No masses for St Cecilia this year, as her feast day fell on a Sunday.
Here, instead, is a belated musical offering - Herbert Howells' miniature masterpiece of a carol to the saint, setting words (below) by Ursula Vaughan-Williams, the poet and second wife of the composer Ralph Vaughan Williams - sung here by the Choir of New College Oxford directed by Edward Higginbottom with David Burchell, organ
Sing for the morning's joy, Cecilia, sing,
in words of youth and praises of the Spring,
walk the bright colonnades by fountains' spray,
and sing as sunlight fills the waking day;
till angels, voyaging in upper air,
pause on a wing and gather the clear sound
into celestial joy, wound and unwound,
a silver chain, or golden as your hair.
Sing for your loves of heaven and of earth,
in words of music, and each word a truth;
marriage of heart and longings that aspire,
a bond of roses, and a ring of fire.
Your summertime grows short and fades away,
terror must gather to a martyr's death;
but never tremble, the last indrawn breath
remembers music as an echo may.
Through the cold aftermath of centuries,
Cecilia's music dances in the skies;
lend us a fragment of the immortal air,
that with your choiring angels we may share,
a word to light us thro' time-fettered night,
water of life, or rose of paradise,
so from the earth another song shall rise
to meet your own in heaven's long delight.
Ursula Vaughan Williams (1911-2007)