The beginning of Advent was commemorated on Advent Sunday with a special order of service incorporating plainsong, anthems and carols some well known, others less so sung from all corners of the Abbey.
The service began in darkness at the West end with the Matins Responsory I looked from afar by Palestrina. We then processed to the North transept, where the gentlemen sang one of the Advent antiphons – three more were sung during the service – and the full choir gave a confident rendition of Rejoice in the Lord alway, attributed to Radford.
The Basque carol, The Angel Gabriel from heaven came, was sung from the South transept before the choir moved to the head of the nave to sing the Advent Prose, in which the congregation was encouraged to join. Readings from the full span of the Bible and Advent hymns complemented the choral music.
Towards the end of the service the choir moved to the east end to sing the anthem by William McKie, We wait for Thy loving kindness, composed in 1947 for the marriage of the then Princess Elizabeth to Prince Philip. Inspired by plainsong, it built to a dramatic climax that reverberated all the way down the nave, before returning to the reflective opening material. Following the Blessing, the choir returned to the West End for a rousing descant to conclude the hymn Lo! he comes on clouds descending. It was a memorable service for all involved.