Friday, 19 December 2008

Singing science

Off to Oxford yesterday to sing at the Oxford University Physics Department carol service. The tightwad in me was delighted to discover Oxford's park and rides now have free parking.

I found the location, the University of Church of St Mary the Virgin, to give it its full title, with ease - a rather strangely squashed church in the High.

I’ve no connection with the physics department, but fellow Redhammer author M G Harris snuck me into the choir. She’s a biochemist, but at least she’s Oxford-based.

We sung some stunning music to an impressive standard. My surprise like was Carol of the Bells by M. Leontovich – surprise because I hate it as the music for an irritating advert for Garmin satnavs on commercial radio. But in the original form it’s quite fun. It apparently featured in the movie Home Alone – hence this being available to listen to it in full glory.

The real gems, however, were two modern British pieces. They remind me why I love good modern church music as much as the Tudorbethan stuff. I ought to stress that by modern church music, I don’t mean guitars and watered down pop songs, I mean modern serious music. The two carols, neither of which I knew before, are Remember, O thou man by Arthur Oldham and Lully, lulla, thou little tiny child by Kenneth Leighton. Just listen to the start of the Oldham piece here (It’s track two in the full list. Click Preview alongside Remember O thou man) Utterly scrumptious.

Some find it rather odd to have music and science linked, but in my university days a higher than average percentage of the college musicians were taking science subjects. Whatever - beautiful music.


  1. I thought we did a good job of 'Carol of the Bells' - enjoyed singing it. But the one that stuck in my head for ages was our Hollywood-style chorus on 'O Holy Night'...kind of annoying!
    If you'd walked past nearby Blackwell's Music shop you'd have noticed, as I did, a big poster advertising a new CD of sacred choral music from 17th century Lisbon and Granada. Yummy! I bought their last copy yesterday...but it's cheaper to buy direct...

  2. The one that's still in my head is Remember Thou O Man - it just won't go away. Thanks for the heads up on the CD...