This year Advent began in November. This is because there are always four Sundays in Advent. If Christmas Day is on a Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday Advent Sunday is in December. Otherwise it begins in November, the earliest possible date being 27 November for years when Christmas day is on a Sunday.
(Please correct me if I am wrong, I have worked this out on the back of an envelope!)
For our Church choir the first big service was on the morning of 29 November. There was an Advent Carol service (five lessons and carols), similar to the world-famous Christmas Nine lessons and carols, but with music and readings chosen for the season of Advent. We processed in singing, O come, O come Emmanuel. The carols sung by the choir were People look East, Jesus Christ the Apple Tree, Advent Message, and And the glory of the Lord. The hymns were On Jordan’s Bank the Baptist’s cry, Hark!What a sound and too divine for hearing, Come thou long expected Jesus and Lo, He comes with clouds descending.
The second and third Sundays in Advent were marked with services of Holy Communion. At the first of these the choir was very few in number, but still managed to sing And the glory of the Lord by special request of the celebrant and preacher. The anthem at the second service was Be still for the presence of the Lord.
It is possible that some people attending the service are unaware that the organist and choir have been practising beforehand for at least 45 minutes. During Advent the emphasis is on the carols for our Nine Lessons and Carols which takes place at 4pm on the fourth Sunday in Advent.
For me the weekend before Christmas is exceptionally busy. An extra choir practice for this special service is always necessary. The morning service includes a traditional nativity play, which has carols interspersed among the lines recited by young actors. These are accompanied by an orchestra made up of children and adults.
For many years I have been involved in this, playing a recorder of whatever pitch is needed most. Attendance at a rehearsal is definitely recommended.
As well as singing in the Church choir, I also belong to another choir, which gives a Christmas concert in the church. This always includes carols, some with audience participation, but often includes secular music as well. The choirmaster introduces the songs with lots of background information. The church organist meanwhile accompanies us on the organ as required. This year much of our programme was a capella (unaccompanied). The singing is complemented by entertaining readings from members of the choir.
If the title of this post seemed the wrong way round, perhaps having reached the end of it, you appreciate my reasons for not calling it Music in Advent. For me Advent is dominated by music and other preparations for Christmas such as writing cards and wrapping presents.
Whether or not you celebrate Christmas, I pray that you will experience the peace of God at this time.