The third Sunday of Advent is also called ‘Gaudete Sunday’ (Gaudete meaning ‘rejoice’ in Latin). After having candles, altar cloths and vestments of purple for weeks on end, suddenly we break out the pink – tastefully, via a single candle in the case of the more protestant churches, or with rose-coloured exuberance in the case of your more Catholic churches. One of the churches I sing at used to drape their life-sized cross with purple satin throughout Advent, and then fling a bright swathe of fuchsia cloth of gold across the satin for what, it must be confessed, was our absolutely favourite time of the year to sing there. The monks wear embroidered pink vestments, too. Very fetching.
But I digress.
This being the Sunday for rejoicing, I naturally turn to Purcell, because there is nothing more joyous than singing one of his anthems, unless it is singing one of his arias. He is truly a joy to sing. And this anthem – also called the Bell Anthem, because of the bell-like accompaniment – is one which is frequently chosen for Gaudete Sunday, for reasons which are probably obvious.
There is so much to love in this piece of music. I love the bell-like strings at the start and in between the choral sections, the dance-like rhythm of the main melody, and that absolutely thrilling part when the whole choir comes in like a heavenly host for the chorus. And then the beautiful stillness of ‘the peace of God which passes all understanding’. Such beautiful writing, and such a perfect piece of music, combining rejoicing and reflection – exactly right for this Sunday in Advent.