Friday 16 December 2016

Advent Music

In my early days at grammar school, we had a French master who was fond of mnemonics as an aid to learning. One such was 'Advent', an acronym (I think) for verbs that take ĂȘtre rather than avoir in the perfect tense. 'What does Advent remind us of?' he barked one morning. Up went a hand: 'The coming of Our Lord, sir.' A correct answer of course, but not quite what the French master had in mind...
 At this time of year, with the pre-Xmas frenzy under way and every shop and public space piping 'Christmas music' non-stop, it's as well to be reminded that this is indeed the season of Advent. Radio 3's Rob Cowan is doing stirling work each morning, playing music that Bach wrote for Advent. Today's chorale, Wachet Auf (Sleepers Awake) from BWV140, was so sublimely beautiful that it stopped me in my tracks. Here it is, conducted by Tom Koopman... And here is the version Cowan played, conducted by Karl Richter at a stately pace and in a more 'romantic' style. Compare and contrast if you like - or just enjoy them both and marvel at the greatness of Bach.


  1. Lovely music. Speaking as a retired French teacher and pedant (can one ever retire from that?) I'd have to say that it takes more than ADVENT to cover the ĂȘtre verbs. Usually we used RAPMENDVTRAMS or MR VANS TRAMPED.

  2. Why am I feeling palpitations!?

    The horror of school French...

  3. Yes ADVENT was woefully inadequate, wasn't it - maybe it was for something else - verbs of motion? It was a long time ago, we couldn't afford proper acronyms in those days...