All posts by kruekutt

Grateful for my beloved wife, son, daughter-in-law, grandchildren and siblings. Also a lover of theology, music, history, philosophy, classic novels, science fiction, fantasy and Looney Tunes.

Sir Stephen Cleobury, 1948-2019

A giant of British sacred choral music has passed from our scene:

It is with great sadness that King’s College has learned of the death of Sir Stephen Cleobury. Stephen died last night, 22 November, in York, his hometown since he retired in September, after a long illness. He died peacefully in the late hours of Saint Cecilia’s Day, the patron saint of music and musicians.

cleobury

Sir Stephen was the Director of Music at King’s College, Cambridge from 1982 to this past September, when he officially retired.  His first recording of Christmas carols with the choir at King’s, O Come All Ye Faithful, is one of the albums that changed my life; his final Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols at King’s (held on Christmas Eve 2018 and celebrating the 100th anniversary of the tradition) was released on CD & digital download earlier this month.

For more about choral music at King’s, Timothy Day’s I Saw Eternity the Other Night is a recently published, accessible and moving history of the tradition.  In the meantime, the next Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols at King’s will be held on Christmas Eve, directed by Sir Stephen’s successor, former King’s Organ Scholar Daniel Hyde.

May our Lord grant Sir Stephen eternal rest, and may light perpetual shine on him.

— Rick Krueger

Spirit of Talk Talk

In the mail today: a new paperback edition of Spirit of Talk Talk, the 2012 history/coffee table book/tribute to this indefinable British band.

To quote publisher Rocket88’s blurb:

Filled with art director James Marsh’s fabulous designs and photos from every stage of the band’s career, the book includes a preface by founder member Simon Brenner, contributions and tributes from musicians, friends and fans, plus a heartfelt afterword honouring founder and leader Mark Hollis.

Eight pages of new material include brief interviews with band members Lee Harris and Paul Webb (who didn’t contribute to the original edition), more photos and the above mentioned afterword by music journalist Chris Roberts.

Talk Talk came a long way from the Duran Duran clones that I saw open for Elvis Costello back in the summer of 1982.   On first perusal, Spirit of Talk Talk is every bit as enigmatically beautiful as the music they made on The Colour of Spring, Spirit of Eden and Laughing Stock.  The book can be ordered direct from Rocket88 or through the best online music shop in the world, Burning Shed.

For Christmas Day: “My Lord Has Come” by Will Todd

Shepherds, called by angels,
called by love and angels:
No place for them but a stable.
My Lord has come.

Sages, searching for stars,
searching for love in heaven;
No place for them but a stable.
My Lord has come.

His love will hold me,
his love will cherish me,
love will cradle me.

Lead me, lead me to see him,
sages and shepherds and angels;
No place for me but a stable.
My Lord has come.

Blessed Christmas to all!

— Rick Krueger

For Christmas Midnight: “What Sweeter Music” by John Rutter

What sweeter music can we bring
Than a carol for to sing
The birth of this our Heavenly King?
Awake the voice! Awake the string!

Dark and dull night fly hence away!
And give the honour to this day
That sees December turn’d to May.

Why does the chilling winter’s morn
Smile like a field beset with corn?
Or smell like a meadow newly shorn,
Thus on a sudden?  Come and see
The cause why things thus fragrant be:
’Tis He is born, whose quickening birth
Gives life and lustre, public mirth,
To heaven and the under-earth.

We see Him come, and know Him ours,
Who with his sunshine and his showers
Turns all the patient ground to flowers.
The darling of the world is come,
And fit it is we find a room
To welcome Him.

The nobler part
Of all the house here is the heart,
Which we will give Him; and bequeath
This holly and this ivy wreath 
To do Him honour, who’s our King
And Lord of all this revelling.

— Robert Herrick (1591-1674)

For Christmas Eve: “A Spotless Rose” by Herbert Howells

A spotless Rose is growing,
Sprung from a tender root,
Of ancient seers’ foreshowing,
Of Jesse promised fruit;
Its fairest bud unfolds to light
Amid the cold, cold winter,
and in the dark mid-night.

The Rose which I am singing,
Whereof Isaiah said,
Is from its sweet root springing
In Mary, purest Maid;
For through our God’s great love and might
The Blessed Babe she bare us
In a cold, cold winter’s night.

“O Herbert, that cadence to A Spotless Rose is not merely ‘one of those things’.  Brainwave it certainly is, but it is much more than that.  It is a stroke of genius.  I should like, when my time comes, to pass away with that magical cadence.”

— Howells’ fellow composer Patrick Hadley

Blessed Christmas Eve to all!

— Rick Krueger

The O Antiphons: O Emmanuel

The O Antiphon for the Magnificat at Vespers on December 23:

O Emmanuel, our king and our Lord, the anointed of the nations and their Savior: come and save us, O Lord our God.

Healey Willan (1880-1968), professor at the Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto and organist at St. Mary Magdalene Church in the same city, composed a setting of The Great O Antiphons of Advent for the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod’s Concordia Publishing House in 1957.  Here’s Willan’s setting of “O Emmanuel,” as sung by the choir of Christ Church Cathedral in Vancouver, British Columbia:

O come, O come, Emmanuel,
And ransom captive Israel,
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear. 

Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel!

— Rick Krueger

(Image: O Emmanuel by Linda Witte Henke, Te Deum Designs.)

The O Antiphons: O King of the Nations

The O Antiphon for Magnificat at Vespers on December 22:

O King of the nations, the ruler they long for, the cornerstone uniting all people: come and save us all, whom you formed out of clay.

For their 2016 debut recording Drop Down, Ye Heavens, the London-based student-formed choir Siglo de Oro commissioned a new set of O Antiphons from various British composers, sung in English and set for choir and saxophone.  Here is Gareth Wilson’s yearning setting of “O King of the Nations”:

O come, Desire of nations, bind
In one the hearts of all mankind;
Bid Thou our sad divisions cease,
And be Thyself our King of Peace.

Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel!

— Rick Krueger

(Image: O Rex Gentium by Linda Henke, Te Deum Designs.)