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Advent Procession 'O' Antiphons/St Mark's Cathedral, Seattle
Advent Procession 'O' Antiphons - St Marks Cathedral Choirs - Peter Hallock - J. Melvin Butler

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Program and Notes Reviews
Advent Procession Based on The Great "O" Antiphons
Choirs of St. Mark's Cathedral, Seattle, Washington
J. Melvin Butler, organist/choirmaster
Peter Hallock, choirmaster (Compline Choir)
Roger Sherman, organist

The famous Advent Sunday service at St Mark's Cathedral consists of seven lessons and carols done in procession. Each is lesson/carol set is based on one of the "O" Antiphons," seven ancient Advent verses that each begin with the word "O". These antiphons later became the basis of the hymn "O Come, O Come Emmanuel" and each one names a particular attribute of Messiahship (King, Ruler, Wisdom, etc). The lesson/carol set begins when the Compline Choir (men) sing the "O" antiphon in its original Latin chant form. The mixed choir then picks up the theme in English with a polyphonic setting by Peter Hallock. While the antiphon text is sung, a banner symbolizing that antiphon is processed by candlelight to the chancel. A lesson and hymn, carol or anthem then follows, including: O day of God draw nigh; A Spotless Rose; Hark! The glad sound; Infinite Light; Hosanna to the Son of David; Lo, He comes with clouds descending; Gabriel's Message; O come, O come Emmanuel. This is a very special Advent service which is now being performed in many places around the world.
Program Notes

For more than fifty years, special evening celebrations on the First Sunday of Advent have been important events in the liturgical life of St. Mark's Cathedral, Seattle. The format of these services has followed the tried and true formula of readings from scripture with a variety of musical responses: processionals, psalms, carols, anthems and hymns.

That such a reasonable format should eventually suggest other possibilities did not arise until the use of that format (i.e. Lessons and Carols a la King's College, Cambridge) seemed, not only in its redundancy, but also in it's singular association with Christmas, to confuse and negate the distinctions appropriate to these important celebrations of Advent. Thus the question, "what to do?"

Thanks to an opportunity for creative dialogue with Dr. William Bertolas, at that time a member of the Compline Choir, we investigated the potential that seemed inherent in the Gregorian Chant settings of the Great "O" Antiphons, which have languished for too long on the dusty back shelves of liturgical disuse. While Christians of numerous denominations have for many years been singing the "O" Antiphons in the form of the hymn O come, O come, Emmanuel it seemed likely that this practice in itself had not really brought to life the vibrant images of Christ drawn form the Old Testament: Wisdom, Adonai, Root of Jesse, Key of David, Rising Dawn, King of Nations, and Emmanuel. Thus to celebrate the beginning for the Advent seasons with a liturgy in which the power of these images might be more vividly displayed and discovered anew became our goal.

The shape of the liturgy is quite simple: banners displaying the symbols of each antiphon are brought from the rear of the church, one at a time, as each antiphon is sung.After each banner is placed in the chancel a reading from scripture, a musical response (congregational hymn, carol or motet) and a prayer are offered. As a final musical response the hymn Veni, veni Emmanuel is sung with all of the banners carried in a grand exit procession.

Involved in the preparation of the first "O" Antiphon liturgy at St. Mark's were the following: the officiant, thurifer, seven readers, the Cathedral Choir, the Compline Choir, the organist, seven acolytes to carry banners, seven torchbearers to precede each banner in the procession. Various choir members and friends made the banners and the wooden stands that held the banners in the chancel. The generous hands on help of two members of the Altar Guild were of invaluable assistance in dealing with candles and innumerable back-stage details essential to successful execution of such and elaborate liturgy.

Few liturgies offer the opportunity for such wide and diverse participation of the laity, both in preparation and execution. It is from this standpoint that I feel those who prepare and offer this liturgy will find their greatest rewards and satisfaction.

-Peter Hallock

Average Customer Review: 5 of 5 Total Reviews: 1 Write a review.

  5 of 5 people found the following review helpful:
Stunning & Moving January 6, 2008
Reviewer: Christian Ellithorpe from Streamwood, IL United States  
Quite possibly the best of many Advent/Christmas choral offerings on Loft OR Gothic, and one of the most unique & moving releases of its kind on ANY label. The opening hymn, is worth the price of the disc alone, with soft organ undertones & calm bells open the piece (by Hallock, I believe), followed by the choir, in perfect, crystaline pitch, who join in one of the most moving twentieth century hymns I've ever heard on CD. This disc's format of meditations, readings & traditional Gregorian chant, along with contemporary hymns is one I continually choose this CD year-round, as an aid for deep reflection. Each of the "O" Antiphons, or Gregorian chants of reflection, (such as "O Stem of Jesse") are sung in traditional chant, followed by a reading, then by a contemporary hymn or anthem, and another reading. Incredibly clear, rich acoustics; & all of the readers have superb diction & expressive, sublime voices. HIGHLY recommended, especially for contemporary choral fans.

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