Advent by Candlelight Review
‘Tis the yeares midnight, and it is the dayes….’
The light was fading as we approached St Mary’s at four, and by the time the second section of the programme started with “Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night”, it was completely dark outside. But soon we were introduced to a place which was not light or dark — in Denise Levertaf’s ‘Oblique Prayer’:
‘Not the profound dark night of the soul and not the austere desert to scorch the heart at noon, grip the mind in teeth of ice at evening but gray, a place without clear outlines,….’
Life can be grey, unrelievably grey for many of us and after work we may go to concerts or clubs, or read books or attend services to be reminded of clarity, colour and harmonious sounds. The music we heard that afternoon, beautifully sung by Cambridge Voices under Ian de Massini (who also researched the readings) was the highlight, as always, bringing us new pleasures like Det Är En Ros Utsprungen by Michael Praetorius, which Harriet Fitch told me she remembers singing as a child in Sweden, Ecce Beatam Lucem by Alessandro Striggio (both these recent rearrangements) and Christus Est Stella byWill Todd.
In the words of many of the sung pieces and the readings, shortage of light was compared to lack of spiritual awareness or grace, and light, abundance of light, to understanding — even revelation. Generally the symbolism was straightforward throughout the four sections: The Evening, The Night, The Morning and The Daytime, but there were glimpses of more complicated imagery from D. H. Lawrence and Sylvia Plath who both compared candles to fingers and from Emily Dickinson whose poem started:
‘The Finger of the Light Tapped softly upon the Town With I am great and cannot wait So therefore let me in.’
Later, talking over mulled wine and mince pies in St. Mary’s, it was apparent that although some of us who had sat through a long sequence of poems and choral music had struggled with their exact meaning, the event had brought so many of us together in seasonal harmony. In from the grey, we shared this experience in the dark since this
‘Both the yeares, and the dayes midnight is’.