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 

The Diego Florez recording from the Messiah was delightful and not one I'd heard before

His accent slightly covers up the totally absurd words which is good

It's good isn't it?  His notation/enunciation in Ev'ry Valley is very impressive.  

His accent does make a couple of words quite amusing. 

That's one of my favourites of all time.  The counterpoint chorale harmony is brilliant.  I have sung it with three voices.  An alto and treble in the background who were superb.  Then also with a larger choir. The verse is lovely. 


This is the solo

Three Kings from Persian lands afar

  to Jordan follow the pointing star:

and this the quest of the travellers three,

  where the new-born King of the Jews may be.

Full royal gifts they bear for the King;

  Gold, incense, myrrh are their offering.


The star shines out with a steadfast ray;

  the kings to Bethlehem make their way,

and there in worship they bend the knee,

  as Mary’s child in her lap they see;

their royal gifts they show to the King;

  gold, incense, myrrh are their offering.


Thou child of man, lo, to Bethlehem

  the Kings are travelling, travel with them!

The star of mercy, the star of grace,

  shall lead thy heart to its resting place.

Gold, incense, myrrh thou canst not bring;

  offer thy heart to the infant King.


But the chorale is a completely different set of words running against the solo to a completely distinct harmony 

How brightly shines the morning star!

  With grace and truth from heaven afar

our Jesse tree now bloweth.

  Of Jacob’s stem and David’s line,

for thee, my Bridegroom, King divine,

  my soul with love o’erfloweth.

  Thy word, Jesu, inly feeds us,

rightly leads us, life bestowing.

  Praise, O praise such love o’erflowing.


I have seen that before and every time it makes me feel slightly sick. 

This is surely the pianist's exam nightmare come true.  You turn the page and the questions are about stuff you haven't revised.  You read a different set text... agggghhhhhh.

She looks completely shocked and totally struck down.  Then the bastard conductor says something like "oh well I am sure you'll do it really well" which either is very supportive or, alternatively, makes a difficult matter much much worse.  she is hoping he will tap tap and stop the orchestra. But he does not. She has to gather her thoughts and remember the details and reset herself. Then when she comes in it is fabulous.  Poor woman. Must have aged her half a century in 10 minutes. 

He says something like "we did that in the last season... I am sure you do that... pretty well" then turns attention back to the string fortissimo with a smile. She is catching the leader's attention and they are exhanging glances. 

This tells you everything you need to know about the true pecking order of classical music. As an audient, you think the soloist is the beans, the conductor is to be applauded for his office not his capability and the lead violin is a functional head of department. But it turns out that the conductor is an absolute totalitarian bastard and the soloist and leader are two peas in a subordinate pod. 

I did like this comment


"Now let's see the same thing where the pianist starts out with Rachmaninov 2 & the orchestra was ready to play something else. We get to see the orchestra sweat."

Bumping this. Some lovely stuff today, on this Winter Solstice. After today we will move from soft winter minor keys to rousing joyful carols. 

Further to Peresgate, tbf to the conductor, he would have known that Maria was a world renowned expert on Mozart, who had given many masterclasses, and would have known the Mozart off by heart

Different obv if he'd been playing Berg, Schoenberg or other 20th century rubbish, which no sane individual would have memorised

Also a ' walk in ' lunch time concert, which would not have been mission critical if Maria had played a few wrong notes, which would have been unlikely, in view of her professionalism

yes - ish


The thing is, for any performance there's a real period of lock in to the programme and mental preparation for excellence, even in a lunchtime concert. You can see her fighting to rid her mind of the music she was ready to play and to reset.   All that was needed was a walk off the stage and back on to do that but she had to do it as  the orchestra's overture began and the opening bars ticked down.  

I had that lined up around the time of the Angel Gabriel's visitation then decided we had done enough Mary stuff and moved on. I love that and you have to marvel at the maturity of the composition. 16. 

This is probably the true natural day we should celebrate in December here, our shortest day or hereabouts (not the 25th)

Many thanks for these. I like singing the Howells.


(The lady asked to play the piano earlier who had to play a different concerto looks distraught. It reminded me of my 1700 legal talks from 1991 to about 2 years ago although not quite in the same league as a concerto - although some 3 days long and plenty 6 hours long; so to avoid speaking about the wrong subject time again, at least 1700 times I would just confirm again and again the topic and times and places and the  bring printed and soft copy notes and back ups and memory sticks and lap top and most of all leave enough time to be hunting on my knees in the post rooms of obscure regional hotels to find the delegates' notes)

Still here and checking in every few days! The Cornelius is a personal favourite and one of the few times I wish I was a bloke so I could sing the solo as the sop part is dull in comparison!


I like both versions of Coventry but on balance prefer the medieval tune, I prefer its slightly more mournful tone.

Whilst we’re on Britten, the Procession from the Ceremony is the spine tingling one for me - dim church in candlelight clear voices floating from the back


the plainsong procession is really interesting given how much elaboration there is in the rest of the work. It's mighty.

Thank you for today's (and Handel  - one of my favourite composers who I believe hung out for a while at  what by the 1920s became L2's school building with the Duke of Chandos).

Love Annie Lennox raw version of Coventry Carol

Interesting Leonard Bernstein said of Britten's music that when you scratch the surface, there is something very dark. Chimes with my mood atm. May need to investigate further

Along with Schoenberg, who I may have dismissed too readily

Good choices. I like Lo he comes - it is a good one to sing.


I sang this one earlier this afternoon  ( Adam lay ybounden )  just at home - unfortunately only accompanied by my piano playing and no alto, tenor or bass from amongst my 8 descendants. I hope they won't entirely escape singing with me this Christmas at home...I shall have to excuse the youngest one as all it can do so far is cry and feed.


Happy Christmas to everyone.

I have not started the booze yet but what follows may cause you to doubt that. This is the one and only piece of music that takes me out of my physical body and lifts me into a transcendent state. Very briefly in the last bars the choir and the three organ chords cause a tear to flow and all the pressures of life to be forgotten and forgiven. It’s not a Jesus thing for me but a Christmas pressure relief after busy times and at year end. It’s my Phew/whoafuq choon. It unbundles me annually. 

Looking forward to it. I enjoyed last year's whilst still lurking rather than posting. 

I know the square root of nothing about the technicalities of choral music so won't be able to add much to the discussions but enjoy listening to it. 

some of the choices in this thread are no longer available so even if I repeated it I'd have to make a new set of choices.

So I am going to start again with a new thread. But if you want to get in the mood then have a listen to some of these. So lovely. Listening to my daughter singing again really hit me in the bullseye. I also loved the Gardner Tomorrow Shall Be My Dancing Day arrangement. it's just great.