Thursday, December 30, 2010

Pike Place Market, Seattle, WA

Needing a break from working on French cathedral photos, we spent a day in Seattle.  The late afternoon lighting (3:30) that Dec. 29th was hard to resist as the sun finally re-emerged after nearly a week of dull grayness.  Seattle's historic Pike Place Market has many stalls, some which are fully indoors, some which are covered yet open to the elements, and others which branch off covered hallways recalling their more elaborate cousins in European cities.  These photos celebrate our overcoming the gloom of these short winter days, whether by enjoying electric lights, good food, entertainment or simply by reveling in the sunshine as it finally pierces the darkness after the winter solstice, which is so dramatically experienced in the north.

This improviser played most impressively in spite of using cloth gloves with fingertips left on.

Beecher's Handmade Cheese

Pike Place Market, Post Alley's "Gum Wall" in Seattle, WA

One of Seattle's more bizarre and truly gross tourist attractions was 'founded' in the early 1990's by patrons waiting in line in Post Alley (Pike Place Market) to see theatresports which usually starts at 10:30 p.m. weekends.  Some patrons started sticking their depleted chewing gum on the brick wall, possibly in imitation of Bubblegum Alley in San Luis Obispo, California.  Wishing to be good citizens, the theatre gamely attempted to remove the gum several times, but once the Pike Place Market realized the wall was becoming a tourist attraction (almost an unhygienic as the Blarney Stone), the gum stayed.  I never saw anybody actually touch the wall, though one lad posed dramatically for his girlfriend.  People only touched the piece of gum they were sacrificially contributing to this constantly evolving work of wall art. 

Before and After

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Église Sainte-Elisabeth-du-Temple, Paris

The Église Sainte-Elisabeth (the Parish Church of St Elisabeth, 3rd arr., either metro Temple or metro République) began holding services in 1630 when it was the chapel for a convent associated with the Filles-de-Sainte-Elisabeth (Daughters of St Elisabeth), the Third Order of St Francis.  None other than Queen Marie de Médici laid the cornerstone, and the church was dedicated to St Elisabeth of Hungry in 1646 (1207-1231, the patron saint for the Third Order Franciscans).  After the ravages of the French Revolution almost 150 years later, this elegant church was sold, becoming a store selling fodder for animals.  In 1802, during the Restoration, it returned to being a church, this time serving the local parish.  Some additions were made in 1829.

Standing at the back of the nave, we see the general shape of the former convent's chapel, built in a neoclassical style with double barrel vaulting and classical but substantial archways visually separating the nave proper from its two side aisles.  I was especially struck by the beauty of the marble floor's chequered patterns using blue-black and white tiles.

Looking down a side aisle, we see this floor pattern continued, with changes introduced to reflect the spatial divisions of the archways above.

As we approach the altar from the side aisle, we see that the front of the sanctuary is a hemisphere.  The floor's pattern is therefore appropriately altered to follow this gentle contour.  On the right we see a confessional, surmounted with a carved wooden cross.  The undersides of the archways have a slight three-dimensional aspect to them.

The wrought iron gates can be closed during services or when the baptismal font is being utilized, preventing wandering visitors from distracting worshipers facing the altar or font.

Now we enter the ambulatory as it circulates behind the altar.

The following photo was taken from behind the altar, looking toward the back of the nave.  The organ was originally built by Antoine Suret (1853) and then rebuilt or altered by a series of organ makers (1955, 1976) until it was completely restored by Giroud in 1999.  It has 42 stops, 3 keyboards, and pedals for 24 low notes.

Turning around, we face the baptismal font, behind which is the Latin text from St Matthew 3.16a (translated: "And when Jesus had been baptized, as he came up from the water, suddenly the heavens were opened and he saw the Spirit of God descending . . . .")  I presume that the immediate family and god parents stand within the gate and others can remain seated for the ceremony. 

Now we are looking across the baptismal font, down the side aisle, toward the back of the church.

Difficulty with moisture . . . once any building is constructed, maintenance must commence and will need to be continued for as long as the building is to endure. 

Looking up, into one of the more elaborate side chapels.

This style of glass shade for an electrified lamp can be found in other renovated French churches.  

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Vancouver Cantata Singers Christmas Reprise, 2010 (photos by Jesse Read)

The Vancouver Cantata Singers presented its 8th annual "Christmas Reprise" concert in the city's Holy Rosary Cathedral on Dec. 18th, 2010 to a packed sanctuary.  The concert is always presented at 2:00 p.m. on the final Saturday before Christmas.  It proceeds with a sense of quiet dignity for about 65 minutes, without applause, affording listeners a break from their hectic schedule, a time to contemplate while enjoying the beauty of a cappella singing in the peaceful sanctuary.

My thanks to Jesse Read for taking these photos for the choir (while being confined to the back balcony) and allowing me to share them in this way.

The day's noon Mass was finished shortly before 12:45, and the choir was given access to the sanctuary by 1:00 for some quick sound checks for the recording.  This was also an opportunity to review where to stand, go over a few key passages of music, and get the vocal cords going smoothly.  A few people managed to sneak in and grab seats before the doors were closed for our warm up and sound checks.

After the brief warm up, the choir left to finish dressing and begin its long wait until the call to go onstage.  Just before exiting, Maestro Eric paused to watch in amazement as the audience poured into the sanctuary; David completed taping his cords for the recording.

The concert opened with the men singing the medieval Advent antiphon transformed into the hymn, "O come, O come, Emmanuel".  The verses were sung as in the original medieval 12th c. chant (but in English) and the refrain in four-part harmony was based on the 19th-c. hymn arrangement.

Having a capacity crowd meant that some folks had to sit behind large pillars on both sides, where you can hear, if not see everything.  Of course, the concert really is about hearing.

Our chamber choir has 24 singers, equally balanced between men and women (12 + 12).

I particularly enjoyed singing Andrea Siemen's beautiful arrangement of "Let all mortal flesh keep silence" (my favourite song this season).  Eric asked a quartet to sing the second verse.


"Verbum caro factum est" ('The word became flesh'), the Short Responsory for Christmas was sung as medieval chant from the three aisles as chant while the choir processed from the front to take up positions throughout the sanctuary before singing Biebl's incomparable "Ave Maria", which concludes each of our Christmas Reprise concerts.

We sang Biebl's Ave Maria from the three aisles, standing midway in the sanctuary (6 women--12 men--6 women).

After a heart-warming standing ovation, the audience joined the choir in singing "The first noël".

 At the end of the concert, the singers were all able to bow.  However, after feasting that evening on the turkey and ham prepared by Erika during the concert, and on a multitude of other dishes brought to the House of Hannan by the choir, few would have been able to bow gracefully .  Some singers celebrated the day's successes into the early morning hours.