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A Singing Advent Calendar

Members of Canterbury Cathedral Girls' Choir look at hymnals in preparation for their debut

A Singing Advent Calendar

Two Episcopal churches in Philadelphia are participating in a “singing Advent calendar” on YouTube which emphasizes the work of women composers. From the Philadelphia Inquirer:

When organists Carolyn Craig and Janet Yieh set out to promote the work of women composers with an Advent calendar of sacred music that lives on YouTube, they were preaching to the choirs.

The position of women composing music for Anglican and Episcopal church worship “could probably be paralleled to female composers in classical music in … that there are certainly [female] composers who are out there, who are very well-established, and there are persons who are less well-known,” said Yieh.

… The result is a daily presentation of performances from Episcopal and Anglican churches in the U.S. and U.K., as well as a few colleges, of music composed by women. Two of the participating churches are in Philadelphia. A piece recorded during an Evensong service at St. Martin-in-the-Fields Episcopal Church in Chestnut Hill will join the calendar at noon Saturday on the YouTube channel of the Amplify Female Composers’ Advent Calendar Project. On Tuesday, St. Mark’s in Center City, an Episcopal church in the Anglo-Catholic tradition, will make its premiere with a piece that was recorded for a virtual service.

… As the Advent Calendar Project counts the days until Christmas, it also reflects the year in which it’s being unveiled. The airborne nature of COVID-19 having made singing together, particularly in closed spaces, a dicey proposition, the participating groups that didn’t submit videos from pre-pandemic times employed a variety of strategies to stay safe.

Some, like St. Mark’s, used a small group of singers, masked and socially distanced. The recording, (St. Mark’s Director of Music Robert) McCormick said, was made before the city’s recent tightening of COVID-19 safety restrictions. “At the moment, we can only have one soloist. Previously, we could have a small ensemble if they were a good distance from each other.”

A few other participants so far have gone the route of Trinity Church Boston, whose contribution shows its singers performing from home, coming together on their individual screens for “Drop Down, Ye Heavens, From Above” by Judith Weir.

Carolyn Craig is a student at the Yale Institute of Sacred Music and Senior Organ Scholar at Trinity, New Haven. Janet Yieh serves on the staff of Trinity, Wall Street. Their website, Amplify Female Composers, is here. You can find the Advent calendar on YouTube using this link.

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