we were nonetheless together in the hearing of the same powerful lessons of Scripture. The service was structured around the great Advent Matin Responsory (arranged by Palestrina, 16th century) and by way of the traditional verses of the Veni Emmanuel which is built around the Great ‘O’ Antiphons. Those antiphons highlight various scriptural names and titles associated with Jesus Christ such as O Emmanuel (God with us), O Sapientia (Wisdom), O Adonai (Lord), O Jesse Virgula (Rod of Jesse), O Clavis Davidica (Key of David), O Oriens (Day-spring or star), and O Rex Gentium (King of the Gentiles). The initial worlds of the antiphons more or less in their reverse order form an acrostic: O Emmanuel, O Rex, O Oriens, O Clavis, O Radix (‘virgula” in the hymn), O Adonai, O Sapientia, forming ERO CRAS which can be loosely translated as “I will be there tomorrow”, in anticipation of the advent of Christ.
On Friday, December 4th, at 2:00 pm, the Junior School had their special service with students reading responses in the Matin Responsory, reading the lessons, and reading the psalm and hymn verses of the great Advent carol, the Veni Emmanuel
, the refrain of which was played on the organ by Mr. Steven Roe. The readers of the responsory parts were Harrison Klein, Sadie Junger,
and Vincent Armstrong
. The readers of the lessons were Will Larder, Colin Stephens, Sabine Wellard, Jessica Etou, Fox Sullivan, Kazimir Schnitzer, Mathangi Somasekaram
(Prefect), along with Mrs. Taya Shields
and the Chaplain
. Sadie Junger
performed a lovely rendition of “O Little Town of Bethlehem” on keyboard while Harrison Klein played a delightful version of “God rest ye merry Gentlemen” on violin. Emily Mei
and Jessica Etou
sang beautifully and quietly “Silent Night” and then, in a lovely touch, the entire Junior School hummed the carol. After ‘the sharing of the light’, the entire Junior School, carrying their lighted candles, exited the Chapel lead by Chaz Faucher
playing ‘Amazing Grace’ on bagpipe. The service was live-streamed and can be viewed at this link: Friday, December 4th, 2:00 pm
. The servers were Jacob Fines-Belcham, Rendi Ashley, Danica Scully, Ava Shearer, Rylan MacInnis, Brin Lloyd, Isaac Woodworth,
and Claire Morton
It was a lovely service. I commend the entire Junior School for their cooperation and participation and thank the Junior School faculty, especially Mr. Kevin Lakes, for helping with the programme.
On Sunday, December 6th at 7:00 pm, the special service for the Grade 12 Graduating Class of 2021 was held in the Chapel. It had the same structure but with a choir under the direction of Stephanie Fillman
singing the responses to Palestrina’s Matin Responsory, and each choir member singing solo one of the verses of the Veni Emmanuel
with the choir singing the refrain through their masks. The service began in the dark with only candlelight. The lessons were well read by our senior students: Grace Gallant, Yiahuan (Edward) He, Svenja Priggemeyer, Gretchen Russell, Sarah Hilborn, Sarah Bell,
and Righo Etou
, along with the Headmaster, Joe Seagram
, and the School Chaplain
. Sarah Bell
and Lucy Goddard
played and sang a lovely duet, ‘Mary, did you know?’, the words of which complement wonderfully the great Bidding Prayer for the Service. Victoria Dubois
on flute and Cameron Stewart
on keyboard played and sang a lovely rendition of “Away in a Manger’. Mitchell Larkin
arranged an instrumental version of Bach’s ‘Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring’ for Oboe and Organ which he, on Oboe, and Mr. Roe
, on organ, played. Simply beautiful. After the singing of the Ninth Lesson by the Chaplain, Sarah Bell
and Emma Coughlan
sang an a cappella
version of ‘Silent Night’. The service concluded with the Matin Responsory. The servers were Thomas Boily, Jayden Morrow, Melanie Bent,
and Mikaela Hinds
. The service was live-streamed and can be viewed here: Sunday, December 6th at 7:00pm
. It was a memorable service and evening, thanks to the hard work and cooperation of so many.
On Monday, December 7th at 2:00 pm and 3:00 pm respectively, the Advent Christmas services for the Grade 10s and Grade 11s were held in the Chapel. The leader for the responses and hymn verses was Sean Hurley who also read the First Lesson. Other readers were Kara Day, Julia Field, Henry Mulherin, Polet Sanchez, Harrison Kim, Allie Pape, along with the Headmaster and the Chaplain. Once again, Sarah Bell and Lucy Goddard sang their arrangement of ‘Mary, did you know?’ and Lennon Rutledge sang and played on keyboard a beautiful version of ‘O Holy Night’. The servers were Qiaoman Tracey, Maggie Mills, and Weizhe (Alan) Xu. The service for the Grade 11s was similar to the Sunday evening service for the 12s albeit with different readers and servers and with Will Ahern on the organ. The readers were Thane Morgan, Rain Jhaj, Gregory Otto, Abigail Mercer, Doga Mercan, Stanislav Matkovskyi, and Abigail McCarthy along with the Headmaster and the Chaplain. The Choir sang the responses to the Matin Responsory that framed the service as well as singing as solos each verse of the Veni Emmanuel which punctuated the readings. The servers were Justin Day, Quinn Emery, Megan Mattie, and Hlib ‘Gleb’ Proshkyn.
The Choir members at the service for the 12s and 11s were: Victoria Dubois, Lennon Rutledge, Emily Norton, Maya Faucher, Taylor Cole, Aria MacDonald, Sarah Bell, Gabby Strickey, and Lucy Goddard. I am most grateful for their commitment and willingness to sing. It added immeasurably to the wonder of these services.
The services would not have been possible without the hard work and leadership provided by the Chapel Prefects under Sarah Hilborn. They were outstanding in helping with the candles and the servers and did so in a quiet, efficient, and responsible manner. All in all, the School found creative ways to hold these special services under the current limitations of the pandemic, holding out the vision of hope and peace and joy to all. All in all, a kind of miracle.
(Rev’d) David Curry
Chaplain, English & ToK TeacherChair of the Department of Religion and Philosophy