Vespers and Liturgy of Holy Saturday


Service: 7 of 9  Time: 2:45  Total: 4:35  Grand total: 13:22

Crew:  Altar: Fr T and three acolytes. One, a teenage boy, only got into a sticharion after he’d read his Old Testament reading.  Choir: SSSAAT. Young Soprano directed the glorification when I was reading from the Book of Daniel.  Readers: young and older people from the parish, in Dutch, Ukrainian, Church Slavonic and Russian.

Oops! I really need to add an acute accent to “Ninevé” because the reader consistently pronounced it as [ni’ne:və] rather than [‘ninəve:].

One litany wasn’t the one I expected (when I made the book I thought “ah yes, a litany” and forgot to check which one) and we and Fr T couldn’t agree on the pitch. Eventually we both gave up and it came together with no effort.

For Future Me: Still some missing litanies, replace one page that we have a newer and better version of though the older version works too, and painstakingly amend the readers’ book with all the acute accents, by hand because it’s not serious enough to print whole new pages. But the readers’ book worked! I read from it myself so I know it’s easy, unless you’re as dyslexic as one of the readers who so much wanted to do it and had so much trouble. (Note to self: ask them if there’s anything I can do to make it easier for next year, like a different font or more line spacing.) And I wish there was a way to make the Jonah reader say “reading OF the Book of Jonah” rather than second-guess what is actually printed in the readers’ book and say “reading FROM the Book of Jonah” because we’re reading the Book of Jonah in its entirety.

Let all mortal flesh keep silence was even better than last year, another result of practicing with Young Soprano. (I’ll miss her when she goes to follow her calling. She’s already my sidekick, and I’d so hoped to train her to take over for me when I’m ready to retire.)

I’d kept last night’s binder in the bag and even had it open on the other side of the music stand, but we didn’t need it because we all love the Vespers stichera so I used those for the clergy Communion, and it was exactly enough.

Some things that struck me in the readings:

Exodus 12:4  And if the household is too small for the lamb, let him and his neighbor next to his house take it according to the number of the persons; according to each man’s need you shall make your count for the lamb. –Our next-door neighbours are vegetarians! But I don’t suppose any of the Israelites were.

Exodus 14:7  Also, he took six hundred choice chariots, and all the chariots of Egypt with captains over every one of them. –Six hundred chariots and all the chariots.

And am I really the only one who reads a suspicion of smut into this: 2 Kings 4:14-15 So he said, “What then is to be done for her?” And Gehazi answered, “Actually, she has no son, and her husband is old.”  So he said, “Call her.” When he had called her, she stood in the doorway. Then he said, “About this time next year you shall embrace a son.”

Matins and First Hour of Holy Saturday


Service: 6 of 9  Time: 1:55  Total: 1:55  Grand total: 10:42

Crew: Altar: Fr T, hypodiakon and two acolytes; one the young man who has been in all the services and the other a young man who used to be in our parish as a boy (my godson’s elder brother, in fact) and still comes for feasts.  Choir: SSSAAB, and briefly T from the sidelines (he only came for the procession and didn’t join the choir)

Congregation: Many, lots? Too busy to count.

Oops! Not much really, just some little glitches in the Lamentations because we hadn’t rehearsed them much, and I’d erased some old markings and put the pages in the binder back to front, but that only caused some paging back and forth because it was easy to see what was going on. (Thank you, Previous Music Typesetter, for numbering the pages!) Also sticky plastic sleeves that made pages stick together, causing a noticeable delay in an irmos or two, but those were only met with grins.

I should perhaps have realized that a prokeimenon in the seventh tone goes high and not everyone is Young Soprano. Me pitching it lower when I read it would have made it easier for everybody.

And we’ve learned since last year that the First Hour has an ending but I’d neglected to put it in the binder (and didn’t catch all the litanies, either. Good cheat sheet!).

For Future Me: I really have to fix that ending, not only of the First Hour but also of Matins, because it’s a shambles and I hadn’t noticed until we actually sang it. The choir can handle it, whee! Found two typos in the First Hour, one in the generic part and one in the specific part. I wonder if the one in the generic part is also in the Hours binder and if so, why Hypodiakon never stumbles on it (and indeed, why I’ve never seen it when reading along with Hypodiakon, which I used to do when he was learning).

The Canon went so well! All the stumbling blocks I’d identified with Young Soprano when practicing in the afternoon seemed to have disappeared. There were four readers (the soprano who had called in sick was back and could sing but didn’t trust her voice for reading) so everybody got two turns reading Canon troparia. I’ve even remembered to leave the binder in the bag so we can have another go during clergy Communion tomorrow.

When I was reading the First Hour — yes, grabbed a cool reading, I like to read it to wind down — I realised that it was the second time today, I read the first Royal Hour as well! There was at least one different psalm, though, perhaps two, and of course a different troparion and kontakion.

This whole service is full of SPOILERS OF THE RESURRECTION. I thought the Gospel was already a Resurrection Gospel too, but that seems not to be the case until Saturday morning.


Vespers of Good Friday


Service: 5 of 9  Time: 1:15  Total: 5:34  Grand total: 8:47

Crew: Altar: Fr T, hypodiakon, 2 acolytes. Choir: SSSAABB (started with only Baritone, later Bass came in ON HIS 50TH WEDDING ANNIVERSARY).

Congregation: looked like about 30 near the end of the service (people kept trickling in) but there were more than twice that venerating the Epitaphion.

Oops! This is the service at which Things Go Wrong[1]. I was in conversation in the hall and hadn’t noticed that Fr T was already starting and had actually given the opening blessing; then I almost started reading the First Hour psalms but fortunately noticed Psalm 5 under the opening prayers and went “er? read this already?” and could segue into Psalm 103 seamlessly. I’d completely forgotten to put a couple of litanies where they belonged so we had to sing from the cheat sheet (no big problem; we used to sing all Holy Week litanies from the cheat sheet). I coaxed Baritone to read because I don’t want to grab all the cool readings for myself, but Fr T (who was tired too, of course) said some confusing things (like “Wisdom!” when he should have said something else) so Baritone naturally got confused, and then inadvertently closed the book and I had to rush to his side and find the prokeimenon for him — I’ve been handling this book so much this week that I can find it immediately! But the sung Alleluia verses went swimmingly.

[1] And Nobody Minds.

For Future Me: Put the litanies in the book, confound it; and perhaps also the tune of the Alleluia verses in the reader’s book. Also retype the stichera so they don’t ALL have the last line on the next page. It’s always six stichera anyway, so I might as well put in the verses so I don’t get confused by the fact that only the last one, in a different tone, has a verse in the book so I think it’s the Glory sticheron, even though the verse says something completely different.

But the venerating-the-epitaphion thing went better than ever. I ascribe that to Young Soprano and me practicing this afternoon, even though it did tire us out.

Royal Hours and Typika of Good Friday


Service: 4 of 9  Time: 1:45  Total: 4:19  Grand total: 7:32

Crew: Altar: Fr T + acolyte (mostly outside the altar though). Choir: SSAB, that is to say, a reader for every hour. Ukrainian Soprano read the Sixth Hour in Slavonic with great speed and accuracy, and I could understand just enough to read along in Dutch and turn the pages. Fr T rose to the occasion and read the Gospel in Slavonic too.

Congregation: a good handful.

Oops! Not much to oops about, except that the closing prayer of the Ninth Hour was marked as for the priest and we waited for him for a while. Baritone said that it wasn’t for the priest but for the reader, and he turned out to be right! Marked it correctly for next year. Also, we stumbled on a prokeimenon which I’m still pondering whether to change or practice. (Change is probably more durable.)

For Future Me: Fix the prokeimenon, okay. Also fix the triple “Lord have mercy” before the Gospel readings to be in Holy Week tone. Already done it for Vespers but the Hours also need it; we sang it in ordinary tone because that was what was written but it grated (after all, we sang Holy Week tone last night from only text), so I asked Fr T and he said “yes, Holy Week tone, of course!” On the delegated-to-near-Future-Me pile because we don’t need it right now.

I cleaned the choir again, this time also the gap between the choir platform and the old ladies’ bench, where the music stand lives as well as a couple of spare (movable) seats. Everybody who vacuums the church skips that, apparently. Wanted to put the music stand one notch higher but it turned out not to be adjustable, even though it looks like it is! Perhaps the glue it was put together with has run and stuck the post to the foot or something. Unfortunately the person who made it now lives in Maastricht which is a bit too far away to ask them to come and fix it. Also found the white cloth that goes on the choir table: we’d put it on the spare lectern with an icon on it! Tomorrow we’re going to use the spare lectern for the Old Testament readings anyway, and after that we’ll just put it back with a different icon (SS. Peter and Paul, probably) without any cloth.

Young Soprano came upstairs with me because she had too little time to go home, and we put in a good hour of practice for tonight and tomorrow. But by the time I remembered I’d have wanted her to sing the Alleluia verses at Vespers, both of us were too tired to practice those, so they’re probably going to fall to me again.




Matins of Good Friday


Service: 3 of 9  Time: 2:34  Total: 2:34  Grand total: 5:47

Crew: Altar: Fr T, Deacon V and acolyte (the same acolyte who has been serving the previous services, he’s assiduous!) Choir: SSAATB, meaning that the person who can’t keep themself from singing (I symphatise) and tends to fill in missing parts (I dislike) couldn’t do that. (Fill in missing parts, that is. I didn’t notice whether they were singing, we were too busy singing ourselves.)

Congregation: 15 when I counted about halfway through, more than 20 later when someone else estimated.

Oops! Only two of the people in the choir had practiced the sedalia (Tenor and me) so the sopranos and the other alto floundered on all but one, and Baritone sort of muddled along, fairly successfully. The soprano who had practiced the sedalia called in sick this morning, and it probably wouldn’t have been fair to make her carry the whole part anyway.

Fr T skipped two litanies, and we just waved away the first because it didn’t make a difference to the service, but the second time he didn’t only skip the litany but also the exapostilarion (he’d been hearing confessions so was out of the flow) so I called him on it (“hey, we do want to sing The Wise Thief“) and we got both the litany and the exapostilarion after all.

I forgot to call “in the second tone” at the aposticha of which only the first is in the first tone, and that combined with the fact that the ‘t2’ at the top of the second sticheron is in very tiny type made us have to restart it (“sorry, second tone!”). But we did get the third tone right! Take that, third tone!

One sticheron had a line split over two pages, and we promptly sang the half-line to the whole musical line and on turning the page found that there was more. But! We’re so responsive a choir that everybody could just finish the sticheron in the first tone on my direction, regardless of the now-wrong markup. I should really retype at least the second page with the half-line at the top (and cover the line on the previous page) but as a hack I’ve put it on facing pages for now instead of on both sides of a page-turn. (There is an arrow at the bottom of the first page indicating that the line continues, but none of us noticed it in the service and I only noticed when going to fix.) I say “retype” because these are pages made by Previous Music Typesetter, who moved away and lost all their files in a computer crash before they could hand them over to me. Most of what they made is still very usable but it’s annoying that I can’t easily fix little things because all I have is printed pages, or at best PDFs.

For Future Me: some easy-to-fix misplaced markup mostly caught by singers who sang the obvious thing instead of the written thing, and one wrong note in an alto part that’s also fixable with a bit of whiteout and a fineliner, but the boilerplate for the Gospel readings has a structural bug (two, in fact, but I can clear up both in one fell swoop) which needs more work. I think I’ll delegate it to (a near-)Future Me instead of trying to fix it right now.

Sudden strangeness: Deacon V is entitled to wear a double orarion though he’s not a protodiakon (yet?), but he only has a white one which he wears with everything, and it looked very odd on his black sticharion.

The person who can’t keep themself from singing was standing right in front of the choir, so when the Cross was carried out I handed them the black cloth I’d been squirrelling away in the choir, saying “for the Cross”, because they were the nearest person likely to know what to do with it. They were surprised, pleased, flattered? but put the cloth on the Cross attentively and piously, just as intended.

It was so different from 2021, when we had one singer per service and I took it because I thought, probably correctly, that I was the only one of the available singers who could actually do it; and 2022 when it was just Baritone and me. Also, I’m a better bellringer than Acolyte, and perhaps I should teach him.


Vespers and Liturgy of Holy Thursday


Service: 2 of 9  Time: 1:45 (estimated)  Total: 3:13

Crew: Altar: Fr T, hypodiakon, acolyte. Choir: AAB, so I sang the melody part almost throughout. It’s a mezzo part, and I really pushed the upper limits of my voice. Now I’m tired but not exhausted, a good sign. B is a baritone so we couldn’t go as low as would have been comfortable for us altos, though we did get him to sing the third (sixth down) for some things.

Congregation: 10 at the final blessing.

Oops!  For some reason I’d swapped the prokeimenon and the alleluia (the whole block) in the reader notes. It was a good thing Other Alto and I had divided up the readings so that part fell to me; I stayed on the choir platform for the verses and only went to the reading spot in the middle of the church for the actual reading, because there was no time to investigate what was going on.

I’d forgotten to take the book with the canon back downstairs though I briefly had it in my hand this morning, so at clergy Communion we sang stichera and the Ninth Irmos (twice) and just as I’d found Psalm 33 in the Hours-and-Typika book the curtain opened. Note to self: self, make sure you have the canon of Holy Saturday ready for the Liturgy of Holy Saturday. The obvious solution is to leave the Friday night book in the church, unless there’s something that badly needs to be corrected, in which case I’ll put the Friday night book back in the bag.

For Future Me: The reader notes are correct now. (The book was already miraculously correct, after I added one written-out litany this morning.)

At some point in the Liturgy I said “Now we’re going to sing nothing but ‘Son of God’ for the rest of the service”, and though that wasn’t entirely true it was close enough. It replaces the kinonikon, ‘Receive the Body of Christ’, and both stichera after Communion. Some instances have an Alleluia attached with the same tune.

Afterwards, I helped Boss Woman find the black and white church drapings. It turns out that all the wonderfully embroidered Easter cloths were the personal property of Former Boss Woman, and her daughter and brother and some other people each inherited some when she died and they didn’t stay together as a set! There’s enough, anyway, even long embroidered shawl-like things that kids can use to carry icons with in the procession. Boss Woman had completely overlooked the pile of black cloths in a dim corner of the storeroom but I knew where they were, probably because I put them there at some point.


Matins and First Hour of Holy Thursday


Service: 1 of 9  Time: 1:28, which seems astonishingly fast, but all of us (well, both of us) who were doing readings are fast readers. I had to keep a tight rein on the stichera because we tended to go too fast on those too, and that is bad for understandability.  Total: 1:28

Crew: Altar: Fr T and an adult acolyte. Choir: SAT, of whom A and T could read. S can read too but not what was in front of us, because she’s Ukrainian Soprano, very good at singing the Dutch words but she can’t read a running Dutch text. (Yet, I suppose. Or speak Dutch with any fluency either; we converse in English.)

Congregation: 6-10, allowing for late comers and early leavers.

Oops! I completely fumbled the third tone, so much that I had to stop after three sentences and start again. Soprano and I both got a couple of responses wrong, fortunately not the same ones. The ending was confusing: it had an Amen, and I was waiting for Fr T to say something that we could respond to with it, but in fact we have to sing Amen right after a phrase that usually doesn’t have it or at least not until after a lot of other stuff (which this service skips).

For Future Me: Fixed the ending in the book for next year. Also fixed a spurious repeat in a litany, added a few litanies that were only mentioned and not included so we had to sing them from the cheat sheet, and replaced the entire First Hour with a modified version of the Holy Saturday First Hour because it was a (physically) cut-and-pasted shambles. But the eight pages of canon troparia that I typed on Sunday afternoon at great speed, practically without proofreading, had only three typos total: twice a double letter at the end of a word, once a fairly hilarious “sal” instead of “zal” which made Jesus sound like He’s from North Holland.

This is the service with the dangling prokeimenon (no second Old Testament reading after the seond one), but I’m used to that by now. Belatedly replaced the reading we do have with the new translation for next year; I’ll miss the old one because it has memories attached to it, but I’m trying to be consistent.

My voice threatened to give up in the middle of the First Hour but it rallied and I could even read the prokeimena verses and the prophecy.

And a blackbird sang outside the whole service long!

Reading notes, week 14


Pastiche by Celia Lake. Starts slow, much like On The Bias, but that’s no problem. I love Alysoun! There’s much Failure To Communicate but the protagonists actually overcome it! Sadly, I got it with DRM because that’s what my go-to webshop had and I didn’t notice in time, so I can’t share it with spouse right now until I ask Celia for a non-DRM copy which I’m practically sure she’ll give me.

The Clue by Carolyn Wells (1909). Surprisingly gentle (for all there is a brutal murder). Everybody is sort of nice, even the person who is written not to be nice at all. There are three people who I thought could have done it, but none of them turn out to have done it. The Great Detective who is called in (Fleming Stone, Wells’ expert; this is the first Fleming Stone book) isn’t mentioned until 83% in and appears at 88%.

Index of reading notes is here.

Reading notes, week 13


Lots of Young Wizards fanfic I didn’t know yet. Wheee!

Moving Targets and Other Tales of Valdemar by Mercedes Lackey et al. This time around I actually read some of the stories I skipped or skimmed earlier, and skimmed or skipped some I’d already read — Fiona Patton is a decent writer but I’m not all that interested in a whole family in the Watch.

Jolene by Mercedes Lackey (Elemental Masters ). Gets better on rereading! The best thing is that the antagonist and the villain are different people, and the antagonist isn’t evil, they’re just inhuman without actually being a monster (and actually gives the villain their just deserts because the villain may be villainous, they’re not clever).

I’m still pondering whether to get the Annie Oakley book (DRM, grr) just for completeness’ sake but all the reviews say it’s a less effective rehash of From a High Tower (except one notice that says it’s yet another Sherlock Holmes book, but I don’t believe that).

Index of reading notes is here.

Mary of Egypt redux


I wrote a post in 2018. Everything I wrote in it still stands. Now it’s time for another one.

This time around I was the choirmistress myself so couldn’t cry off, much as I’d have liked. Emerita Choirmistress is (we hope temporarily) out of action anyway so whether as her deputy as in previous years or on my own merits I was in for it. And I had to listen, couldn’t zone out like when someone else is responsible for paying attention.

The rebel in me says there’s absolutely no reason for this service except posturing, “see how pious we are!”, the sensible choirmistress in me says “it’s in the calendar so we do it, let’s make it as painless as possible”. There are in fact people who like it, Baritone for one.

Anyway, here is the life of St Mary as read in the service and here is a summary of the story. This is the text of the Great Canon.

We started out okayish: two sopranos, two altos and a baritone singing bass, with a tenor appearing half an hour in who I promptly assigned a reading to. Everyone in the choir could and did read Psalms and other readings, in fact, except Ukrainian Soprano (who presumably can read but not whole pages in Dutch, I must remember to ask her if she wants to take one of the Royal Hours of Good Friday, in Ukrainian, Russian or Church Slavonic as she prefers).

Young Soprano left before the Canon, but she’d warned me of that: driving test early Thursday morning, no good taking the last train home on the evening before [ETA: she failed, grr]. Tenor left just before I was going to ask him for another reading; I think I heard his phone on vibrate (he’s a hospital doctor). Other Alto left at 10.30 to catch the 10:48 train, and Baritone at 11 to catch the 11:18 (he later realised he could have stayed until the end and caught the 11:48 which is the last train).

By the end of the service, after almost four and a half hours, it was down to Fr T, me, Ukrainian Soprano and two pious young men who were doing All The Prostrations. I don’t envy them their muscle aches (I was a pious young woman once; I know). My knees hated me, even though I was doing None Of The Prostrations, I gave that up years ago because I can prostrate myself just fine but need ages to get up again, and I thought for a moment I was going to faint because I was more than a little light-headed, but lifting and circling one leg in turn to get the circulation going took care of that.

I’d promised myself a pint of Guinness, but by the time I got home (11:25) I was so tired that I only wanted milk and the last two oatmeal cookies, and sat up for another hour and a half because I couldn’t get up the agency to go to bed.

And God willing, I’ll do it again next year, though it will always be a trial, and I can’t believe it will ever be good for my body, mind or soul.