A busy time at the Cathedral

By Dr Christopher McElroy

The Cathedral Choir's routine is never quiet. However, December is a busier month than most each year. The usual routine of choral services is augmented by concerts, carol services and other special occasions. This year is actually the shortest possible Advent as Christmas Eve falls on the Fourth Sunday of Advent.
We begin Advent with the Advent Sequence on Sunday 3 December at 5pm. This is a beautiful service where we reflect on the coming of our saviour, Jesus Christ, in words and music. We make full use of the extraordinary architectural space here in the Cathedral, giving life to the words of the Advent responsory 'High and low, rich and poor, one with another'. The choir will sing music by Byrd, Palestrina, Tallis, Wood and Mathias before concluding with the orthodox composer John Tavener's ethereal double choir A Hymn to the Mother of God, which he wrote in eternal memory of his mother.
The week beginning Monday 4 December sees the girl choristers lead the music at the Cathedral's Schools Advent Carol Services, to which over 3,000 young people come from across the Archdiocese to share in the Christmas story. The same week our Youth Choir sing carols at Moore's House retirement home; our Junior Choir sing at the Action for Children concert at the Anglican Cathedral; the girl choristers sing at the BBC Radio Merseyside carol concert (subsequently broadcast on Radio Merseyside on Christmas Eve at 4pm); the boy and girl choristers sing carols in John Lewis in Liverpool One; and the boy choristers perform Benjamin Britten's Ceremony of Carols with harp on Sunday 10 December from 3pm in the Cathedral. Quite a busy week, and we have only arrived at the end of the first week of Advent.
The week starting 11 December is in fact a little quieter, with the Youth Choir singing at the NSPCC carol concert, and the girl choristers performing at a carol concert in aid of the Whitechapel Centre at St Teresa's Church in Norris Green. Saturday 16 December sees our annual Dickensian Christmas Concert at 7pm. The audience for this concert has grown dramatically in recent years, with people coming to enjoy an evening of music, speech and drama with a Dickensian theme. BBC Radio Merseyside host Roger Phillips will once again compere, and the Cathedral choirs will be joined by musicians from the Cressington Orchestras and drama students from St Edward's College. Tickets are very reasonably priced at £5 (or £10 per family) and available from ticketsource.co.uk/lpoolmetmusic or the Cathedral gift shop (0151 707 3525.)
Unusually, due to Christmas Eve falling on a Sunday, we have our Festival Carol Service on the Third Sunday of Advent, Sunday 17 December, from 5pm. This is a wonderful opportunity to come and sing your favourite Christmas carols with the Cathedral Choir and enjoy mince pies and mulled wine afterwards. The climax of December then arrives the weekend of 23–25 December. Midnight Mass will be broadcast live to the nation on BBC Radio 4, meaning that the Cathedral musicians will have a rather busy few days, with a BBC rehearsal on Saturday 23 December, followed by Solemn Mass and First Vespers of Christmas on Sunday 24 December – before a 9.30pm start on Christmas Eve to rehearse and sound check prior to broadcasting Midnight Mass. After a few hours' sleep it will be back for the Solemn Mass of Christmas morning. I wonder how many of our singers and musicians will have a snooze after Christmas dinner?