At church yesterday we were invited to join with the Altar Guild next Sunday in dressing the church with greenery. Our wonderful organist and choir director, Lyn, will be leading the choir in helping us willing workers along by singing our favorite carols.
Although since living here I’ve found I’m singing familiar hymns to unfamiliar music and vice versa, I still have favorites from my Norfolk boyhood, singing in the choir at our wonderful neighborhood church of St. Andrew’s, Great Yarmouth. I can still remember the first hymn I sung in that choir, probably aged 10. It was at our Harvest Festival service – “Come, ye thankful people, come, raise the song of harvest home”. Amazing how it still brings a lump to my throat when I hear it over fifty years later.
Advent and Christmas hymns and carols are no exception. Two in particular evoke such wonderful boyhood memories, not to mention that they were favorites of my parents. My mother adored “In the Bleak Mid Winter”. I also get quite emotional when singing this beautiful carol written by Christina Rosetti to the wonderful music of Gustav Holst.
Mum went to a Catholic school and was instructed to sing many carols in Latin (that certainly came in handy)! She did however take great delight in trying to pass this on to me. To my shame I can only remember the refrain from “Adesle, fideles, laeti triumphantes” (O Come, All Ye Faithful) and still sing this: Venite adoremus, Dominum.
Perhaps my strongest recollection of boyhood and teenage Christmas mornings was my father singing his favorite, "Christians Awake, Salute the Happy Morn!", whilst climbing the stairs at 3am to "awaken" a bleary-eyed me to breakfast of pork pie complete with HP sauce, before going with him 30 minutes later to deliver milk. He would never let his customers down, even on Christmas Day! “Christians Awake” was sung to the tune “Yorkshire” written in 1750 by John Wainright, and although not that well-known here, has been put on the list for this coming Sunday. Lyn, you can expect a few tears from this ol' Norfolk boy.
St. Andrews Church, Great Yarmouth. [Photo: Cliff Richard Temple]. The infant school I attended connot be seen in this view, but was attached to the church on the left.