St Hilda's College Christmas Celebration in Words and Music
As our 125th year draws to a close, we began our Christmas celebrations at the University Church of St Mary the Virgin.
The evening of 27 November began when the congregation and choir joined together to sing Once in royal David's city (HJ Gauntlett and CF Alexander). Our Chaplain, the Revd Canon Brian Mountford, then welcomed St Hilda's students, staff, Fellows and guests to the University Church of St Mary the Virgin.
The first reading, God tells sinful Adam that he has lost the life of Paradise and that his seed will bruise the serpent's head, was given by our Chapel Warden, Aileen Kearney (Oriental Studies, 2016). We then enjoyed hearing the choir and orchestra perform Adam lay ybounden (Boris Ord, 1897-1961, text English c 1400) before we all sang O come, O come Emmanuel (French 15th century). Our undergraduate student, Daniel Riley, gave the next reading, Christ's birth and kingdom are foretold by Isaiah.
One of the musical highlights of the evening was the performance of a new carol by our undergraduate student, Thomas Carr (Music, 2017), Drop down, ye heavens, from above. The next reading, The angel Gabriel salutes the Blessed Virgin Mary, was given by our alumna, Triona Adams (English, 1996).
The congregation and choir sang O little town of Bethlehem (arr. Vaughan Williams), before we heard St Luke tells of the birth of Jesus, read by our College Bursar, Frank Gargent. Next, the choir sang Silent Night (FX Grüber and J Mohr, arr. J Williams). Our Associate Professor of Medieval French and Tutor for Graduates, Dr Helen Swift, then gave the reading, The shepherds go to the manger.
It has become traditional for our choir and orchestra to perform Caedmon's Hymn at this event. Each year, it is set to music by a St Hilda's student. Another highlight of the evening was hearing the composition by Cassandra White (Music, 2016). Caedmon's Hymn is the earliest recorded poem in Old English. Caedmon was a shepherd during the second half of the seventh century and according to Bede, the greatest poet of his age. He was also a monk in the Abbey of St Hilda of Whitby, after whom our College is named.
Our Vice Principal and Tutorial Fellow in German, Dr Georgina Paul, gave the final reading, The wise men are led by the star to Jesus. The choir and orchestra then gave a wonderful performance of Gloria (Vivaldi) before the congregation joined them to sing O come, all ye faithful (18th century, arr. Willcocks and J Wade).
As St Hilda's College's 125th anniversary year ends, this wonderful evening was a fitting way to begin our celebration of Christmas.