About 2017-08-22T03:17:50+00:00

ABOUT US

Night Song is a Sunday evening, 45-minute musical event at First Church in Cambridge that fosters meditation and contemplation, providing a refuge from the stress and frantic pace of daily lives.

Through the stillness of the evening, burning candles, occasional incense and bells, art and dance, and most especially music, Night Song brings serene beauty and quiet peace into human lives.  No words are spoken; everything is perceived through the senses.

The music is a unique fusion of contemplative modal instrumental improvisations by jazz musicians blended with ancient and modern chant and psalm settings, and punctuated by glorious polyphonic choral music from the Renaissance.  To some Night Song is experienced as a spiritual journey, and may be a supplement to their regular spiritual practice.  Others use it as a vehicle to quietly let their concerns and hopes rise as incense into the fragrant evening air.  Many receive a sense of comfort and strength.  And there are those who find that the experience transports and transforms them, allowing an escape for moments of peace and clarity.

Monastic in nature, Night Song is purposefully intended to be an experience that differs dramatically from daily life.  While Christian in content, Night Song is open to all and does not include creeds, sermons, or participatory elements. Simply sit still and let beauty enfold you.  Or use the experience to express your hopes and concerns for others in your life and in our sometimes troubled world.  Then leave in peace.

Since the office of compline is normally song after sundown, our schedule as outlined below makes that possible.

November through April
Every Sunday at 7 PM
With instrumental improvisations on piano and other instruments

May through October
Every Sunday at 8:30 PM
In the warmer months, Night Song continues with slightly shorter programs, and without instrumentalists.

All welcome. Come in and take a divine time-out.

On the chant…

We are currently singing chant from The Liber Usualis, a large collection of Gregorian chants in the Catholic tradition, compiled by the monks of the Abbey of Solesmes in France.  We normally select chants from the propers for the Mass, and also use some hymns from this collection, all in Latin.  The music is modal and monophonic.

In regard to modern chant, Daryl Bichel has created six settings of the compline liturgy text for use at Night Song.  All but one are in English.  Two of these settings were adapted by Bichel from existing plainchant hymns. Four are freely composed settings.  One is in the Lydian mode, and occasionally breaks into two parts.  Another employs extensive use of the haunting interval of the tritone.  A third uses the Latin text for compline from The Liber Usualis, and occasionally breaks into three parts.  The fourth, completed in December 2016, is in the Phrygian mode and moves back and forth between chant and four-part homophony.  All of these settings have significant roles for a cantor.  At times they are sung with improvised instrumental accompaniment, which gives them a magical and mystical aura that is truly inspiring.

Other Performance Practice…

In regard to psalm settings, we generally employ material composed by Daryl Bichel and Patricia Van Ness, composer in residence at First Church in Cambridge.  Bichel’s settings alternate verses between plainchant tones and Anglican chant.  Van Ness, who has undertaken the project of setting all of the psalms, creates choral psalm settings that hearken to medieval and Renaissance music, resulting in ethereal music that seems both ancient and new.

In additional to improvisation by instrumentalists, we are striving to incorporate more improvisation by our vocalists.  At times we have improvised psalms and the lessons.  This can involve following some guidelines provided by the artistic director, or at times total freedom.  We occasionally improvise on our final “Amen” as we exit the space at the conclusion of Night Song.  As well, we employ singing in alternation from various parts of the building, such as the rear balcony, the side aisles, the transepts, from behind the organ case, in the chapel (which is a separate room), and from the apse.