Sunday, 25 December 2011

Holy Smoke

At last week's Nine lessons and Carols we  were well rehearsed, in good voice and still relatively fresh.  (Not too many extra services so far).

We had, however, forgotten one important factor of this lovely service - candles.

We each had two books and several single sheets of paper to carry, plus the order of service booklet and.....oh horror, a candle.

Now I must admit that the church, tea lights, small votive candles and larger man-size ones in sconces is a very pretty sight, however, the choir must not only sing by a poorish light, inhale smoke and incense, turn the pages of the books and swap from book to sheet and back again, all while clutching in the other hand a candle, upright, so as not to drip grease everywhere.

This was further complicated by the musical director deciding to move us all over to one side instead of on either side of the chancel, for just two of the numbers.

Now, add holding up robes so not to trip over them (most of them are too long), and crossing the aisle clutching all the aforementioned paraphernalia.   Can you picture it?  A recipe for disaster.

This came in the form of one of the small choristers setting light, first to her papers and then almost, her hair.

Fortunately, it was spotted and dealt with quickly and no-one in the congregation noticed.

Last night, in addition to all the other candles we had tea-lights on the 'shelves' for want of a better word round the pillars near the high alter.

This was very pretty and added to the beauty of Midnight Mass,  until a few of us during the sermon spotted a  small conflagration among those extra tea-lights.  "2 or possibly 3 of them" had merged, and a small bonfire was starting before our startled eyes.

We somehow signalled to the musical director who was seated opposite us at the organ and once he saw what was happening he hopped down from his seat and proceeded to make the flame considerably larger.

He then returned to the organ, grabbed a hefty bundle of music and bashed the fire on the head, which, thank heaven, worked.

Once again, no-one in the congregation noticed and neither did the rector.

When we told him about it after,his response was, "they've had candles in churches for hundreds of years".

Nice to  know the choir have some value even if only as firelighters!

Needless to say we were waiting with baited breath to see what would happen this morning, but, while it was a lovely happy service for all involved,there was no cabaret.


  1. A funny story. Did you read about the fight that took place at a Catholic church on Xmas Eve?

  2. I love being in the choir years ago and being privy to many little dramas that occurred in church! Thank goodness yours had happy endings! Particularly the youngster who almost caught her hair on fire...the thought of it is a bravo to your choir which nipped these problems in the bud!!!! Firefighters indeed and able to multitask whilst singing!

  3. Yes Jane I did, some people have all the fun!

  4. Theanne Hi, I just wonder what's next. Perhaps we'll have the lead stripped off the roof while we're in the middle of our next service.
    This isn't as mad as it sounds.
    Apparently the price of lead is, so to speak, going through the roof, and there's always someone ready to make easy money.
    On second thoughts, scrambling about pretty high off the ground is really not something I'd like to think about. and choir robes might just prove a step too far.

  5. Amazing that only a few of you noticed! I've never seen a fire incident at a service, but Christmas must carry a higher risk!

  6. Well it was only the few choir members opposite who could have spotted it in the early stages, and they are used to the Musical Director getting up and moving about during the service so the congregation would not have been aware of anything out of the ordinary.
    I suppose if he hadn't succeeded in putting it out we'd have had to do something a bit more obvious Sue.
    All part of life's rich pattern at St. M's.

  7. That reminds me of a Greek Orthodox Easter on Crete . At Midnight ,after the effigy of Judas has been burnt the darkness is pierced by the light of the Easter candle being passed from person to person ,with the words " Christ is Risen " . Wonderful in concept but the English tourists had been to a "Village " celebration of Easter beforehand and the village wine had been freely flowing. Not the best environment for a candle flame to be passed in a crowd !!!!!!

  8. Still they were only tourists Spruce, there would be sure to be another coach-load along in a minute!

  9. We have had incidents in the past at Christingle services with a combination of candles, dried fruit and children.

    DH is in our church choir and they struggle with books and candles, even though the latter are supposed to be non drip. Husband has been known to substitute a torch if he can.

    I expect you know your Rector's wife was our NSM before the move to St. Mary's.

  10. Hi Pixie
    Your husband has my sympathy, really all choristers need to be born with three hands.

    I didn't know about M's being your NSM, in fact I don't know what an NSM is. Please enlighten me.

  11. Ray, my son lit his hair on fire with his candle at the pre-dawn Easter Vigil a couple of years ago. He needed to scratch his head and used the hand with the candle in it. My husband noticed (along with most of the clergy and choir who couldn't help but see the flame up in the rear of the church as they looked out across the congregation) and bashed it out with his bulletin. Fortunately, this was back in the day when his hair was a bit long, so no harm done.

  12. Goodness Penny, such enthusiasm. A second or two longer and he could have justly claimed to have 'seen the light'.

  13. Great story, Ray, but very glad no lasting harm was done. After having endured packed churches with too many candles at both the Christingle and Carols by Candlelight, DD's church sensibly did without for the Midnight Mass this year.

  14. Perpetua, how I wish our Rector would do likewise.
    While I can see the visual appeal of candle-lit services, they are, undoubtedly something of a challenge in a large draughty barn of a church with (as far as I am aware), no sprinkler system.
    Quite apart from the fact that, try as I will, I just can't seem to grow a third hand.