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The Forth in Praise Organists' Blog

The personal views of a Catholic parish organist

December 21, 2018

Total welly

evelyn @ 12:04 pm

First, a note for our foreign readers. ‘Give it some welly’ is a British English phrase deriving from farming and meaning ‘give it extra power’. Google it to learn more.

‘Give it some welly’ has been a common cry in our choir, and not only from the leaders. We all like welly, and have built a lot of it into our Christmas Eve programme. None so great, however, as in our experimental Sanctus.

Trying to make the Christmas Mass Christmassy is always a problem in the world of Vatican II because (a) the people have to be able to sing the parts of the Mass, and therefore need to have some practice, but (b) Advent is a no-no for singing Christmassy Mass parts, and there’s no Gloria, anyway, and (c) as for people practising outside of Mass in the run-up to Christmas … well, pigs might fly.

One answer is to use well-known tunes that make practice unnecessary. Our Christmas Carol Mass does that, as does Eugene Burns’s Christmas Gloria, which the choir are to sing this year. For the Sanctus, however, we’re trying out something rather different.

The people know our Linlithgow Sanctus well; they sing it a lot during the year. But they haven’t met it in its new festive garb, with which we hope to shock them. The idea of decorating something familiar for Christmas so carried me away, that at the first choir practice I had to tell everyone to sing fortissimo because I would be playing all sorts of things but not the tune.

‘You mean we should give it welly’, said our American soprano, who seems to have taken to the phrase.

‘Yes, as much welly as possible, because I want to unleash all the organ’s welly, too.

Total welly …’, breathed one of the tenors, almost reverently. Everyone else murmured agreement.

So on Christmas Eve we’re going to give the Sanctus everything. Even with a full church, I know how to make the floor shake. Some of the choir are worried about the stained-glass windows, although I think pitch would be more likely to do damage there than welly.

This is going to be fun – I hope.

Now let’s finish off with some welly from St Paul’s Cathedral, London. Happy Christmas, everyone!





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