Lessons and Carols is my favorite Advent tradition, other than the period where the tree is lit but hasn’t been decorated yet. Tonight I went to St. George’s, which is an Anglican church way way out into the far reaches of the former British sector to celebrate the Festival of Seven and a Half Lessons and Carols (in that I was late). It was very nice, and they lit our candles after the eighth lesson instead of the ninth, so there was more fire longer, which can only be good.
 There were, however, a lot of things that threw me off–things that I’d always thought were common practices of basically all churches, but that turn out only to be for the Episcopal church, if that.
First of all, no distinction was made tonight between Christmas and Advent music. Hymn #7 was “Silent Night,” and the procession out was “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing.” Every time we sang about how Christ is born (it came up a lot), I wanted to jump up on my kneeler and remind everyone that they were getting a little ahead of themselves.
When I arrived, the congregation was partway through singing some Christmas song to the tune of “Morning Has Broken.” If you know that song from Cat Stevens, you may not understand why this is significant. But for me, it’s the most important part of the ‘Morning prayer’ section of the hymnal, closely associated with outdoor services in the mountains. To get an idea of how jarring it was to hear it re-set, imagine singing “Go Tell It On the Mountain” to other, non-Christmas-related, words.
Not much later, altos’ hearts shriveled up when “Angels We Have Heard on High” was set to the tune of “Angels from the Realms of Glory”. For eleven months of the year, we altos wait, patiently holding the fifths even and the quarter notes steady, and we don’t complain because we know that if we can just make it until December, we’ll get a chance to astonish the world with our emotive interpretation of “Angels We Have Heard on High,” also known as “the best alto line in the history of Anglican choral music.” We don’t take kindly to being deprived of this opportunity–especially when it’s replaced with gauche homophony.
//NINJA EDIT\\ But really though L&C was great, just there were some things that were surprising that you wouldn’t expect to ever be surprised by.
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