Sunday, December 27, 2009

Christmas Music, 2009

Here is some visual evidence of this year's Christmas music at the Episcopal Parish of St. Michael and All Angels. Sorry, no audio!

At St. Michael's, the Christmas services begin with the 5 PM Family Mass on Christmas Eve. This is the service at which children help to set up the creche amid the appropriate Gospel readings and carols. Here, Father Smith leads the congregation in a Christmas carol. The woman at the piano, Better Miller, flies in every Thanksgiving and Christmas and plays for us. (She's mostly here to visit family.)

A major feature of music at St. Michael's is the Aeolian-Skinner pipe organ, which I photographed extensively years ago. In a loft at the back of the church is the antiphonal organ, seen here. It's an extra section of pipes far away from the main organ, which is housed in a chamber behind the church sanctuary.

The other main source of music at St. Michael's is the parish choir, directed by Jane Haman, who also plays the organ. Their Christmas performance is the "midnight" mass on Christmas Eve, which actually starts at 10 PM with carols and bible readings. They are supplemented by a string quartet - or is it a trio?

Aha. The fourth instrument in the quartet is the organ, played here by parishioner and choir member Keith Hege. Chuck Haman turns the pages.

The string players are the evening's "hired guns."

There is a Mass held early Christmas morning, but I'm sure you'll understand when I say I always skip that one, attending "just" the other three. The other Mass of Christmas Day is at 10:15 AM. Jane, Chuck and the choir take a well-deserved day off, and composer (and retired English teacher from the St. Michael's Parish Day School) Alan Schultz plays instead. Both his original music and the classical pieces he selects tend to put the organ through its paces, showing off the range of notes a few thousand pipes can produce. My favorite bits are when he has a "call and response" between the pipes behind the sanctuary and the antiphonal pipes in back.

There are openings to the right and left of the sanctuary, through which banks of pipes can be seen. It took me a few tries to get the shot, but I kind of like the underlit versions.

Here's a better shot of the same pipes and poinsettia, taken with flash.