After researching the options for fine church music in the Los Angeles area, we decided to attend All Saints Episcopal Church in Beverly Hills. We had a very leisurely dinner in a local restaurant (wow, what a concept on Christmas Eve!) and arrived in plenty of time to attend the 11:00 pm Festival Choral Eucharist. The choral prelude of the service started at 10:45 pm, and was the 1687 Christmas Anthem by Henry Purcell accompanied by a string quintet and chamber organ. I went to the church’s website and found out that the chamber organ was built by Los Angeles builder, Winfried Banzhaf. It has an identical specification as LCH’s continuo organ, with flutes at 8′ and 4′ and principal 2′.
O come, all ye faithful was the opening hymn, and organist Craig Phillips used the descant by David Willcocks. Apparently the organ was originally built by Casavant in 1951, with tonal modifications by Rosales (1978) and additions and releathering by Schlicker (1988). Because the organ sits in a chamber facing the side of the chancel, it does not speak directly into the room as we are used to at LCH. By the way, if you would like to read a complete description of All Saints’ musical instruments, you can find it here.
We all stood as the choir with orchestra sang the Gloria in excelsis from the Missa Brevis Sancti Joannis de Deo by Franz Joseph Haydn (1732-1809). The LCH Choir did this a few years ago, and the music still seemed familiar to me. I’m sorry the All Saints Choir did not also sing the preceding Kyrie.
There was only one lesson, followed by the Gospel Acclamation hymn, While shepherds watched their flocks. I’m afraid I can’t ever sing this hymn without remembering the alternate words Carl told me about years ago, “While shepherds washed their socks by night!” The offertory anthem was the beloved O magnum mysterium by Tomas Luis de Victoria (1548-1611), a piece I have sung and known since high school days. (Yes, I went to a public high school and we sang sacred music!)
Other movements from Haydn’s Missa Brevis we heard were the Sanctus and Benedictus, the latter of which has a fancy organ obbligato part and a beautiful soprano solo, sung by Sarah Parga. We wondered why the Credo and Agnus Dei from the Haydn Missa Brevis was omitted.
The choir also sang a contemporary motet by Piers Maxim (1995) on Lulla, lulla, lullaby, sweet babe, during communion, and the lights were dimmed slightly as the congregation sang Silent Night.
The service ended with Hark, the herald angels sing, and then the string quintet played the second half of the Sinfonia from Handel Messiah as the choir recessed down the main aisle. Craig Phillips, organist, played his Toccata on Joy to the World as the postlude.
Psst! I think they did a lot more music at LCH! I will list the repertoire in the next post.