Hey, Matthew, did you pencil in a new Advent introit for this year and then forget to write it until the last possible minute?
Of course nooooeeeeeh, maybe.
To be sure, we hadn’t been doing the last one for a while, and even the really-for-Lent substitution was getting a little musty, so out with the old, &c. I figured I’d put it up here for anyone whose church-music planning is as behindhand as mine.
In my apostatical way, I’ve always thought that Advent is the church-calendar equivalent of a cult movie. Most people just want to cruise right past it into Christmas, but there is a hardy band that’s all “seriously, this is some of Carl Weathers’ best work” (or whatever the theological equivalent of Carl Weathers is) and watches everybody else jump to yuletide conclusions with a kind of benevolent pity. But honestly, with Christmas colonizing more and more of the calendar—even as I was assembling Hallowe’en supplies this year, most stores already had Christmas displays—Advent is taking on the aspect of some weird temporal origami: a kind of of Marvel-comics-like pocket dimension, a pleasantly disconnected parallel limbo to the normal time-space continuum of conspicuous consumption.
Cut-for-space fun fact: In 1965, the Beach Boys played a show at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst—their first college performance on the east coast—headlining a fundraiser for a “JFK Room” at the school, “a room which would be filled with ‘books written for Americans by Americans.'”
(Click to enlarge. Source.) I am not sure the JFK Room was ever actually built.
Sometimes, you (and, by you, I mean I) want to color in an otherwise nice spiritual arrangement with every crayon in the chromatic box. In spite of myself, I think this one is not bad. I actually wrote it back in September, but gave it the benefit of two months of edits via rehearsal and, this past Sunday, performance (by this faithful crew). Which went well! Except for the recording, which is why there is a computer-realized placeholder until a) I get a good recording, or b) I tweak the realization so it’s less clunky. (Unsurprisingly, neither is likely in the near-term.)
This tune has, itself, after a fashion, changed its name a fair amount. I used the version in J. B. T. Marsh’s The Story of the Jubilee Singers (1880), which I think is the earliest version in print. (Marsh’s book is a really interesting document of the push-pull of trying to write about the African-American experience for white 19th-century readers—the story is told pretty much exclusively through the eyes of white observers, but then Marsh includes biographical sketches of each of the Jubilee Singers, which is by far the most fascinating part of the book.) Probably working from Marsh’s version, Samuel Coleridge-Taylor included an arrangement of “The Angels Changed My Name” in his Twenty-Four Negro Melodies, published in 1905; when Coleridge-Taylor sent a copy to his former teacher, Irish composer Charles Villiers Stanford, Stanford replied that the tune was, in his estimation, almost certainly Irish in origin. In 1939, Harry T. Burleigh reworked the tune into the hymn tune “McKee,” altering the contour to fit the words “In Christ There Is No East or West,” by English writer William Arthur Dunkerley. For his part, Dunkerley, too, enjoyed changing his name—he also wrote journalism under the name Julian Ross, and poetry and fiction under the name John Oxenham—a surname Dunkerley’s daughter Elsie, a successful writer of children’s books, also adopted.