Vespers of Good Friday


Time: 1:15 (Emerita Choirmistress and I tried to estimate how long it would take, and I said “about an hour for the Vespers and then twenty minutes for venerating the Epitaphion”, and she had about the same idea, and we were right)  Total: 6:00  Grand total: 9:50

Crew: Altar: Fr T and an acolyte. Good thing there was an acolyte because of all the censing.  Choir: SSSSA and for the latter half of the service B. I had to ask the soprano with the great range to sing the melody part again.

I printed out the sung Alleluia verses and immediately mislaid them (in the right binder, but on the wrong day) so I had to do it by heart, which made me flub the first one that I’ve always sung slightly different from how it’s written. Both are equally valid, but my brain didn’t want to choose one. If I’d had the notes in front of me, I could have sung the notes or sung the other version in defiance, but now I tried to do both at once.

Lesson learned: even if it says “Tone 2” on the page AND I announce a sticheron with “In the second tone, [verse]” there will still be people who continue singing the first tone. (It was disastrous enough that I had to stop and say “the second tone!” and restart.)


Royal Hours and Typika of Good Friday


Time: 2:15  Total: 4:45  Grand total: 8:35

Crew: Altar: Fr T, not exactly in the altar, he only went there occasionally to fetch or return the censer. Choir: (well, let’s call it “readership” because there’s very little to sing) SAB

Once again (noticed already last night) this, John 18:28: “Then they led Jesus from Caiaphas to the Praetorium, and it was early morning. But they themselves did not go into the Praetorium, lest they should be defiled, but that they might eat the Passover.” I never realised before that the Praetorium wasn’t kosher for Passover…

Disconcerting that the photographer from the newspaper turned up halfway through and started taking pictures, though the journalist had said that the photographer would only take pictures of the cleaning.

I cleaned and rearranged the choir table (putting the books for baptism, marriage, and some obscure prayer services in the cupboard where the funeral book already lives; sorting all the rest and putting the binders upright so they’re in a neat row instead of an unmanageable pile). Then I emptied out the choir lectern: there are things that should be in the choir lectern, like matches, paper clips, a small notepad and pencil, and Choirmate’s spare reading glasses, but it was a mess, and now it isn’t! Cleaned it inside and out, threw away the bad things and put the good things back in. Didn’t volunteer for (a) the flowers or (b) cleaning the copper, because I’m useless with flowers and metal polish ruins my voice. Anyway, I badly need real downtime now. I took some papers home from the pile in the choir table, now sorted into “file this in the proper place” (done), “tear up and throw away” (done), “put back in the church” (waiting) and “needs to be worked on” (with the rest of the needs-work choir things).

I found the clip-on reading lamp we bought to read the Epistle in the dark, and it’s basically a good lamp but very hard to figure out how to turn it on and, more importantly, to turn it off! But I figured it out and the lamp is now charging so I can see if it’s useful under (my) new management. Otherwise, I’ll just take it back and use myself, I paid for it and I don’t think I ever declared it.


Matins of Good Friday


Time: apparently 2:30, which seems uncommonly quick, but though it says “about 3 hours” in the front of the book I’ve got 2:45, 2:40 and 2:35 in previous years, five minutes faster every year. I can ascribe at least some of that to more familiarity = better flow; also we didn’t venerate the Cross because at that moment I was probably the only person aware that it ought to be done and I was BUSY.  Total: 2:30  Grand total: 6:20

Crew: Altar: Fr T and Fr Deacon V, one acolyte (who faithfully rang the bell at every Gospel). Choir: AB, briefly S but she came in already very hypoglycemic and had to leave (helped by very good helpers). The other alto said she’d try to come but might be called away, so that’s probably what happened.

Congregation: between 5 and 10, I think

Right, we’ve got the obligatory Holy Week disaster out of the way. All I could do was call for someone to come and help –fortunately the right person was a couple of meters in front of me– and then continue the service. It went fairly well, too, with me and the bass (who is really a baritone) singing in sixths (reversed thirds, him taking the upper part an octave lower) most of the time. And we did All The Sedalia, though I was so eager for the first one that I didn’t wait for Fr T to do the ektenia first, so he expected us to sing something after the ektenia but we’d already sung that.

On Palm Sunday –less than a week ago, I can hardly believe it– Fr Deacon V had a very easy tone for the choir to latch on to, this time I had to make something up most of the time because neither the baritone nor I could have matched his pitch. I did sing one piece exactly at the top of my range, which put the baritone near to the top of his, too. He dropped down to bass range in the next piece and I don’t blame him one bit. I know exactly what I’d have done if I could have planned this beforehand (sing at my own easy pitch which actually is about a sixth above his easy pitch) but I needed all my energy and focus not to panic.

And, people singing missing parts in the church thinking you’re helping: you’re not helping. I womanfully resisted asking them not to, because that would have caused conflict and made it worse, or at least more stressful. I even briefly considered inviting them on the choir but that would have given the wrong message. If I’d also been obliged to leave for any reason, they and the baritone could probably have handled it between them, and on hindsight that’s a comforting thought.



Vespers and Liturgy of Holy Thursday


Time: 1:50 Total: 3:50

Crew: Altar: Fr T and one acolyte. Choir: SSAA, the soprano with the huge range singing melody parts occasionally but I didn’t want to assign her the melody part of the Eucharistic Canon in order to sing alto myself, because we were following Fr T’s pitch and he was on the low side throughout the service.

Congregation: About a dozen? May have been more. We ended up with 8 people at coffee.

Not as smooth as yesterday but good enough; if this standard turns out to be the average of Holy Week I’ll be satisfied. That doesn’t mean that I don’t want the average to be better, so I can be pleased, or even jubilant!

I notice that I’m relaxing my shoulders more. Hope it spreads to my knees and ankles.

A reporter from a Christian daily paper came to the service and stayed for coffee (and cinnamon bread, fruit-and-nut bread, and a glass of wine) and we had a wonderful talk with her, sometimes veering into theological territory. (Will report here if it becomes readable online without a paywall.)

Matins and First Hour of Holy Thursday


This is my first Holy Week as choirmistress so I do want to keep a record, but I won’t be able to count the congregation, just the altar and the choir!

Time: slightly under 2 hours, not counting the panichida; let’s make it a round 2 hours including the panichida Total: 2:00

Crew: Altar: Just Fr T, with an acolyte in civvies holding the candle when he read the Gospel. Choir: SSATB, practically my dream team, only one person who really needs to be told to pay attention, the rest do it all by themselves.

Congregation: 5-6, I think, but I have no eyes in the back of my left shoulder. I thought most or all of them were earnest young men, but during the First Hour when people were venerating the icon before they went to catch trains [1] I also saw an earnest young woman. There were 14 people at the Panichida (40th day remembrance of the death of a beloved parishioner and choirmate) but some of those were only there for the Panichida.

1 Even three people in the choir, one by one. Well, one just left, but the other two did have trains to catch. This service ends at a very awkward time for train travel.

My new timer, actually a “basic sports stopwatch”, arrived this morning. I succeeded in setting the time, date and day of the week with the Chinglish instructions, and accidentally set the time to 24-hour which I wanted anyway so I’m not going to try and figure out how I did that. Or indeed touch any of the settings now it’s set right (I think it’s about 20 seconds fast compared to my laptop, ah well). Also I discovered how to turn off the alarm. It does have a tiny beep on start/stop which is probably not noticeable when there’s any surround sound at all. I put it in my choir utensils pencil-case — and then completely forgot to use it, that’s why the time is estimated rather than exact.

I’m still learning to relax my legs when directing the choir, so I ended up with stiff knees and numb feet. But the singing was worth it: once we were used to the Holy Week tone it was as smooth as butter. Even the canon (which Fr T complimented me on after the service): we had PRACTICED that! At least four of the five people singing had practiced it, in two different combinations.

I’m so happy that the first service went well! Apart from the glitch near the end when everybody was already tired and we kept singing the wrong response to the prayers (not the wrong words, that’s just “Lord have mercy” every time, but the wrong tune of two alternating tunes). Now if everybody had been singing the same wrong response… Also, we were expecting a short end-of-service, and got the long one, so we had to sing it by heart and nobody (not even me) remembered how the text fit to the Holy Week tune.


Reading notes, week 15


April 13: Witchmark by C.L. Polk. One reviewer called it “sort of steampunk-fantasy murder-mystery with paranormal romance vibes set in a world inspired by WWI Britain” — er, yes. Happy ending, after a couple of fairly nasty things (not between the lovers though) that I didn’t see coming.

April 15: How To: Absurd Scientific Advice for Common Real-World Problems by Randall Munroe, of xckd fame. Lots of fun!

The Girl’s Guide to Defeating the Dark Lord by Cassandra Clare, or Claire (the link goes to the full text! read it! it’s short and fun!). I thought I’d seek out more by Cassandra Clare but most of the rest she’s written seems to be too dark for me.

Index of reading notes is here.

Reading notes, week 14


April 7: Whose Body by Dorothy L. Sayers. Goodness, they’re so young. Parker, in particular, is very young (and serious, but he stays that way throughout the series). But the people are already real people, even the minor characters (Freddy Arbuthnot, Christine Levy née Ford, the Dowager Duchess). I don’t know yet if this is a full Lord Peter Wimsey reread (obviously stopping at Busman’s Honeymoon because that was the first in this round).

April 9: All Systems Red by Martha Wells. Finally I’m reading Murderbot, and I like it — it turns out to be about friendship and personhood, not about fighting and body horror as I feared. Might seek out the sequels.

Silver in the Wood by Emily Tesh. Starts like a sweet, haunting fantasy romance but acquires layers upon layers. It gets a bit darker but never into horror territory, to the writer’s credit. (I got this, All Systems Red, and Witchmark by C.L. Polk which is next in line, in a free bundle from Tor.)

And a slew of fanfic by DesertVixen who I wrote my worldbuilding story for, set aside for a time that I could give kudos in the open.

Index of reading notes is here.

Reading notes, week 13


April 2: Thrones, Dominations by Dorothy L. Sayers and Jill Paton Walsh. Completeness reread. Parts of it are excellent, and I see a couple of things I hadn’t noticed before (especially characterization; I wonder if this is Sayers or Walsh). For some reason it’s a very slow read this time, even when I sit down and concentrate on it.

Also, all the Chrestomanci fanfic by blueyeti who also wrote a wonderful Chrestomanci story for me for the 2022 worldbuilding exchange.

Index of reading notes is here.

Reading notes, week 12


March 24: A Presumption of Death by (Dorothy L. Sayers and) Jill Paton Walsh. I know almost for certain that Sayers only laid the groundwork in The Wimsey Papers, and Walsh did all of the writing. It’s okay writing, though, good fanfic [1], unlike The Attenbury Emeralds which annoys me more every time I reread it (so I’ve stopped rereading it). (There’s a note about it in this post from 2014.)
[1] I enjoy the Jill Paton Walsh books much more now I realise they’re actually fanfic, and read them as such.

March 25: Almost two dozen stories in the 2022 Worldbuilding Exchange.

March 26: And a rabbit hole full of stories I found by clicking random commenters’ usernames.

Index of reading notes is here.

Reading notes, week 11


March 17: Busman’s Honeymoon by Dorothy Sayers. So-manyth reread. Spotted a tiny continuity error: somewhere at the beginning, Lord Peter is on a windowsill with a cat and when he gets up the cat leaves in a huff, jumping out of sight, and not much later he retrieves his blazer from under the cat. (Though, knowing cats, it probably came back.)

March 18: A Garden Enclosed by UrsulaKohl. Wonderful Alpennia fanfic.

March 19: Striding Folly by Dorothy Sayers. I should probably have read Thrones, Dominations first but this was the first one I found. Evidence that Peter grows but doesn’t actually change on marriage, and is very much the kind of father (“casual, apologetic, reluctant, and adorable”) that Harriet thought he would be. Content warning for the book: normalization of spanking. (Which was actually normal in England at the time the book was written, of course.)

Index of reading notes is here.