The Advent and Christmas season has once again been very observed in truly festive style at the Abbey. The extended festive period began with the Advent Procession during which hymns, carols and four of the Advent Antiphons were sung from the four corners of the Abbey, interspersed with readings prophesying the coming of Christ.
Sunday services during Advent traditionally assume a penitential, preparatory character: the service on Advent Sunday began with the Litany sung in procession around the Abbey and the Kyrie Eleison was sung instead of the Gloria at the Sung Eucharist on those which followed.
Choral Evensong sung by the Lay Clerks on the fourth Sunday of Advent extended the theme, being unaccompanied and featuring an austere setting of the Salve Regina by William Mathias.
More traditionally festive fare was on offer at the Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols, which featured favourites such as Boris Ord’s setting of Adam lay y-bounden and the Sans Day Carol (‘Now the holly bears a berry’) arranged by Malcolm Archer.
Having sung carols to patients at Romsey Hospital earlier in the evening, the choir gathered once more for the Midnight Eucharist on Christmas Eve. The congregation, as always for this service, packed the nave and both side aisles, such that video projectors were actually used to mitigate the restricted view of worshippers seated there. The Rev. Tim Harling, Assistant Curate, gave a very creditable performance as preacher to his capacity congregation. Carols sung during distribution of the sacrament notably Adolphe Adam’s O holy night and Peter Warlock’s Bethlehem Down, heightened the atmosphere of nocturnal devotion.
Christmas morning saw the final service before a well-deserved break. The congregation filled the nave and enjoyed rousing Christmas carols, together with pieces sung by the choir at the Nine Lessons and Carols service. There is a flower sprung of a tree, a lovely carol by Stanley Vann that appeared to become an unofficial leitmotif of the season, made its fourth and final appearance.