Muttley's Musical Advent Calendar

Season's greetings. 

Now my children have departed home, there's more chit chat by Whatsapp and less time spent with them (though perhaps they will get locked back into the family home quite soon).  So this year I have sent them a Whatsapp message to kick off Advent and will be sending a new Advent and Christmas musical link every day.  And I decided that you could have it too, but without the loving message from Dad. 

So here goes.  Day 1. We start gently. 

You're in Wells Cathedral. The lights are off and the candles have been snuffed. It's evensong and mid-winter dark.   Once the coughing and shuffling has stopped, silence descends and the Choir start the responses. I Look From Afar - YouTube 

good, will listen once I'm not on a teams meeting

don't forget Elizabeth Poston's version of JC the apple tree 

didn't know that one

not much of a tune but a pleasing arrangement and performance

who was Uzziah and what has the year of his death got to do with anything?

yes, it's a small thing. I am using it as a minor pause in proceedings. i do like Charles Wood's stuff and I like the tight choral performance here. Like choosing the apparently simple thing on the menu in a great restaurant - you know it has to be good if that's on offer. 

I believe Uzziah's death happened to be the year that Isaiah had his vision. The verse is as follows:


Twas in the year that King Uzziah died,
A vision by Isaiah was espied;
A lofty throne, the Lord was set thereon;
And with his glory all the temple shone.

Bright seraphim were standing round about
Six wings had every of that quire devout;
With twain he awesome veiled his face, and so
With twain he dreadful veiled his feet below.

With twain did he now hither, thither fly:
And thus aloud did one to other cry:
Holy is God, the Lord of Sabaoth,
Full of his glory are earth and heaven, both.

And at their cry the lintels moved apace,
And clouds of incense filled the holy place.


Good morning all. 

After a rather unnoticeable entry for day 7, Day 8's window is a big one in honour of yesterday's midwinter weather, bleak as it was.

In the Bleak Midwinter (Harold Darke) - YouTube


I am also going to take a risk and post a link of a video of my daughter singing the first verse solo on this one in her last year at school. They had to do their carol service as a recording due to Covid rules this time last year.  It is on their youtube channel so already in the public domain, so you could stumble on it anyway so I am less worried about posting this sort of stuff. She sings it nicely, but the tenor in the rest of the ensemble is too shouty.  He does a nice solo verse though. Canford School Music: Carol Service 2020 - YouTube   In the Bleak Midwinter is at 18.48 on this and there is an even more glacially paced Bethlehem Down at 23.51. Slow but very nicely sung. 



Thanks for posting it Mutters she does you proud. If that was my daughter I would just completely burst with pride.  

That's not me being nonchalant and arrogant in response to your kind message. I just get absolutely choked watching it. can't even type more than a grunt.

She still sweats with horror at what she regards as the most giant mistakes in that performance ("earth stood hard as i-Yun"; tuning in "wa-ter like a stone") and refuses to let anyone play it.  But only choirmasters and pedants note those things and I think it is very special indeed. Her pitch and tone on the notes that matter - bleak, stone, snow, looooong - is perfect. 

Yes, exactly, agreed. Also, she is not just singing notes, she's communicating the idea of the song, and that is the trick almost no-one can manage.

Even the '...iron, water..' that is annoying her - the bare fact of hitting and holding the note so cleanly on 'iron' is a piece of magic.

Ok will stop there. 

quite so. the I of Iron is sping tingling as is l-o-o-o-ong and that is the difference between a choral voice and an operatic or stage musical voice.  I have discussed this with her. What she's got there is an icicle rather than a fountain, and that is precisely what that verse requires. 

That's lovely Mutters, thank-you for sharing.  Your daughter has a lovely voice (and I genuinely know what I'm talking about) and she sings it beautifully.  The things that upset her are barely noticeable even on a recording; in a performance no-one would have given it a second thought.


I wonder if the prominence of the tenor is a mixing issue rather than one of ensemble.

my favourite carol

thanks, Mutts. She did sing it very nicely and has a lovely voice. "Don't look at the music, you know it already" is what one of my old music teachers would have shouted half way through.

I had got very behind with this so just catching up.  Darke's version is one of my favourite carols and your daughter's rendition was great, her tone is excellent, even if some of her enunciation and diction irritates her it doesn't detract from the overall effect!  Bethlehem Down is another favourite of mine, the Trinity pace is a little too slow for me, much prefer your second link.

As we are moving through the advent season I'm going to recommend this version of the Coventry Carol which isn't heard very often (I'm on this recording so no slagging it off!)… 

As an additional Darke anecdote - the version on the album link I sent you has Bryn Terfel doing the tenor solo. We were all very excited to record and meet with the great man but of course, he dialled it in from a studio later so we didn't get the chance.

cuckoo - I actually really like the fortissimo. Some very decent conducting and choir response there. It's really very good. 

Thanks, I’m glad you like it. The fortissimo section is particularly fun to sing as a second sop. I’m no longer in that choir as it was too much of a time commitment but it was generally an excellent standard and I had some very fun times.

This thread is amazing, I have really enjoyed all of the daily musical "doors".

I wonder whether Jesus Christ the Apple Tree might make it.

I love the medieval English in the verse.


First stanza is something like


Come thou lads and ye lasses 

Up, awake and away. 

Out and gone before cockcrow

On the road before day.


I often say that verse to myself in the morning as I set off.


I get the sense that interest is tailing off… but we are nearly half way. I will push on. We are going to move from delicate choral arrangements to nice big sounds, familiar hymns and carols etc.

here is one for your day 11 Advent window


We enjoyed Up, Awake and Away  - but not heard of it before - interesting piece.

I also enjoyed Of the fathers heart begotten, although I know it as Of the fathers love begotten  - weird - Corde natus was what I thought via translation.

not as funny as the puppetry of the penis/remarkable organ performances quote that greets me at the foot of page 1 of this thread every time.  You will do well to beat that.

This is becoming something of a minority interest, isn't it?

I may not make it to Christmas Eve on this thread if I am just doing it for my own pleasure (though that's a good enough reason in my book). 

So I promised some good Christmas organ choons and here is a massive one to re-whet your appetite. Played by the great but sadly late choirmaster and organist, the fearsome Richard Marlow, here is Gigout's Rhapsodie sur des Noels.

Rhapsodie sur des Noels (organ solo) - YouTube


Enjoy the full range of the organ pipes from little reeds to warm wooden flutes to large copper pipes and brass trumpets, with swell pedal fully in and fully out, with some great footwork and enjoy the chord progresssions and see how many of our favourite carols you can detect in this lovely building piece which develops to a huge crescendo and ends majestically with something like a peel of bells up, via Adeste Fidelis, to a lovely sustained major chord.



If this doesn't do it then am oot.

I am always a few days behind I fear. It might be a minority interest but a strong one I think, please persist!  

Good to hear the organ as the main event, this sort of piece is often talked over by the congregation, rude.

That is so right

they hear the diminuendo and some mumbling chords and decide it is the usual chord plodding used as they queue for communion so the chitter chatter begins then they don’t notice the gradual crescendo and big effort finish. This piece particularly has a quiet middle. 

One year i stood in St Paul’s waiting for the big chord in Widor’s toccata and by the time it came I was alone in the pew and everyone had fooked off to the west door chatting loudly about the traffic home and the weather. 

That's criminal. Widor was the recessionary at my wedding and even we stood at the back and listened until the end!  Tbf that Church has a good tradition of everyone staying put and giving the organist a round of applause at the end (whilst the applause can feel inappropriate it's nice to acknowledge the skill).

Is there any remaining interest in this thread apart from me and Cuckoo here? I am happy to continue to post daily if so. It's just getting drowned out by Boris, NuWuVu, general shoutiness. Quite an arse ache to just keep it afloat high enough up the board not to be forgotten within minutes tbh. 

Catching up

Harold Darke taught well into his dotage and by all accounts was a wonderful teacher. 

I’m likewise on record singing it, luckily you’ll never find that. 

Sorry for the rather muted launch of Day 14

I have been up and unwell since 2am and feel wretched now. I have a raised temp, a negative LF and a lot of unwellness going on.  I hope this is some sort of winter bug not NuVu as that would be bad timing and very unwelcome indeed. I listened back to all the carols in the night which was nice. It's a good old collection and we still have 10 more to come. 

Do carry on as even if we are not posting we are enjoying it and my Christmas tree is being decorated as we speak, never mind that it is my birthday.....

[Thanks for not leaving a day empty which happened with an advent calendar deliberately last week for political reasons and has caused children across the land to be in tears of disappointment at lack of the daily chocolate]


[One of the men decorating my tree in my hall has an awful cough so I assume he is leaving a dusting of Omnicrom spores in his wake......]

I never let the tree be put up until my birthday as only after that can Christmas start particularly as the tree only goes on 6th, the 12 day of Christmas, later than for most people, the day the Orthodox celebrate Christmas, I think.

Thank you. I am 60 but have not tried my free tube pass yet. Just my luck that when I started work state pension was 60 and now it's 67 and just as I get the pass as I cannot easily wear a mask I just about cannot use the free pass.........and in so many context singing is now against the law. At least I can still sing at home.

Omicrom seems to be becoming very omnipresent... but hopefully I will avoid it.

I hope you are better soon as we are all looking forward to day 15 and the rest....

Good morning


today’s window is a double. The music is Tomorrow Shall Be My Dancing Day. 

The Gardner arrangement is really brilliant and every year it grows on me a little more

but for those that cannot cope with the modern percussive organ and syncopated voices I bring you the Willcocks arrangement which is more familiar and perhaps more ‘church choral’ but less of a ‘ dancing day’ of joy that Gardner gave us.

mutts - are you familiar with the Charterhouse Carol? there's a treat for your calendar if not - have a google.

thanks, Mutts.

Enjoyed the Gardner version very much

the organ Rhapsodie was a bit organy for me to be honest  

yes the Gardner version was brilliant and beautiful.  

Sorry about the Rhapsodie.  As organ works go it is on the very organy end of the is it too organy spectrum.   Note to self, less organy organ stuff. 

This presents a problem for later on. I may have to reshuffle the 10 works ahead, or put organ stuff in as extras.   

Thank you for today's. I have never been a fan of Tomorrow shall be one but it has its place.

Meanwhilse it is interesting that I was calling the new varient "omnicron" until yesterday ( see my post above). I was saying to L4 earlier that that may be because we all know lots of words with omni in them - omnipresent, omnipotent etc so omni is familiar. Omi is not. Anyway I am forcing myself to get it right today. Omi omi omi.

Probably a subject for another thread.  But the reason it's called Omicron is that this is the 15th letter of the Greek alphabet. There have been twelve prior variants, not fourteen, but they skipped Nu (13) as it sounded like New and would confuse, and Xi (14)as this is the Chinese Premier's name and it could be diplomatically awks. 

1*rGpOZt4LRMZ7DElrxVwl1A.jpeg (1695×1581) (



Good morning all and a happy day 16 to one and all.  Today I am educatin’ ya and meeting the demands of the ‘lump by making sure the main piece is not ‘too organy’. In fact this modern, brooding beauty only has 5 notes from the organ foot pedals, repeated very occasionally with many rest bars in between as the choir sing this extraordinary composition mostly unaccompanied. 

The piece is ‘Illuminare, Jerusalem’ by Judith Weir, written for the King’s Choir and first produced in 1985. it is a modern rendition of a 15th Century text that celebrates the Feast of Christ the King. So many versions are sung too slow. It needs to be stirring and disturbing. This version by the Trinity Choir (again) is perfect.


The phrase 'illuminare, Jerusalem' is from Isaiah 60:1: 'Surge, illuminare, Jerusalem, quia venit lumen tuum, et gloria Domini super te orta est', 'Arise, shine, Jerusalem, for thy light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee.'

The text urges Jerusalem to rise and celebrate the conquest of Good over Evil, the latter illustrated by the terror of Herod’s decree and purge that the birth of Jesus overcomes.

You cannot ask for a better musical description of that story as the moody, minor toned, discordant and rapid voices, underpinned by a menacing bass organ motif, give way to the slower, richer, warmer chords that celebrate the Victory. 

You may not love it like Away in a Manger, but you have to admire it from all angles. 









Too much of a tin ear to comment except to say thanks, I’ve enjoyed them, and I’ve had to explain the calendar to my colleague next door who was about to revise his accurate and rather dim view of my musical tastes. 

Oooh! I sang the Berlioz last weekend at a concert. V nice indeed. I loveed singing the Sop line in the lead up to the pause and after. Beautiful. 

I have to assume you're keeping the great Advent antiphons ( O Adonai etc) until later

Hodie by Vaughan?

And Lydders, easy to remember and pronounce Omicron if you go back to the original Greek
O micron - little O
O mega - big O 

These are all lovely. I presume you're saving the better choirs for as we get closer to Christmas.


Boosie where was the concert? My wife sang it at a concert last weekend too. Are you in town or country?

The thread is of course entirely subjective. I thought we would build up chirch/family Christmas music we were all familiar with, there or thereabouts, in little bites rather than a big concert, but I love Bach’s Christmas Oratorio, so thanks. Christmas Oratorio was my Chr Eve number so I need to replan pronto.
Hard to gauge the appetite of the majority. 

Sorry Mutters. Didn't mean to barge in disrupting your thread
Just felt last Sunday in Advent could do with something extended
Getting depressed already of leaving Advent and Christmas into the horror of mindless Boxing Day 'footy ' clamour, drunken New Years Eve ' revelling ' etc etc
Can't help with substitute, other than Brittens Nine Carols, Messiah etc

Don’t get depressed. A lot of music to come. Surely the last Sunday tells us the Big Days are coming…!

Ah the Messiah, indeed The Messiah. Quintessentially Christmas music for British musical ears… perhaps the ultimate choral music for Advent… but written by a German, for the Passiontide, first performed in Dublin in a secular concert hall, the New Music Hall on Fishamble Street, on April 13th 1742, with the alto soloist a Mrs Susanna Cibber, an actress who had attracted scandal but whose emotional performance of 'He was despised' was said to align her own regret, shame and vulnerability with that of Christ, and whose performance moved Dr Patrick Delany – the husband of one of Handel's most ardent champions - to exclaim 'Woman, for this, be all your sins forgiven'. 

bonus tune Ironside, to see off your winter blues. 

I cannot give you Mrs Cibber, but here is a more appropriate message sung exquisitely by Diego Florez - a very excellent tenor on s Decca recording I love. He had a light choral, non operatic tone which is just right for this messsge: comfort ye