stapsdoes101things: detail of a hymnbook page showing hymn no. 101, tune 'St Bernard' (101music)
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St James, Reading - St John the Baptist

After Mary, Mother of God, the saint who gets the most screentime in the Church's year is St John the Baptist. He has a Sunday in Advent dedicated to him, as well as his death - and his birth. This is good news for the alto in the church choir, because this gives you three, possibly four, opportunities over the course of the year to sing Gibbons' fantastic verse anthem This is the Record of John.

Traditionally this is countertenor territory, but over a number of years a variation has evolved in our choir in which the solo line is split between two altos, one male, one female, in which the narrative parts ('This is the record of John when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, Who art thou?, and he confessed and denied not, and said plainly...') are sung by the contralto, representing John the Evangelist, and the parts that John the Baptist says ('I am not the Christ') are sung by the countertenor. This sounds as if it should be terribly awkward, but it actually works very well, giving the anthem the feeling of an oratorio in miniature.

I should have sung this in Advent, at the Advent Carol Service and then on the third Sunday. I'm not being bolshy: I actually was down to sing it, but I got the 'flu and had no voice until Christmas, which was immensely frustrating. This, however, is where John the Baptist and his plethora of festivals come in handy. Today is the feast of the birth of John the Baptist; it's a major saint's day and he gets a collect and appropriate readings. And an anthem.

I was terrified, and, unusually for me, became more terrified as the piece went on. I fluffed most of my entries but the director covered those lapses, and made a fairly decent sound on the whole. I have received a number of compliments, anyway, so I think the congregation didn't notice the bad bits. On balance I'm feeling reasonably good about how I did. And what better piece than this to end this goal?

August 2013

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