A new church year is upon us, and with it comes the first choral broadcast for the season of Advent. Yesterday, Radio 3 broadcast the Advent Carol Service live from the Chapel of St John’s College, Cambridge, the choir of which has a deservedly high reputation. They’re also innovative; about 6 weeks ago, they became the first choir of this kind to make their services available as weekly webcasts; for more information go here.
The service featured several interesting contemporary pieces. James MacMillan‘s A New Song is one of his most emphatically melodious anthems; its blend of high solemnity yielding to radiance is just right for Advent. Simon Beattie‘s Advent Calendar is broadcast here for the first time; it’s an interesting piece, not entirely successful, as it lacks a clear sense of direction, but with some nicely-judged poignant harmonic writing. Jonathan Dove‘s I am the day is a simple, delicate confection with a curious patchwork quality, weaving fragments that each sound familiar yet become something new; i like it.
John McCabe‘s stirring new anthem bears the impressive title The last and greatest herald. It introduced a perfectly-timed clamour into the service, nicely mirroring the jarring quality that prophecy inevitably brings. The conclusion of the service included Peter Wishart‘s boistrous Alleluya! A new work is come on hand, which alternates quite wildly between emphatic, strident outcries and marginally softer descending passages, resembling a rather manic peal of bells.