Tuesday 19 December 2017

Christmas Eve services in London

St Bride's Church, Fleet Street
St Bride's Church, Fleet Street
Some years ago, we stayed in Canterbury for Christmas and arrived on Christmas Eve  in time to attend Evensong at the Cathedral. It was a lovely way to begin the festive season, but one which has proved difficult to repeat. Few churches offer Evensong on Christmas Eve and services are mainly devoted either to carols or midnight mass. In London, we have often attended the Solemn Vespers at Westminster Cathedral, which provides a fine afternoon alternative.

This year, with Christmas Eve being a Sunday there is a wider choice of sung services, with a wide variety of sung morning services to choose from. If it is Evensong you are after, then in London St Bride's Church, Fleet Street has a sung service (Gibbons & Tallis), whilst there is said Evening Prayers at Southwark Cathedral or there is Solemn Vespers at Westminster Cathedral (Buxtehude & Victoria) where you can hear Peter Steven performing Messiaen's La Nativité du Seigneur in the hour before the service. In Canterbury, the cathedral is again giving Evensong where they will be performing the final O anthem, O Virgo Virginum, plus Wood in B flat and the Hereford Carol.

One of the reasons for the scarcity of Evensong is that it stretches already busy choral resources, and at Westminster Cathedral they are giving the boys the morning off and the Solemn Mass is being sung by men's voices (Palestrina and Parsons).

There is a lot of lovely music on offer, Haydn's Little Organ Mass crops up twice, and there is inevitably plenty of Palestrina, but also Guerrero, Victoria and even Lotti (the three-part service at St George's Cathedral, Southwark), but there is also Berkeley's Missa Brevis (at St Paul's Cathedral), and Vierne's Messe Solennelle at Southwark Cathedral.

A full list of services after the break:
This list is inevitably selective. I have omitted all Midnight Masses, any carol services and blessings of the crib.

All Saints Margaret Street
11:00 am High Mass
Introit     Rorate caeli desuper
Setting     Missa Ave Maria (Palestrina)
Anthem     Ecce concipies - Handl

St George's Hanover Square
11:00am Sung Eucharist
Setting: Missa Sancta et immaculata (Guerrero)
Motet: Laetentur coeli (Byrd)

Westminster Abbey
11:15am Sung Eucharist
Setting: Missa Ave Maris Stella (Victoria)
Motet: Ave Maria (Mendelssohn)

St Paul's Cathedral
11:00am Sung Eucharist
Setting: Missa Brevis (Berkeley)
Anthem: Rorate coeli desuper (Byrd)

Southwark Cathedral
11:0am Sung Eucharist
Setting: Messe Solennelle (Vierne)
Anthem: Magnificat (Sumsion in G)

3:00pm Evening Prayer (said)

St Bride's Church, Fleet Street
11:00am Sung Eucharist
Setting: Missa Brevis (Palestrina)
Anthem: A maiden most gentle (Carter)

5:30pm Choral Evensong
Responses: Smith
Magnificat & Nunc Dimittis: Short Evening Service (Gibbons)
Anthem: Te lucis ante terminum (Tallis)

Westminster Cathedral
10:30am Solemn Mass, Men's voices
Setting: Missa Alma Redemptoris Mater (Palestrina)
Motet: Ave Maria (Parsons)

3:00pm  La Nativité du Seigneur (Messiaen) played by Peter Steven

4:00pm Solemn Pontifical First Vespers of the Nativity (Full Choir)
Magnificat octavi toni - Buxtehude
O magnum mysterium - Victoria

The Church of the Immaculate Conception, Farm Street,
11:00 Solemn Mass
Setting: Missa quarti toni (Victoria)
Motets: Ave Maria (Victoria), Rorate coeli desuper (Guerrero)

St James's Roman Catholic Church, Spanish Place
10:30am Solemn Mass
Setting: Missa trahe me post te (Victoria)
Anthems: Ave Maria (Guerrero), Dixit Maria (Hassler)

St Etheldreda's Church, Ely Place
11:00am Solemn Mass
Setting: Missa Sancti Joannis de Deo (Haydn)
Motet: Propre est Dominus (Regnart)

St George's Cathedral, Southwark
11:00am Solemn Mass
Setting: Messa a tre voci (Lotti)
Motet: Ave Maria (Josquin)

Canterbury Cathedral
10:30am Sung Eucharist
Setting: Missa Sancti Joannis de Deo (Haydn)
Anthem: A Tender Shoot (Goldschmidt)

3:00pm Evensong
Antiphon: O Virgo Virginum
Setting: Tone ii Solemn & Wood in B flat
Anthem: Hereford Carol (arr. Robinson)

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