Monday, 30 November 2009

My first

Christmas card was given to me today by one of those pupils who is a) extremely organised and b) gives one to all his teachers.

Sunday, 29 November 2009

And then

having had a bit of Pergolesi in Arise once more, it was the music of choice on BBC2 and an episode of that series on Beauty. The last episode I saw was pretty ugly as it goes, but this was presented by Roger Scruton, who amongst other things wrote a book on aesthetics showing knowledge and sympathy for music, so I gave it a whirl. You do wonder, as a musician, quite what some philosophers actually know about music when they whitter on, but we saw Roger at the piano (a Steinway) tinkling the ivories.

Anyway, he saw beauty and religion as two doors into the same space. The old, 'I'm not religious but I love the St Matthew Passion argument.' The trouble is, without the faith of JS Bach, you don't get that music. That's why people can't just write a tune these days. They just don't believe. He also thought some modern artists had no love for humanity and therefore the human form, which explains why they produce images disfiguring it or being violent towards it. We musicians see the same in music where instead of studying orchestration and writing with your performers, you write things that are the opposite of idiomatic and have to be tediously practised and then sounds awful for the audience. Point?

Scruton demolished modernism (in the arty sense) comprehensively, for which he is worth watching on iPlayer.

It would be interesting to read why serialism, particularly that of the Webern sort took off in music. Was it that Schoenberg went to California? Or do we have to go to Boulez and Stockhausen and lay it at their door? They were both taught by Messiaen and I'm sure he would never gone for it because he was French and because he was a Catholic. It's still amazing that he wrote Turangalila just after the war. So was it the generation who were teenagers during WWII who were so damaged they wrote music for helicopters?

One of the instrumental teachers at work plays lots of contemporary stuff and lots and lots just now because of various festivals in November and she commented on how the audience is different from other concerts and a little eccentric. Stranger and stranger.

Enough ramblings...

Arise once more

You can see the pics at Mac's blog and as she says in her comments, after she took the photos of the audience, rentamob showed up, in the form of quite a few adults and lots and lots of children.

The film itself is well worth seeing - lots of beautiful works of art, our ruined abbeys, informative speakers and proper music - Pergolesi Stabat Mater and Allegri Miserere.

If you aren't due a screening close by, you can buy the DVD and DVDs of all your favourite Catholic films at St Anthony Communications.

With Christmas coming, I say buy folks Catholic stuff.

Last time I mentioned a film, one person went to see it! Bara brith; keeping it small.

PS Patricius Blackfen - you can borrow my DVD if you like.

Friday, 27 November 2009

Nearly Advent

Tuesday, 24 November 2009

What I should be baking

Three to be precise. That's what having a sister-in-law does - spreads the cake around a bit more.

Instead, work and lots of it.

Sunday, 22 November 2009

Saturday, 14 November 2009

Rain, Rain

go away, because I have to dump my car at the garage now to be MOT'd on Monday and so have a carless weekend. Sigh.

Still, as in the film yesterday, could be homeless and extremely wet and cold. How anyone sleeps outside in NY during winter and lives beats me. London must be pretty awful.

The Human Experience

Official website here.

Went to see it yesterday in Leicester Sq and it is a very good film/documentary.

It drip feeds Catholicism as it goes as the characters end up places with Catholic names, with lots of holy pictures on the wall, a delightful little girl brought to the children's homes from the street by nuns etc and would perhaps be very appealing to the person about to go travelling on a gap year, looking for experiences.

The interviews with homelss people in NY, children in a children's home in Peru and lepers in Ghana were every affecting. Where else but this screening would you be watching people shake hands with lepers on the screen whilst sitting a few people away from some Franciscan Friars of the Renewal?

Wednesday, 11 November 2009


'I've got a list of men who ought to be bishops, and would love it if the Holy Father would ring me for ideas. '

I have a list too and am betting that quite a few of the names are the same as Auntie Joanna's. The HF would be advised to ring her first though, I'd be completely tongue tied.

Sunday, 8 November 2009

Lead kindly light

Lead, kindly Light, amid th'encircling gloom,
lead thou me on!
The night is dark, and I am far from home;
lead thou me on!
Keep thou my feet;
I do not ask to see
the distant scene;
one step enough for me.

I was not ever thus,
nor prayed that thou shouldst lead me on;
I loved to choose and see my path;
but now lead thou me on!
I loved the garish day, and, spite of fears,
pride ruled my will:
remember not past years!

So long thy power hath blessed me,
sure it still will lead me on.
O'er moor and fen, o'er crag and torrent,
till the night is gone,
And with the morn those angel faces smile,
which I have loved long since, and lost awhile!

This recording put up just at the right time.

They do make a meal of the commas though. For me, words that keep saying, 'lead thou me on,' suggest not snatching the ends of phrases, particularly as in places it detracts from the sense.

I am the person derided on a singing course for loving Rheinberger - too Catholic, too sentimental... Yup that's me.

An away match

You've seen the photos on Mac's blog of yesterday's Confirmations at St James's Spanish Place. Apart from the visual delights, the music was very beautiful indeed. Actually, I was at the end of a row with no kneeler directly in front of me so was in fact, behind a pillar, and a fine pillar indeed!

I had the pleasure of meeting in gaggle at the station for Blackfen-on-tour. We had an interesting journey due to engineering works on the Tube and having deposited the Altar Servers at the Church for a team talk, went in search of coffee and cake. Before you all start getting hot under the collar, we checked (and checked again,)that it was definitely Confirmations and Benediction and not a Mass and then tucked in. The young lady opposite me made quick work of her sausage roll, whilst I enjoyed a caramel shortcake. See what I mean about all this devotional stuff, it leads inevitably to food.

Then it was back to the Church.

Then it was off to a rehearsal at St Giles Cripplegate, where St Thomas More's parents were married and then to a firework party at my Aunt and Uncle's, so quite a busy day.

My Liber-on-loan, saw action today in this morning Requiem Mass. I wonder how many Requiem Masses it has sung since 1936?

Sunday, 1 November 2009

From Fr Z

See here.

Music Time

As my PP has just had such a good time in Estonia, it seems only right to have some You Tube on their most famous living composer, Arvo Part. He got out of the country in the 80s. Things were going so well 'til he called a piece Credo... The story is that he got off the train in Vienna with his Jewish wife (that's how they got out - they were supposed to be enroute for Israel...) and was met by a representative of Universal Edition, Vienna, the famous music publishers.

Found a clip featuring Estonian musicains as they sing so well.

Whilst we're in Northern Europe, you can never have too much of Totus Tuus by Gorecki.

I think it was written for JPII's first visit to Poland as Pope.

Watch out for the European Broadcasting Union day of Christmas music from around Europe, usually on a Sunday in the run-up to Christmas on BBC R3. You get an hour from each country and aside from the continuity annnouncements in lots of interesting languages, lots of fabulous singing. Let's hope Estonia is one of the countries this year.

Busy week

No time for blogging this week - too busy going to museums, looking at mummies, fish, stuffed animals and Abyssinian lyres - apparently they had heptatonic diatonic scales, I wonder how they know? You can't tell by looking at a violin what the tuning is and Indian violinists have a totally different system to western ones, for example. Then there was quite a bit of cooking, lots of games of Happy Families a big lunch at the friends-round-the-corner, a trip to see An Education with my Mum at the Odeon West End, no less - lots of witty moments, but not enough to add up to a great film, and horror anachronistic tea bags in 1961, last night the Sidcup Rec and the Beatles tribute band who played at my brother's wedding and today an Elgar concert at the RFH....

Then it's back to work (at this rate maybe for a rest!) and the real business starts of concerts, prize day etc, having two sets of clothes, academic dress (and with this weather, I need the fur!) in between, teaching and rehearsing and trying to do the paperwork for me external concerts.

And my other orchestra and the mystery English symphony with with the obbligatory pub lunch to discuss... the Hoyer compensating triple and a few car crash concerts people had been in. Apparently, the lead taper on the Bb side is quite long so you sound like a horn and not a hose pipe. As long as Horn 1 plays in tune I'm happy. Too much detail! Compensating horns, ugh! Full triples must be very heavy though even with hollow rotors and titanium valves....