Music & Choir

Music is an integral and vibrant aspect of worship at St. Michael’s. The program consists of Music Director Raymond Hawkins, two professional section leaders, and our adult parish choir.

The choir sings in the 10:00 am Mass from Michaelmas (September) through Trinity Sunday (usually in early June), as well as at monthly Evensong and most major holy days—including the Holy Week Triduum. The choir’s repertoire encompasses such diverse music as plainchant, Renaissance polyphony, nineteenth century choral works, and the great heritage of Anglican cathedral music.

Evensong is sung here on a regular basis, occasionally by guest choirs, and there is also a concert series. The organ, a two-manual tracker-action instrument of 29 ranks, was built in 1975 by The C.B. Fisk Company of Gloucester, MA and is housed in an E. & G.G. Hook case dating from 1830.

Raymond Hawkins
Raymond Hawkins, Music Director

The season of Advent is a complex time in the church year. Perhaps most often, the first thing on our minds is the anticipation of Jesus’ birth at Christmas, but at the same time, the church is looking all the way ahead to his crucifixion, resurrection, and second coming. The multifaceted nature of this liturgical season is reflected in the diversity of poetic texts that exist for it, a handful of which will be featured at our Lessons and Carols service on 12/8. The choir will sing John Gardner’s vibrant, modern setting of the medieval English text, “Tomorrow shall be my dancing day,” which tells the story of Jesus’ life from before his birth all the way to his baptism. The story itself is not unfamiliar, but this particular version is told from a first-person point of view, as if Jesus himself were speaking. Jesus metaphorically describes the day of his incarnation as his “dancing day,” and humankind as his “true love.”

On the other hand, there are Advent texts which more heavily emphasize Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. One classic example of such a text is the hymn “Lo! he comes, with clouds descending,” which we will all sing together at Lessons and Carols. The second verse is especially crucifixion-centric with the words “those who set at nought and sold him, pierced, and nailed him to the tree, deeply wailing, shall the true Messiah see.” Though this hymn, when seen as a whole, is one of praise and adoration for Christ’s suffering on our behalf, the bright, uplifting character of the tune tends to hide the element of sacrifice that is, in fact, quite important to the story of his life. I hope that the accompaniment and descant we will use for this hymn, alongside all the other beautiful music at this year’s Lessons and Carols, will help you reflect on the varying aspects of this season.

Dates to add to your calendar:

What exactly is Evensong?
We hope the following excerpt from a great New Yorker article by James Wood may inspire you to attend the next Evensong service:

Suppose you find yourself, in the late afternoon, in one of the English cathedral towns—Durham, say, or York, or Salisbury, or Wells, or Norwich—or in one of the great university cities, like Oxford or Cambridge. The shadows are thickening, and you are mysteriously drawn to the enormous, ancient stone structure at the center of the city. You walk inside, and find that a service is just beginning. Through the stained glass, the violet light outside is turning to black. Inside, candles are lit; the flickering flames dance and rest, dance and rest. A precentor chants, “O Lord, open thou our lips.” A choir breaks into song: “And our mouth shall shew forth thy praise.” The precentor continues, “O God, make speed to save us.” And the choir replies, musically, “O Lord, make haste to help us.” The visitor has stumbled upon a service, Evensong, whose roots stretch back at least to the tenth century, and whose liturgy has been in almost continuous use since 1549. ... —from the Oct 22nd, 2012 issue

Isn't it nice to know that you don't have to go all the way to England to experience this ancient musical tradition?

Music at St. Michael's: Our online playlist
Evensong, February 2011, featuring the combined choirs of St. Michael's and St. John's Beverly Farms. Listen here
highlights:
  • Magnificat & Nunc Dimittis in A, Charles Stanford
  • Anthem: Greater Love Hath No Man, John Ireland
  • Organ Postlude: Carillon Sortie, Henri Mulet

 

 


Former Music Director, Dr. Douglas Major

Recordings: Songs of Heaven

Songs of Heaven
Love the music you hear Sunday mornings? Now you can have it anytime you like at home. The musical CD of St. Michael's choir and organ is here! Order copies from the Church Office for just $10 each.

Songs of Heaven CD cover-front
front cover
Songs of Heaven CD cover-back
back cover
last update 12/14/2019