Tag Archives: music

29 May: Before the tourists arrive, Canterbury Cathedral is quiet.

 

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I wandered into town before most of the shops were open, an errand to run for Mrs T.

Job done, I took myself to the Cathedral, expecting peace and quiet. At first glance the nave was empty but as I crossed this vast space I saw that there was a scaffold at the East End in front of the choir, there were boards high up below the roof vaults, and hard-hatted men in a human chain, passing more boards vertically up to the top of the scaffold. Purposeful activity with no fuss. I remembered poor William of Sens, the mediaeval architect, who was badly injured falling from a scaffold in the rebuilding after one of the Cathedral fires.

I also remembered that the scaffold had gone from the great South Window. Even on a grey morning, it was a joy to behold the ancestors of the Lord in their rightful place.

So down to the crypt where it’s always quiet. Not quite today. The workers could not help a degree of banging penetrating below ground. Someone seemed to be tuning the organ, then playing a hymn or two, softly. The first tourists – or pilgrims – were already on site; builders strode past: the place was alive!

Alive at many levels not all of them noisy. It does not take long to stop fidgeting, physically and mentally, in such a sacred space.

Maybe one day I should light a candle.

WT

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25 May: The Builder’s Dog without the Ossyrians.

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The Builder’s Dog in his Hi-Vis coat was wary when he entered Will’s place. Were those Chihuahuas around? Nor scent nor sound nor scratch marks on the gate. All was well, except that he had a stretch of time, impossible to contemplate, without his mistress who could not take him on her sunshine holiday.

The food was good – exactly the same as at home, except for treats like scraps of Sunday dinner. The walks were OK, except that the Mistress was not there and Will and Mrs T avoided walking down BD’s home street. But the park and Abbot’s Hill were full of smells that humans were utterly unaware of.

It was coming down Abbot’s Hill one evening that BD gave Will his reward. Or was it the other way blackcaparound? An urgent, complicated overlay of scented canine communication required close study, and BD was pleasantly surprised not to feel the lead jerk. Will, too, was fixed to the spot. He was listening to a Blackcap, perched in a suburban Japanese cherry tree, singing his heart out, ignoring the human and dog below.

As Will said later, there’s always something to be grateful for. And he enjoyed another little link as he researched this post: according to Wikipedia, the Blackcap’s song provided the theme for Saint Francis when that famous bird lover Olivier Messiaen wrote his Opera, Saint François d’Assise. Not just any bird then!

Blackcap by Ron Knight

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22 May: A is for Aston

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back-to-back houses, Birmingham

 

Why the spruced-up slum? I was going to write about Aston Hall, the mansion that overlooks Villa Park in Birmingham. My boyhood home was nearby so we could go there on the green diesel trains, taking care to cross the roads safely and watch out for the ‘rough’ Aston kids, who never actually bothered with us. I thought there were priest holes at Aston Hall, but you can appreciate just how mixed up I was when I began writing this post by reading Carl Chinn’s article here.

Consider the contrast between the splendour of the Hall and its park, and the nineteenth century slums all around it. Again,  Dr Chinn gives some insight into the very different ways of life and how the local people themselves raised money to save the hall and park.

One route from Aston station was along ‘Lovers’ Walk’, a narrow alley of grimy red brick; I doubt any lovers would have lingered there. Was it a lovers’ walk before the slums surrounded it, and the name stuck, or an example of slum-dwellers’  humour? After my great grandmother died I was entrusted with taking her clothes along there to the rag merchant’s yard. What they raised was hardly worth the trouble and train fare.

Aston smelt (literally) of stale poverty, but some remarkable people grew up there. My friend Gill remembers dressing the 8 year old Ossie Osborne in old clothes and a mask, and pushing him round the streets to raise money for November 5 fireworks. Penny for the guy?

If Britain could demolish Aston and build new council houses in the 1950s when there was less wealth in the country, why is it now so impossible to house families decently?

WT.

 

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14th May: Filling another person’s shoes.

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The selection of Matthias as a replacement disciple for Judas has reminded me of a time when I studied acting at a wonderful acting school in Brighton. We would play various games to get inside the heart of a character. One of these involved wearing someone else’s shoes.

We would remove our shoes, put them in a circle and then walk around them to some music. When the music stopped, we put on the shoes. I did not know whose shoes I had to wear and when I put them on they felt like floppy boats.

Once in the spotlight I had to walk about in these alien shoes, to speak and to gesture. I became another person by dint of these shoes. The shape and feel of them influenced my speech and actions. I walked in a slightly comical way, like a clown. I became more relaxed and kindly. I felt a humility I had not experienced before and as I responded to questions I spoke in a gentler fashion. I realised very soon whose shoes I was wearing. They belonged to a good natured young man from Sweden called Adam. I knew deeply within my physical self now, how it was to be Adam.

How often do we think things about others and challenge our thinking by comparing it to the reality? If our thinking is skewed, our interpretation about others is also skewed. If it is benevolent then our thinking is benevolent. Yet neither of these options may resemble the absolute truth about the other. The interpretation is all a construct our own mind.

Wearing someone else’s shoes metaphorically means truly taking on and being present in who they really are and not how we think them to be. Is this why peace is often so hard to establish?

I suggest we ask our world leaders to swap shoes with each other and walk about in them for a while…. though the idea of President Trump in Theresa May’s long shiny over the knee boots is a little troubling!

CW

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18 March: Human Will XII: To Singers

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We continue reading poems by Radclyffe Hall. A great deal of her work has not aged well, but we have collected these  in Agnellus’ Mirror because they invite us to reflect.

This scrap of verse comments on giving the Human will full expression. Singers, dancers, writers, artists in any field; parents, teachers, carers: we will be more effective in our work if we combine mind and heart, intellect and soul; if we bring our whole selves to the work.

Sing with your intellect and soul combined;

Not all technique, nor yet all wild emotion,

Thus shall you touch the heart and please the mind,

Winning a real and merited devotion.

Radclyffe Hall lived in Sussex; this window of King David and others singing is in Sussex’s Cathedral at Chichester.

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28 February: Shrove Tuesday: Dad Dancing.

e-d-dancing

We played the flute for you

and you did not dance

Matthew 11; 17

I have begun to dance more, drawn by the space in our kitchen and the bounce of the painted floorboards. For beholders it is a startling example of dad dancing in all its glory, a creative freestyle that fails to win the plaudits of the judging panel. But I dance on, moved by Elvis or Ella Fitzgerald or whatever music has the rhythm to speak to my feet.

Why now?’ I wonder [and perhaps those who witness the spectacle cry].

Perhaps it is a form of repentance: a turning from my tired, self-determined ways of thinking and being, and allowing the Spirit to stir my soul. Dancing is a release from worry, from self-absorption and from taking myself too seriously. Dancing is a movement to the moment: there is no space for the past or the future as the feet twist and twirl. Everything is about the music and how it works on the soul [and the soles!].

Even when I am on my own the dance is never solitary: it is always a response to the music. Someone is summoning me to move, not determining the shape of that movement but inviting me to answer as only I can answer. Slow and swift, through pain and joy, the music weaves through our days. Those who respond listen to the beat; there is stillness at the heart of their dancing. Freedom comes not from walking our own steps but dancing to the music of the Giver of Life. Would there be such violence in the world if we dared to so dance?

So for Lent I resolve to repent. It is time to leave the seats at the side of the room, move away from the drinks table and take to the floor.

CC

Not Dad Dancing but god-daughter dancing; much more graceful! MB.

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12 February: Wonder and Bewilderment.

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I  call Friar Chris’s posts this week ‘Reflections from St Thomas’s Hill’ and I enjoyed rereading them, one after another, when I’d slotted them into the blog calendar. You may like to go back through them at the end of the week. Will.

 

BOing! was a Festival for children held on the Kent University campus over the last weekend of August 2016. This strange structure, called Mirazozo Luminarium by Architects of Air is like a series of neon-lit tent tunnels, winding paths through beautiful green and red light and colour. The visitors’ playful antics are transmitted by CCTV to other places on the campus. Is this wonder, fantasy or anti-reality? It is like the children’s games used by primary school teachers, such as asking groups of six children how they imagine a space creature, with suitable bodies and facial expressions. They move around to eerie music such as comes from a Moog synthesizer. Making a ‘Spooky Garden’ is another game like this, with play-acted statues.

But internet and video games nowadays can make this virtual world normal for many adults. Toffler’s Future Shock (1970) saw much modern experience as “mass bewilderment in the face of accelerating change.” There is disproportion between our low human complexity and high technological special effects. Emmanuel Sullivan (Baptized into Hope), as an Anglican Franciscan, asks how we develop sensitivity to those around us. “The ongoing mystery of creation and redemption is a meeting of waters, of life and values, of thought and emphasis. At times it is a gentle flowing together; at others the meeting takes place in a mighty roar.” God gives us, if we are open, “the courage and love we need to tolerate and integrate a diversity of Christian life and witness.” But we must consider, are we moving effectively on from fantasy and eerie music to solutions for bewilderment, a genuine witness to hope?

CD.

January 2017.

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THE CELESTIAL CITY – Gothic Cathedrals.

May I share a notice from our friends at the Canterbury Gregorian Music Society. You’d be made most welcome!

THE CELESTIAL CITY – Dr. Jeffrey Miller

Temple of Solomon

Saturday 25th February 2017 10-1
Canterbury Cathedral Lodge
(small audio-visual room)
A morning workshop of talks and chant around gothic cathedrals
Jeffrey Miller holds research and teaching posts at the University of Cambridge and the Bartlett School of Architecture in London. His principal interests are in Gothic Architecture in Europe, including its materialization and meaning in medieval communities. Our morning will consist of two talks and two singing sessions. The talks will look at how mediaeval architects related their vision of a cathedral to passages in the Bible referring to the Temple of Jerusalem. How were the decorations and adornments conceived and realized? Cathedrals were important places for the civic and spiritual life of cities. How did communities decide where these buildings should be and how they should relate to the layout of their cities? We might also have a sneak preview of the end of the world. Questions such as these will be used to frame the two talks by our guest. In between we will discuss and sing some chant for the consecration of churches (and the end of the world?).
Free for members £5 for non-members
includes hand-outs, music and light refreshments
Further information from: jonathan.butchers@gmail.com

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19 November: Saint Hilda

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Hilda was another of those formidable princesses who influenced the growth of the Celtic and Saxon Church in Britain. Indeed, she lived at the meeting point between the two traditions – Roman and Celtic – in Whitby, Yorkshire, then in the Kingdom of  Northumbria.

A teenage convert, she lived her faith to the full, eventually becoming Abbess of Whitby, a double monastery where women and men lived in their own communities, side by side, coming together for daily worship and no doubt for study; Whitby was reknown for learning, though the Viking raids would put paid to that.

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Being high on the cliff-top was not sufficient defence; books and plate were stolen, the monastery destroyed. What we see now is the ruined Norman Abbey, destroyed at the Reformation.

But before all that, it was at Whitby that King Oswy held a Church Synod in 664, attended by delegates from across England, where it was decided to celebrate Easter on the same day as the Church in Rome, a conscious effort to maintain church unity.

Hilda also encouraged the first English hymn writer, Caedmon, who was a groom in the Abbey stables, and was heard singing his songs in the stables.

This carving of Hilda stands above the town, on the high cross just visible to the right of the hilltop. The five bishops around her are the five bishops the monastery provided for the early Church in Northumbria. The snakes at her feet? Well, they do say that Hilda sorted out a plague of snakes around the area, turning them into stone in the shape of ammonite fossils. We found a little ammonite in a rock, and the segment of a bigger one that we carried home from a local beach does a serpentine quality about it!

Dear Lord, in the name of Saint Hilda, we pray for girls throughout the world who would like to study more; may we learn to encourage each other to develop our gifts, as Hilda encouraged the groom and poet, Caedmon. Amen.

 

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5 September: Fiat

 

fallsupwardLike this tree, half-felled

by storm-wind, let my soul be

split, but not destroyed – see –

boughs, like ballet arms extending,

arch as if intending still more –

this severance allows for greater bending:

wind that wrecked has shaped

a back a neck a head –

once upright, whole, now torn –

another perfection’s born:

a tangled, sweeping reverence.

bowing to unlikely providence

that wrought this dread marvel

of fiat form.

 

A hidden flaw at core, no doubt,

gave grip for wind to wring

this grace like water out,

cracking this tough, this sheer,

this rigid thing –

new beauty spilt:

wound’s yielding.

Science needs surprises –

find yours.

Rule, pattern, type

don’t always please your God –

he’s not that kind of deity.

the good’s not always

in what’s done rightly.

Let my soul, half-felled,

be like this tree.

SJC

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