Flash Compline: 9.45pm, Wednesday 30-11-11.

There will be a Flash Compline service at 9.45pm on Wednesday, 30th November, outside St James Garlickhythe, near Mansion House Tube station. Here is a map.

Music: We will use this setting of Compline. I will have a small number of spare copies, which you can purchase from me for £2 if you want to keep them, or borrow if you don’t. Don’t worry if you aren’t a confident singer — follow along with the text and see what you can pick up. Everyone is welcome. If we don’t have enough confident singers we can always say the liturgy instead.

This setting uses the words from Common Worship Traditional Language Compline. Various smartphone apps for this exist and it is available from the C of E website here on the day, if you’re worried we won’t have enough music or you’d rather just use the words.

PLEASE ARRIVE QUIETLY AND DEPART IN SILENCE.

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Multi-tracking chant experiment

This is a brief experiment with multi-tracking chant.

http://player.soundcloud.com/player.swf?url=http%3A%2F%2Fapi.soundcloud.com%2Ftracks%2F19235111 Creator lucis optime (English) by artsyhonker

You see, I’ve got this hare-brained idea about podcasting a sung Compline online, possibly in some kind of Whitacre-style virtual choir. That’s hard to coordinate, with chant: the pulse is directed by the words, so metronome markings are no help, for starters. But gathering together a little schola cantorum to come and sing with me in person once a week or once a month seems equally daunting. And I worry that singing Compline by myself is just going to sound a bit daft; there are too many responsorial bits, really.

So I thought I’d take something simple and see whether I can sing chant with myself, so to speak. In went the headphones and out came the hymnal to select something I’d not sung before. The results are… instructive, really. This will need a lot of work on intonation and timing before I’m happy to do an entire Compline. I did actually cheat and “mute” some sections of some voices in one or two places where the timing was just unbearably out of sync; I didn’t do any other fancy stuff, though. What you hear is what I sang.

I guess if I want an online Compline to be a recording of an actual prayer, rather than something that takes hours of editing and re-recording to get into acceptable shape for posting online, I need to find some people to sing with me, or get used to the idea of singing alone.

There are, of course, other folks who put this sort of thing online. Most seem to be regular “Compline choirs” in the US, who rehearse regularly, or monastic groups with their daily Office available as podcasts. I’m not entirely sure how what I want to offer would be significantly different, and maybe I need to figure that out, too. On a very basic level, I’d like it to be something that encourages people to join in. That means providing links to the text and preferably to notation with the text underlaid, not just an audio file as I have above.

"Go quietly to bed"

Sunday evening, I had the privilege of singing Compline with the choir at St Mary’s Addington. I started attending services in the parish once in a while in order to visit a friend of mine who is Curate there, but the community — and especially the choir — has become a real resource for me. As an organist working in a C of E church but who doesn’t come from an Anglican background it’s been excellent to be exposed to some of the standard repertoire from the rehearsal side as well as hearing it sung in services and, eventually, joining in and even conducting from time to time; they also did me the honour of singing a piece I composed. I’ve always been made very welcome and if the journey from Leytonstone weren’t so silly I’m sure I would want to be there more often.

Anyway, Compline. I hadn’t ever attended a Compline service before, not even a said one, so this was a new experience for me, though I’m familiar with the general shape of the liturgy. I’ve had a bit of a brush with chant notation in other contexts, and it’s pretty straightforward to read if you’re already good at transposition, so that wasn’t a problem for me. I struggled a bit more with the psalm pointing but once I got the hang of it that was also straightforward. The service was by candle light, and very atmospheric. Choir and cantor sang well; that sort of unaccompanied unison singing is harder to do well than you might imagine, but the pitch stayed pretty stable throughout and I think the timing was good.
Compline is the last Office of the day and it is traditional to go quietly to bed afterward, without speaking and certainly without any cavorting about. I can certainly see how after singing the service in the cosy intimacy of St Mary’s, going home quietly and to bed without further ado would be quite welcoming even if it meant a fairly early night. That option was, alas, not open to me: my journey from Leytonstone to Addington had been by bicycle, then train, then tram, and so on the way back I did the same in reverse (well, I didn’t ride the bicycle backward, that doesn’t work…). I wouldn’t say I was cavorting, exactly, but even on a Sunday night in London one must keep one’s wits about oneself on a bicycle. Still, I’m very grateful for having had the opportunity to go.