07. Music List 11/04/20

07. Music List 11/04/20


Saturday 11th April 2020

Holy Saturday is a difficult day for which to choose music. We are between the drama of the Crucifixion and the Vigil service, where we celebrate the light of Christ once again. For me, the message in this short space of time is one of hope: we return to a similar place to where we were in Advent, waiting for the coming of Christ to bring his glory and healing to us. In these unusual times we need hope, courage, and faith more than ever.


There is only one piece which gives what I believe is the perfect message, and it’s one we have already sung for you this term: Kindle a Light, by Michael Fleming. In our current situation the text becomes even more pertinent.

Michael Fleming was an extremely talented church organist. He held several posts in London, including St. Alban’s, Holborn, Croydon Parish Church, and All Saints, Margaret Street. He was a Warden of the Royal School of Church Music, one of the editorial team of the New English Hymnal. Through his directing, editorial work, and his work with the RSCM Fleming had a huge influence on improving the standard of liturgical singing throughout the country, something in which he took great pride.

Most of Fleming’s contributions to the NEH were plainchant hymns. He wrote a small number of conventional hymn tunes too, most notably the wonderful Palace Green (Sing Praise to God who Reigns Above: click here), one of my favourite hymn tunes. At Margaret St. we sing the last verse to a superb descant by the former Assistant Organist, Norman Caplin – more on him tomorrow. Hymnary was incredibly important to Fleming: he made it his life time’s work to make sure the text for hymns can be heard when singing. It’s very easy to sing a hymn and think of how good the tune is, how high the tune is, or how well the organist is playing it. It’s much more of a challenge to sing a hymn whilst taking in the meaning of the text – that is a challenge I set to the choir back in January this year.

Kindle a Light is the most beautifully simple carol I know. Harmonically it does go around the houses a little, especially in the coda (it moves from G major to Db major to D major within two phrases), but it is so well written that the listener would hardly notice. The focus is purely on the text – it is the perfect strophic carol. The harmony never really settles until the final chord of each verse, which creates a sense of heightened anticipation. Even the final chord isn’t allowed to settle before the coda begins after verse 4. The text itself is all about what Jesus brings into the world: hope, light, peace, justice, healing, truth, grace. The simplicity of the music brings out all of these words when they appear – exactly what Fleming spent his working life trying to achieve. The final line (“meet him and greet him, and share his embrace“) relaxes into the final cadence, musically, as well as spiritually, feeling the embrace of our Saviour.

Here it is, sung by the choir of All Saints, Margaret Street: Click here.

Kindle a light to lighten the darkness,
Kindle a light each nation and race:
God in the poor is coming to meet us,
Kindle a light to shine on His face.
Kindle a light to lighten the darkness,
Kindle a light for all who despair:
God in the poor is coming to judge us,
Kindle a light with fasting and prayer.
Kindle a light to lighten the darkness,
Kindle a light in places of shame:
God in the poor is coming to heal us,
Kindle a light with hope in its flame.
Kindle a light to lighten the darkness,
Kindle a light for sorrow to cease:
God in the poor is coming to free us,
Kindle a light for justice and peace.
Christ is coming! Christ is coming!
Coming in judgement, in truth, and in grace.
Meet him and greet him,
And share his embrace.

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