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Christ Church, Oxford


Martin Cooke
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Is anyone able to say a little bit about what happens musically at Christ Church these days? I'm just curious about a very beautiful Evensong I have just watched (and I can't find the link)  - it was Tuesday this week - Noble in B minor and Stanford Justorum Animae. Lovely organ playing beforehand - Howells Intrada 2 - (must get that out!) - but played on a two manual pipe organ. The whole service was accompanied on this small instrument and the main organ only used for the David Bednall voluntary. I know very little about the layout of the cathedral or complications that there may be between the extant organ and the position of the choir etc. Can anyone tell us what the new instrument is all about and whence it came, etc? 

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This doesn’t answer your question about the organ but is perhaps useful background information.

The central aisle (nave & choir) is entirely laid out in collegiate form. The choir used to sing at the west end. The choir has moved to the east end on account of scaffolding in the nave and ante-chapel related to conservation and lighting works. The new organ is described as temporary.

https://www.chch.ox.ac.uk/news/oxfords-cathedral/seeing-cathedral-different-light

As the east end is a more acoustically pleasing space for choral music (more stone, less wood), I wonder if this is also a time of experimentation concerning the liturgical layout of the building. 

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15 minutes ago, petergunstone said:

This doesn’t answer your question about the organ but is perhaps useful background information.

The central aisle (nave & choir) is entirely laid out in collegiate form. The choir used to sing at the west end. The choir has moved to the east end on account of scaffolding in the nave and ante-chapel related to conservation and lighting works. The new organ is described as temporary.

https://www.chch.ox.ac.uk/news/oxfords-cathedral/seeing-cathedral-different-light

As the east end is a more acoustically pleasing space for choral music (more stone, less wood), I wonder if this is also a time of experimentation concerning the liturgical layout of the building. 

When I was there as an undergraduate 40 years ago the choir would normally sing at the West End but they were always at the East End for the Thursday Evening Eucharist (where the Mass Setting was always unaccompanied), which certainly gave the service a Mediaeval feel.

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When I was a chorister there, the choir stalls were at the crossing end of the nave, further from the organ than now (still not far, the nave being so short, of course!).  Evensong was sung there Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday, and Sunday; Wednesday was men-only, and Friday was unaccompanied at the East End (occasionally using the "Crotch" organ - no longer present - for continuo).  Sunday mornings had Mattins in the choir stalls, followed for my first couple of years by the Litany, after which we processed to the East End for the Eucharist, which was unaccompanied; the only exceptions were Christmas Day and Easter Day when we sang the Eucharist from the choir stalls, with organ.  No weekday Eucharists except 8am on red-letter saints' days, when the boys, alone, sang plainchant - most often, but not always, Missa de Angelis.

Stories about what the choir got up to while having breakfast alone early, supervised by only the cook, don't really belong here...

Paul

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  • 1 month later...

I recall Sunday mornings at ChCh in the mid-1960s.  The choir sang in the east (quire) stalls, directed by Sidney Watson resplendent in DMus robes over cassock and surplice.  The eucharist was unaccompanied, with mass settings by Palestrina, Lassus, Jakob Handl etc - wonderful stuff and completely new to me.  Sidney would disappear to accompany the offertory hymn on the little Crotch organ behind the north stalls.  If memory serves me right, all that was required of the Organ Scholar (Paul Morgan) was a final hymn and voluntary on the main (Willis/Harrison) organ at the west end.

 

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3 hours ago, Johannes Riponensis said:

I recall Sunday mornings at ChCh in the mid-1960s.  The choir sang in the east (quire) stalls, directed by Sidney Watson resplendent in DMus robes over cassock and surplice.  The eucharist was unaccompanied, with mass settings by Palestrina, Lassus, Jakob Handl etc - wonderful stuff and completely new to me.  Sidney would disappear to accompany the offertory hymn on the little Crotch organ behind the north stalls.  If memory serves me right, all that was required of the Organ Scholar (Paul Morgan) was a final hymn and voluntary on the main (Willis/Harrison) organ at the west end.

 

Presumably there was Choral Matins before the Eucharist on Sunday mornings.

I felt it a shame that Howells’s Missa Aedes Christi was never sung in my time at Christ Church (1978-81) because it wasn't in Latin.

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  • 4 weeks later...

To add to this thread, a little information about the ‘temporary’ organ in the North Choir Aisle at Christ Church:

from

https://www.chch.ox.ac.uk/alumni/e-matters-23rd-march-2021

Martin Renshaw writes:

“The organ in the quire of Christ Church cathedral, which I set up in January 2019, on loan there for six months but now likely to be there for quite a while yet, also came from near Durham (where it was made), from one of two Methodist churches in Billy Row, a small mining village near Ushaw Moor.  This organ had been offered to the English church in Menton, but was refused on the advice of a self-proclaimed Welsh expert in such matters.  The organist of Durham cathedral was fortunately of a contrary opinion, so the organ found its way to Oxford, where its effectiveness and versatility can be heard in numerous YouTube filmed services and concerts.”

details on NPOR:

https://www.npor.org.uk/NPORView.html?RI=H01058 

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