ANY YEARS AGO WE BRAVED the local Greek Orthodox candle factory, part of their monastery. They have a sign at the entrance with the dress code and there’s a donkey and they have the most beautiful chapel with wall to wall icons and candles and it is awesome. We bought a box of candles a little over a foot long each. They are a rather bright orange colour, but burn well and have lasted all these years – the last two are just under half burnt, and Candlemas is coming.
Buying a year’s supply of candles to be blessed is just one part of preparing for Candlemas – the feast of the Presentation of Our Lord and the Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary. It falls 40 days after Christmas on the 2nd of February. That’s the Monday after next.
I mentioned Candlemas to a young member of another choir and she said that the thing she hates about Candlemas is having to hold a candle in one hand and a heavy Liber in the other and sing. That’s because there’s a procession.
Now as a non-choir youngster I loved processions. The thing that annoyed me though, was when I got stuck in the middle of a non-singing bunch of congregants and couldn’t hear the choir and didn’t know the music that well anyway.
So, to prepare for Candlemas – Learn The Music! Now is a great time to start. There are two Sundays to recruit singers and next Saturday you could have a big Farewell to Alleluia Party with Candlemas choir practice.
What follows is the music for the Extraordinary Form as I understand it.
The first antiphon is very easy – Lumen ad Revelationem Gentium. You’ll be humming it all day. This is sung for the distribution of candles. It’s on page 11 of A New Book of Old Hymns and I made this short recording for my choir.
Adorna thalamum is the first antiphon for the procession.
It revolves around one note – Do. If you can get that one note in your head then you will never be too far off track.
At the end of the procession comes Obtulerunt, which is a Responsory – that means there is a small part which is repeated, which is very handy when you are learning new music. I run through this piece in this recording.
You can download a handy pdf of the music for the procession and the propers of the Mass from the Institute of Christ the King. They include an extra antiphon for the end of the distribution of candles, which I understand was removed in 1960. It sounds like many places leave out the second antiphon for the Procession –
The introit and the gradual use some very familiar musical patterns. If you are already familiar with the Gregorian chant propers they will be easy to learn, otherwise they will be well worth learning. They can be found among the recordings from Sao Paolo, Brazil.
If you are in the vicinity of Glenbrook in the Lower Blue Mountains, NSW, Australia, on Monday 2nd February, there will be Mass and Procession starting at 10.30am at St Finbar’s Catholic Church. The church may look odd, but the acoustics are fantastic.