This evening friend and I trogged off to a nearby village church for their nine lessons and carols. Here we were: small stone church, the epitome of English villageyness; a great splurge of candlelight (I counted more than a hundred flames); evergreens, red and silver baubles, ribbons, crib; robed cleric, choir of respectable seniors. Cosy, yes?
Well, yes. But the singing, more determined than tuneful (and I definitely contributed to the untunefulness) was not a performance but an enactment, and the not very skilled flute, tenor recorder and fiddle gave an edge to the organ music. Brownie points for having no Rutter and a careful assortment of familiar and unfamiliar songs. Moreover, the lessons and carols put the government-by-an-occupying-power, the mass infanticide and some other uncomfortable elements (such as sin and crucifixion) back into Christmas.
Radio 3 is broadcasting a lavish assortment of European classical and folk Christmas music today, and I turned the programme on again when I got in. Suddenly it sounded anodyne.