December 2019 Services and Music List
Message from the Dean...
A chorister singing the pure notes of “Once in Royal David’s city”, the soaring tones of a cathedral choir, carols new and familiar, candle light and congregations gathering to share in this year’s carol services. For so many, this is the essence of Christmas. For many these are the defining characteristics of the choir of Belfast Cathedral. It is all these which make the month of December one of my favourite times of the year. And this year will be the first for our choir under the direction of Mr Matthew Owens.
The month will begin with the powerful and atmospheric Advent Procession Service at 6.30pm on Sunday 1st December, Advent Sunday. With the season of Advent the church calls a halt to the onward rush of Christmas come too soon. The music of Advent is more sober, more reflective, calling us to watch and wait. Through the first week of December, on Advent Sunday and in the weekday Evensongs the advent music of our choir will call us to be properly prepared for the coming of a king, born surprisingly as a baby in the backwater town of Bethlehem.
But soon, with Carol Services, Christmas concerts and many other Christmas events at our Cathedral, our choir and cathedral community will embrace the celebration and the mystery of “Immanuel”, “God with us”. The birth of Jesus long ago was heralded by choirs of angels and time was changed from BC to AD. Through the weeks of December our Christmas Music leads us toward the great cathedral Carol Services of the Sunday afternoon before Christmas, this year at 3.30pm on Sunday 22nd December, and then to the ever popular Christmas Eve Carol Service at 8pm.
Each carol service and each retelling of the Christmas story leads us to the greatest moment of birth and surprise which the world has ever known. With our “First Communion of Christmas”, starting at 11pm on Christmas Eve, and ending in the early hours of Christmas morning we mark the birth of the Son of God, born to turn our world upside down. And this year, this most special of services will be shared with Bishop Alan Abernethy and his wider family as in Belfast Cathedral we mark his retirement as Bishop of Connor. He will both preach and celebrate, a conclusion to his ministry among us folded into the magnificence of our Christmas music.
And on Christmas morning we do it all again! With a Festival Eucharist at 11am, we welcome visitors and lifelong cathedral members to share in a joy which calls our world to be different.
Of course December at Belfast Cathedral also means “Black Santa”. The Dean and Canons installed on the cathedral steps for the ten days before Christmas are a Belfast institution that the city has taken to its heart over 43 years. This year, the Dean will feature in a special nationwide broadcast of the BBC’s Songs of Praise shown on the Sunday before Christmas. But you’ll have to watch it on “i-player”, because in real time you will be Carolling in our Cathedral.
As I wish you all the joy, peace and presence of Christ this Christmas Season, let me express my thanks to all our cathedral musicians: organists, sopranos, lay clerks and the young choristers who will make their first appearance this Christmas, because in a special way Belfast Cathedral is the “Home of Christmas.” May we also become your musical home not just for Christmas, but throughout the year ahead...
Please see below, the December Music List!