St Cecilia’s Day: 22 November. We celebrate it by singing Britten’s Hymn to St Cecilia at evensong (Benjamin Britten himself was born on 22 November). New College Chapel has a permanent reminder of St Cecilia, the patron saint of music. If you walk towards the altar, halfway along on the south side, and on the lower set of lights, you will see a woman playing a lute – not of course the organ with which the saint is ordinarily associated. The colours of the window (by William Price) are a combination of reds, blues and greens with the lute showing a rich brown. Here St Cecilia takes her stand with many other of the great figures of the Church’s history, the patriachs and prophets, the St Catharines and Lucys.
But the chapel iconography does not stop here. On the great east-wall reredos, St Cecilia stands there in stone, on the third gallery of statues, over to the left. She holds a portative organ, as almost invariably shown in early Renaissance pictorial representations. ‘Sound the organ’ – Resonent organa – is the first line of the splendid motet to St Cecilia by Francois Couperin, newly reconstructed and now available on a remarkable New College CD of music by this the greatest of early 18th-century French composers. The CD case and booklet carry a number of images of New College, including both the representations of St Cecilia described above, Price’s window neatly contemporaneous with the music. These images bring Couperin’s works into relationship with the place that has now championed some of his best but also some of his least-known music. For the discerning, this CD will be a revelation, and a great gift. The Novum label continues its tradition of featuring the artworks of New College, as well as presenting the music of its world-class choir. Go to the Shop to order your copy now!