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Lessons & Carols: as Christmas Eve prelude

Thanks to those who offered helpful suggestions for an "alternative" lessons
and carols prelude before Midnight Mass. Special thanks to Keith and Denise
from Mission Santa Barbara, CA and Carlile, MA for their attached booklets
of programs and readings! May God reward you all...

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Here's the website for the grandmother of all L & C. The title of the
webpage is Nine Lessons and Carols. It lists all the readings, who reads
them, and all the music used in their 2003 service. It's easy to hear
carols that would fit instead of the choir music used at King's College,
Cambridge.
http://www.kings.cam.ac.uk/chapel/ninelessons/index.html

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Since Lessons and Carols is actually an Anglican "updating" of the Matins
Service which traditionally preceded the Midnight Mass, why not base the
service on this beautiful liturgy. The original service had nine readings
preceded by psalms, and followed by responsories and carols. The current
Instruction on the Liturgy of the Hours still recommends that Midnight Mass
be preceded by this service, currently known as the Office of Readings.
 
Here is the service as we will be singing it this Christmas at Old Mission
Santa Barbara; we simplify the order to one psalm, reading, response and
carol per nocturn in order to complete it within the hour before Midnight.
Because of the long history and Spanish/Mexican connections of the Mission,
we focus on colonial Spanish and early California music, but these can
easily be replaced by any favorite carols. The readings are from the
Breviary.
 
PROCESSION: Invitatory - Admirabile nomen Jesu -Mission chant
(Sancho)
NOCTURN 1-
Prelude: Concierto a cuatro -Juan Perez de
Guzman
Psalm: 19 Caeli ennarunt Domine -California Mission Chant
Reading: Isaiah 11:1-10
Response: O Little Town of Bethlehem -St. Louis
Villancico: Ecos: Cantar Quiero un rato -California
Mission Hymn
NOCTURN 2 -
Prelude: Pastoreta Ychepe Flauta, I, II -Martin
Schmid
Psalm: 97 Cantate Domino -California Mission
Chant
Reading: from a sermon of Pope Leo the Great
Response: Risueña la aurora -California Mission Hymn

Villancico: Vaya, vaya de cantos de amores -Joseph de Agurto y
Loaysa
NOCTURN 3:
Prelude: Pastoreta Ychepe Flauta, III, IV
-Martin Schmid
Psalm: 147 Laudate Dominum -Manuel Arenzana
Reading: Galatians 4:3-7
Response: Cui luna, sol, et omnia -Francisco
Lopez y Capillas
Villancico: Tarara, tarara, qui yo soy Anton
-Antonio de Salazar
Hymn: Night of Silence/Silent Night -David Kantor
 
We follow this with the Christmas Proclamation (using the Benedictine
formula) and then the Mass at Midnight with the Bishop presiding.
 
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In the back of the carols for choirs books they have several readings used
from Kings College. I would also suggest visiting the Kings College web
site. They list the past programs and ussually include the readings they
have used. These may provide a strong place to begin formulating the
readings.

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We do something like this almost every year for Xmas eve prelude.
As the prelude PRECEDES the liturgy, the readings might well be from the OT
prophets. Nice selection, of course, in the old Kings College line-up,
available in print in "Carols for Choirs" (Oxford Univ.
Press). Otherwise, read through the lectionary, and see what's there among
the three year cycle.
As for non-scriptural readings, there are several excellent,
theologically sound Xmas poesm by G.K. Chesterton, and these are available
at websites devoted to his work. Note especially "The house of Christmas,"
and "A Child of the Snows." Also T.S. Eliot's "The journey of the Magi."
And Richard Wilbur's "A Stable Lamp is Lighted"
(found in a musical setting in the Episcopal Hymnal 1982).
Musically, if you get the readings in place, the music will mostly
suggest itself. I keep it pretty simple (mine is truly the "village
choir"). Look at Peter Warock's "Adam lay y-bounden." (available on cpdl);
Charles Callahan: The Fader of Heven (Morningstar), or any numberf of
beautiful gregorian items, introits, offertories, communions.
or such old-faithfuls as Harold Darke: "In the bleak midwinter" (also
available at cpdl), or Elizabeth Poston: "Jesus Christ, the Apple Tree."
We usually end out prelude with J.S. Bach's chorale "Break forth, O
beauteous heavenly light."

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Preceding [the readings] all with a Processional hymn and singing a carol
after each makes for a very lovely and prayerful prelude to the Midnight
Mass. To flesh it out, you might insert a psalm somewhere.

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In the back of the Oxford 100 Carols Book is the entire service from Kings
College.

Good Luck - it is a beautiful service I do every year with my children's
choir - even the Bishop comes to read.

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Deborrah Thurston, M.Div., M.M.
Music Coordinator, Holy Trinity Catholic Church
Edinburgh, Indiana USA
http://mysite.verizon.net/htccmusic
htccmusic(a)verizon.net