Director of Music Ministry, West Plano Presbyterian Church
Dean, Dallas Chapter American Guild of Organists
At the end of August last year I came to the startling realization, not altogether uncommon for me at that time of year I must admit, that it was nearly time to start up choir for the fall and I had no clue what we would be doing with my church choir for Advent-Christmas 2014.
All the summer conventions and workshops were over – I’d been to some, but hadn’t found anything that sparked my imagination for that season when we all want to do something really special. CMI had just had a workshop that had sounded like just the ticket to help me find things I needed, but for unavoidable reasons I had to miss it. I called the CMI office and explained my regret at not being able to come, and Robert Mann said, “Well, let’s arrange for you to come over and take a look at our library. We have a wide variety of anthems, extended works and collections, and you can search by season or composer or whatever.”
This was an amazing piece of news for me. I took Robert up on it, and he and Charlotte welcomed me into the office to browse their collection of single copies. To make a long story shorter, I found a work by Wilbur Held entitled Advent Service, based on the ancient O Antiphons of Advent (utilizing names for the Christ: O Wisdom, O Lord of Might, O Emmanuel, etc.), on which the hymn O Come, O Come, Emmanuel is based. I checked with the publisher, found that it was out of print, and obtained permission to reprint it at minimal cost. The music is lovely, with delightful instrumental parts for flute, oboe and bassoon. There is a section for each of the O Antiphons, and a service is included with a Scripture reading for each O Antiphon, a congregational setting of the appropriate verse of the hymn O Come, O Come, Emmanuel, and a choral prayer on each Antiphon. To these we added at the beginning of each section the chanting in English by a cantor of the original Gregorian antiphon and the reading after the singing of the hymn verse of a poem by contemporary British poet Malcolm Guite, who has written a wonderful set of sonnets on each of the O Antiphons.
The service was beautiful and very moving – a real Advent service. And it turns out to have been timely to do this music, because Wilbur Held, prolific and beloved American composer of organ and choral music, died this March at the age of 101. I am so grateful to CMI, Robert and Charlotte, for the remarkable resource of their library both onsite and online, and I highly recommend it to you!