Tag Archives: singing

Going Viral LVII: Zoom, zoom, zoom to the manger.

Saint Dunstan’s from SE.

Another story from Rev Jo Richards of Canterbury. Thank you, Jo. Looking forward to the nine lessons and carols; we’ll copy your order of Service on Friday. WT.

Good morning to you all, and I do hope this finds you all well, as we are here. So yesterday I had a first, in terms of zoom Carol Service – always in St Dunstan’s we hold the annual Parkinson’s Christmas Carol Service – and a huge number come along to it, including the Mayor. Well, this year it was on zoom, and 55 of us gathered for the service. To be honest it was good to have a really good sing of a number of carols – we were all muted I hasten to add, but actually bearing in mind the current circumstances – it was ok. I know it wasn’t the real thing, but to see so many folk who were obviously thrilled to be there, catching up with one another and singing was really encouraging.

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22 November, St Cecilia: Viva la Musica

Further musical reflections from Eddie Gilmore of the Irish Chaplaincy; a good one for Saint Cecilia, even if it was written a while ago. Viva la musica!

Music is especially evocative during Advent, although for some people the memories touched can be bittersweet, as I discovered on a prison visit a couple of weeks before Christmas.

We were in HMP Wormwood Scrubs for the regular Irish Chaplaincy Traveller forum and I’d brought my guitar in to play to what turned out to be a very lively group! One or two of the younger guys were being a bit overly boisterous but I didn’t let it put me off. I just kept singing and I just kept smiling, as I looked around the group making eye contact. It was reassuring to see that a couple of the men were quietly singing along to the Irish songs. I’d planned as well to go into a medley of Christmas songs, both traditional and modern (assuming that everyone would be in the mood for some Christmas music); but was pulled up short when one guy exclaimed “we don’t want to be reminded of Christmas when we’re in here”. “Can I at least do ‘Fairytale of New York’”, I pleaded, and happily they relented, and were singing the chorus with gusto. I think I managed to win them over because when it came to the refreshments they were almost fighting each other to make me a cup of tea. I ended up with four! One of which had so much sugar in it, it was undrinkable! Not to matter; I was really touched, so too when there was a whip round for mince pies for me, before any leftovers got secreted into jogging trouser pockets to be smuggled back to the cells!

There was a man sitting next to me who had not seemed very happy when I’d been singing and I assumed he just didn’t like the songs or didn’t like me or whatever! But after the drinks he suddenly said to me “you’ve a queer good voice but this just reminds me of being in the pub”. Another came over to talk to me. He’d been one of those singing along and he was a good bit older than the rest. He explained to me “ah, the young guys get a bit over-excited”. We had a really nice chat. It was his first time in prison and he said “it’s like spending 23 hours a day in a bathroom”. That was certainly a striking image of the reality of being in prison.

The week before the Scrubs gig I’d been singing in a care home in Kensington for people with dementia, which I always enjoy. I do mainly Irish songs for the benefit of the Irish people there but everyone in what is a very international group of residents appreciates the music. As I was going round greeting people on arrival one of the Irishmen, clearly in a cheeky mood, motioned to the lady next to him and said to me “give her a kiss”!

This group were very much up for Christmas songs! People were singing along with the so-familiar melodies; and when it got to ‘Jingle Bells’ even some of those who are normally quite subdued were joining in and moving their arms, with their faces lighting up in recognition. It was a lovely moment. So too when a Columbian lady (the one I’d been encouraged to kiss at the start!) came up to me and said in Spanish (she appears to have reverted to her mother tongue in her later years) “the singing  was beautiful. May God bless you”.

We’re currently planning our second annual St Brigid’s Day concert, which will take place on January 31st 2020 at St James’ Church, Piccadilly: a ‘Celebration of Irish music, poetry and dancing’. Like the events mentioned above, it will bring people together and, I have no doubt, touch the heart and the soul and raise the spirit. Amongst the variety of talented performers on the bill we’ll have the young people of the London Celtic youth Orchestra and the ‘more mature’ members of the Irish Pensioners Choir’. It promises to be another wonderful occasion.

How blessed I am to have contact with such incredible people in such a rich variety of situations and to have music as one of the means by which we encounter one another and share in our common humanity.

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3 October: The Transitus of Saint Francis

Assisi at night

It’s a few years since we marked St Francistide with the Transitus Service, marking his death and entry into glory. This version was celebrated at the Franciscan Study Centre some years ago. I believe it was put together by Friar Anthony Jukes. It includes Francis’s Canticle of the Sun, which gave Pope Francis the starting point for his encyclical, Laudato Si’!

Mary Queen of Africa at Bobo diolasso from MAfr W Africa

Salve, Regína, mater misericórdiæ; vita, dulcédo et spes nostra, salve. Ad te clamámus, éxsules, filii Evæ. Ad te suspirámus, geméntes et flentes in hac lacrimárum valle. Eia ergo, advocáta nostra, illos tuos misericórdes óculos ad nos convérte. Et Iesum, benedíctum fructum ventris tui, nobis post hoc exsílium osténde. O clemens, o pia, o dulcis Virgo María.

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Going Viral XLIII: Reopening St Thomas’ Church, Canterbury.

Martyrdom Window, St Thomas’, Canterbury.

A few hundred yards from St Mildred’s, Canon Anthony Charlton’s team are facing simiar dilemmas.


I am delighted we were able to open the church for private prayer this week. Many thanks to all the volunteers who have made this possible. For the moment we are not opening for Mass. We need to organise stewards and a “Track & Trace” system to meet with current obligations. Practically we can only accommodate about 30% of our usual Mass attendance for social distancing compliance & organising is to be agreed.
The obligation to attend Sunday Mass is still suspended and, when we do open, people will be encouraged to attend Mass during the week rather than Sunday to help manage attendance numbers. Sunday Mass, when we offer it, will be shorter. We are asked to keep the homily brief, no intercessions and no singing.
Be assured—Mass will be available soon!

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June 10: Of Syllables and Steps, Singing and Silence III

There are moments for movement in the liturgy, often missed or mishandled: processions with cross and lights, perhaps an Asperges entrance rite; processions with the book, with the gifts; an orderly procession to Communion. When African seminarians visiting our parish processed with the Book of Gospels to the sound of drums, the reverence they showed to the Word certainly inspired awe in a Kentish congregation.

Most Catholics, thank God, will never experience the sub-ten-minute Latin Mass that had me stumbling over the well-known responses, followed by, ‘If you ever come near me to serve my Mass again or I’ll kick you from here to Kingdom Come.’ Any awe from Fr G came from his fire-and-brimstone sermons at other priest’s Masses. Priests had it easy, speaking God’s own language; no need to work on phrasing and diction. The laity could pray or stray, every one in his own way; we worshipped together largely because we were in the same building at the same time, Some ‘hearing Mass’ from the porch or beyond.

Some elements of the Tridentine Liturgy now seem difficult to credit: carrying the Missal from one side of the altar to the other behind the priest’s back; the choreography by which the MC would direct priest, deacon and subdeacon to doff their birettas as the choir sang the Gloria; the subdeacon veiled on the bottom step, holding up the paten. Did these inspire awe? Nerves in this altar server: would I miss a cue?

Our celebrations are often far from perfect now: servers still fluff their cues, readers may be inaudible or over-dramatic, babies may cry, someone will sing flat, another will be three syllables behind in the congregation’s prayers, the person before you at Communion will genuflect unexpectedly and nearly send you flying. We can cope with all that if we believe that God is at work here and we are his instruments. As his instruments, we should be fine-tuning ourselves against each other, from Vox Clara to Vince and Clare in the next pew.

Well-led singing helps us to be at one, and may even persuade the babies to be quiet. There are tuneful and singable English Masses, and the Latin Missa de Angelis, or part of it could be learnt by most congregations; but we could discard or edit quite a few hymns from the last 150 years!

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29 April: Can there be any day but this?

Easter is not just one day, one event that happened two thousand years ago. George Herbert sees it as the one day, the most high day: read on!

Rise heart; thy Lord is risen. Sing his praise
Without delays,
Who takes thee by the hand, that thou likewise
With him mayst rise:
That, as his death calcined thee to dust,
His life may make thee gold, and much more just.

Awake, my lute, and struggle for thy part
With all thy art.
The cross taught all wood to resound his name,
Who bore the same.
His stretched sinews taught all strings, what key
Is best to celebrate this most high day.

Consort both heart and lute, and twist a song
Pleasant and long:
Or since all music is but three parts vied
And multiplied;
O let thy blessed Spirit bear a part,
And make up our defects with his sweet art.

I got me flowers to straw thy way:
I got me boughs off many a tree:
But thou wast up by break of day,
And brought’st thy sweets along with thee.

Can there be any day but this,
Though many suns to shine endeavour?
We count three hundred, but we miss:
There is but one, and that one ever.

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4 April, Desert XXXVI: Perseverance and Beauty.

A thought from the French singer-songwriter Laurent Voulzy, who put off writing a song to Jesus for 10 years. You can hear him sing it at the link below.

Right now, I am searching, I pray every day, I go into churches and I look at the diversity of faces … and I see wickedness in some of them …

The idea of faith as perseverance, full of humour and beautiful light, is a part of my prayer. It gives me a reason to believe, to feel joy every day, even if our times do not evoke it. My faith consists of questions. God is in all the faces I see, in all the questions that I put to myself. And in my search for answers…

Laurent Voulzy

Door of Mercy, Holy Family Basilica, Zakopane, Poland.

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15 February: If Music be the Food of Love

Another post by of the London Irish Chaplaincy, one of the L’Arche Kent diaspora; just a day too late for Valentine’s!

 

I was struck by two recent comments about the power of music, one from a 99-year-old Kerry woman; the other by a young man from Belfast.

I’d written in my last blog, also about music, how I was looking forward to a couple of carol singing events in care homes just before Christmas. One of them, at St Teresa’s in Wimbledon, particularly stood out. Paul, Rory and I were joined by one of our lovely volunteers, Christine, who’s originally from Dublin and who faithfully comes every Friday to chat to the mainly Irish residents. I’d planned a repertoire of Christmas songs, both old and new, but as we were waiting for everyone to arrive I decided to warm up with some Irish songs. It was immediately clear that this was a group who didn’t need any warming up. Everyone was both moved by the music and moving. Feet were tapping and arms were waving as people sang along to the familiar tunes. Sheila from Kerry had requested ‘The Galway Shawl’ in honour of a recently arrived Galwayman and I happily began with that, in honour too of my own Dad. And then for Sheila I did a couple of songs from Kerry: ‘The Black Velvet Band’ and ‘Golden Jubilee’. For the Dubliners present we sang ‘Molly Malone’; and for the several people from Cork (I remarked to the wonderful Sr. Pat, the Director, that the name of the home should be renamed St Finbars!) there was ‘Whiskey in the Jar’ (not literally, I’m afraid!). The house was absolutely ROCKING (and anyway, who needs whiskey to have a good time!). I slowed it down with ‘Sweet 16’, before launching into the Christmas set. It was quite simply the most joyful and uplifting experience imaginable.

One of the Cork ladies confided to me later that she was normally quite shy but had so much enjoyed the singing and dancing. And as for Sheila, she said (and I remembered it word for word, it was so heart-warming):

“We were expecting carol singers and then you fellas turned up! The singing was heavenly. You had us lifted out of our chairs and flying through the air like angels. You’ve made our Christmas perfect.”

We’re looking forward now to our second St Brigid’s concert, at St James’ Church Piccadilly on January 31st. There will be a host of talented performers, ranging in age from the young people of the London Celtic Youth Orchestra to the more mature members of the Irish Pensioners Choir. One of those on the bill, Belfast-born actor Anton Thompson McCormick just wrote to me to say:

“31st will be a delight, people coming together and celebrating the good things – how else to start the decade?”

In the midst of writing this piece I was sent the copy of a letter addressed to me that had been sent to the ICPO (Irish Council for Prisoners Overseas) office in Maynooth from a man in a prison in the North of England. He wrote:

“After reading your article in the ICPO Christmas newsletter 2019 I was impressed that the guitar you had used for the last 24 years had been put to more good use by taking it into Wormwood Scrubs”, and he goes on to ask if I could come and perform to him and the other 25 Irish prisoners there, explaining that “my friends and I are very keen on the idea and it would give us a more positive vibe to take forward”. He ends with the words “Thank you for sharing your story and in fact your guitar”. I was incredibly touched by that and it shows again that we just never know the impact we might have on somebody’s life.

So as we start another new year and if music be indeed the food of love then let us PLAY ON!!!

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The long Christmas Season: songs from L’Arche Edinburgh.

crib window EH l'Arche

Good Morning All,

Here is an advertisement from L’Arche Ednburgh for their Christmas CD: they mean the long Christmas, from Advent – early December – until February 2 – Candlemas.

Best wishes, Will. 

My Bonnie Dearie

Carols from Finland to Scotland

Carols from advent to Candlemas, sung in English, by da Noust :

a scratch and informal community singing group of members and friends of L’Arche Edinburgh

Orders via anthonykramers@yahoo.co.uk – available now

In person @ £4 for one and £10 for 3 / + postage if required at cost c. £2 extra for one, £4 for 3. Payment by BACS or cheque

Thanks to .da Noust : Jeremy Devlin-Thorp, Rebecca Fonseca, Cath Norman, John Norman, Sally Fraser, Hugh Fraser, Caitlin Morrow, Sheila Tansey, Dave Middleton, Magnus Kramers, Anthony Kramers, Marguerite Kramers & Phil McBride (Sonic Lodge studio, Leith)

Once a stable bare, now a rose of fire Track one online @ https://youtu.be/bo8wIiVpu0g Images & songs © da Noust

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January 4: Coming together at Christmastide.

madonna.s.mildred.

A short while before Christmas Janet, John from Uganda and I turned up at the ancient church of Saint Mildred in Canterbury for the Service of Nine Lessons and Carols. L’Arche being L’Arche, we often find ourselves straddling the denominations like this. Saint Mildred’s is a home from home: The L’Arche garden occupies the Glebe here1. We use their kitchen, have refreshments with the ladies on Friday mornings, and help with Harvest Festival; we have barbecues in summer, watch birds in January, and our pilgrimage across Kent finished here last May.

To represent L’Arche, now an important part of the parish, I was invited by the Rector, Jo Richards, to read the Matthew infancy narrative at the service. Saint Mildred’s is a far cry from King’s College Chapel in Cambridge whose Nine Lessons and Carols is world famous. Saint Mildred’s is not beset with Tudor self-justification and aggrandisement, as King’s is, but it looks as good, in its own way, by candlelight.

This old church remembers our little local Saxon princess who did things her own way, which was the Lord’s. She was one of those determined 7th Century princesses who wanted to study and pray in a religious community: her community is now established back at Minster Abbey where our contributor, Sister Johanna lives out her calling.

And if a few more of today’s young women were given their chance to discover, discern and live out their vocation within the church where would we be? And we are most grateful for the faithful witness of friendship extended to us by the ladies of the parish, together with Church warden Mary and Rector Jo. That helps to bring the Church back together; we should not do things apart that we could do together; we can see this maxim working well locally with the shared welcome for homeless people given by the churches.

Here is the statue of the greatest Christian woman of all time with her Son, within Saint Mildred’s church. It was candlelit for the Nine Lessons and Carols.

1A Glebe was land set apart for a parish priest to support himself – an ecclesiastical allotment.

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