Saturday 29 December 2007

The Voices of Morebath by Eamon Duffy

I got this as a Christmas present from my parents. Having skipped some of the tedious (to me) accounting bits, I'm now onto the Reformation proper.

Some of the text refers to how different Bishops interpreted the directives that they were given. Parallels with today? Some were on a damage limitation exercise when it came to 'images' and others took everything that had an image, including decorations around people's tombs and in the case of brass presumably melted it down. Hard to know when to stop when you get going on serious iconoclasm.

I must say, I do find pre-Reformation England attractive. Lots of attention given to decorating the Church, and different groups saw that statues had lamps burning in front of them, the Parish Council seems very democratic; rich and poor, men and women served. People kept a sheep that belonged to the Church as part of their flock. Obviously, as this book is based on Church accounts and the commentary that the Priest wrote on them, it is a bit heavy on the price of wax and what people left to the Parish, but reading between the lines it does tell of a world with a very different focus to our own and it does sound much kinder.

It must have been a bewildering time to live through, much like our own.

Today being the Feast of St Thomas a Becket, Fr S spoke about him a bit and whilst mentioning how his Shrine at Canterbury met a nasty end also said that our pre-Reformation Catholic Church (ie the big old Anglican one in the centre of the town right by the river,) had a statue or some such to St Thomas a Becket. You probably went past that Church on the way from London.

Monday 17 December 2007

Be careful what you wish for ....

If you've followed that link from Mulier Fortis, you've now reached an Official Catholic Blogging Backwater. (Not Bluewater, that's entirely different.)


Happy Christmas when it arrives.

Random Visits

Traffic is a mere trickle, unlike the A2 at present, so when I take a peek at site meter I have the luxury of seeing where people are and how they ended up here. All sorts of exciting countries. Hallo out there.

Sometimes people have googled such things as
Stockhausen's Mother - think of the shock when they then get lots of pics of BXVI!
Alexander 103
Bara brith
Mariss Jansons
Christmas cake

and most recently several times from America

Sending Christmas Cards to Grandma.

Well you have left it a bit late, but still time to get a really nice one, best hand-writing and all and even avoid what I have just done which is to send a Birthday Present guaranteed next day delivery - pricey but necessary in this case. My friend is suffering from familiy who are seeking to suspend prezzies and so forth. Part of the good bit of prezzies is precisely the fag you have to go to to get the thing chosen carefully, wrapped, parcelled and posted at just the right time, not the thing you send. That said I hope she likes the bubbles and chocs.

On the subject of visits here. I have no wish (and no hope) to be blog royalty, but I would like to get to 1000 by Christmas. It is my birthday after all...

Monday 10 December 2007

Christmas Examination/Meme

1. Wrapping paper or gift bags?

2. Real tree or artificial?
A teeny artificial one. Real would be good, but I live on my own so it seems a bit silly.

3. When do you put up the tree?
Beginning of Advent

4. When do you take the tree down?
As late as poss. Crib stays up for ages and ages.

5. Do you like eggnog?
Never had it. What is it? Seen it mentioned in films ....

6. Favourite gift received as a child?
My birthday is on Christmas Day, so I have received lots of prezzies on that day and don't really distinguish between them. (Apart from the fact they are all great.)

7. Do you have a Nativity scene?
2 cribs. One ACN from the Holy Land and one my Mum got me in Crakow which is very little, very colourful and is like a mini mid European Onion domed affair in bright colours.

8. Hardest person to buy for?
I just go for the direct approach and ask people what they would like. Menfolk tend to want tokens (yawn, but that's what they want, so that's what they get.) Womenfolk, well I know what they like and they are always appreciative, so no probs really. I like looking for things for people.

9. Worst Christmas gift you ever received?
I'm with Fr Justin. Bit mean this whole prezzies are rubbish thing. There was a Christmas where my entire family bought me tights in many colours - including red and yellow. Think Joseph. Must have been some mid 80s fashion meets girly rite of passage. 17 pairs as I remember. Not rubbish exactly, just a little odd. I did wear them, maybe not the yellow ones. I don't really wear that colour.

10. Mail or email Christmas cards?
Mail. See post below. No round robins. Fountain pen, ACN. Done. I like sending people things.

11. Favourite Christmas Movie?
I watched Brief Encounter with Grandma after Midnight Mass in the last few years. We went to bed at 3am? She thought it was the one where she throws herself under the train, but I reminded her that was Anna Karenina. Cheery, eh? She liked the clipped 40s accents, romance, though making the correct moral decision in the end, 'Darling, you've been away,' distant wistful looks etc and the Rach Piano Concerto. Perfect for that, can't quite be bothered to go to bed, not cooking Xmas Dinner later, early morning. Who says octogenarians have no go?

I like The Snowman. It looks beautiful and sounds beautiful.

13. Have you ever recycled a Christmas present?
Chocs have been given to The Passage when I had a year 7 form. Even I can't eat 13 boxes.

14. Favourite thing to eat at Christmas?
Xmas Dinner, Xmas Pudding, Xmas Cake. Cold turkey and stuffing with oven chips following Xmas Day. Left overs are fun. I used to really like it when all the shops were shut and you were walled up with your family eating leftovers and playing with your prezzies, mixed in with lots of sweets. Few walks. James Bond film on Xmas Day. Deck chairs out becuase there weren't enough chairs. The lounge turned into a cinema. Kids at the front on the floor really watching seriously, Grandma generation in the third row, commenting on the Queen's outfit on the Speech, drinking tea and chatting through the car chases...but I digress.

15. Clear lights or colored on the tree?
Coloured, but I couldn't get too fussed. Not those blue ones you see in London. They look cold.

16. Favourite Christmas song?
The Shepherd's farewell from Berlioz L'Enface du Christ.

My Hod says that it's sentimental. Good.

I copied this from Fr Justin and seem to have deleted no 17.
Was that home or away?
As a child alternate years at home or at my Aunt and Uncle's about 20 miles away. Both exciting. About 13/14 people 6 kids, 5 in the parent generation and 2 or so in the grandparent generation. Total present fest for me especially and great fun. I'm not really fussed now about my birthday or presents (though they are nice off course,) but it was very exciting at the time.

18. Can you name all of Santa’s reindeer?

19. Angel on the tree top or a star? Star.

20. Open the presents Christmas Eve or morning?
We've got naughty in recent years. All after Midnight Mass, including the year we went to Westminster Cathedral. We arrived at 10.30 or so and my Dad said we'd just have a peek and decided immediately that it was time to take a seat as it was already 2/3s full rising to jam packed including all the side chapels and totally packed staning everywhere.

As a child, early, but with my parents as once as a very young child I whipped through them and didn't know who had given me what, which made thanking people difficult.

Where's the question about thank you letters? I hated them as a child, but like them now. I'm pleased I was made to do them, especially to Grand Aunts who we rarely saw, but who always sent tokens - 50p from Boots in one case. 50p was a lot in the 70s, but Boots didn't sell what it does now. I think I cashed that one in with my parents. I appreciate a lot more now the fag that they went to.

21. Most annoying thing about this time of year?
Magazines full of stuff to buy and I know I've gone on a lot about presents, but that was as a child and we didn't get stuff apart from birthday and Chrsitmas and they are the same for me.
What I seem to see is all about adults. It's not about how to make people welcome in your home. When did you last see something about catering for the elderly? Or, little jobs kids can do to help? How to help the person 'doing' Christmas. Sharing the load etc. You could make a really interesting feature on lots of different things families do. There's lots of good stuff out there that would be good to learn about.

Articles in newspapers about office parties, people getting drunk and behaving badly.

Drunks on trains.

People making comments about me not drinking much in London, when they know I have to travel home on my own. People making comments about me taking taxis late a night when they know I have to travel home on my own. As I point out occasionally, no-one will notice til I don't show up for work the next day, if anything does goes wrong. I don't feel worried about what I do. I have my system, it's worked so far, but it does depend on being sober. It doesn't depend on copying everone else.

End of moan.

22. Best thing about this time of year?
It's Christmas!

Few. Stop writing. Check you have filled in your Centre Number, Candidate Number and name. Hold up your script for an invigilator to collect.

Can I go now? Did I pass?

You too can take the Christmas test, if you are short of stuff to do. Let me know and I'll read it.

Sunday 9 December 2007

Advent Wreath 2

Was wondering when or indeed if the second candle would light. It's not on GMT, plainly. But it's lit now.

Don't know where Fr Ray gets all his photos, but here is one from yesterday, The Feast of the Immaculate Conception. (Not that either of you need reminding, but people google Christmas Cake and Stockhausen and end up briefly glimpsing this blog. Random visitors check out the clothes - where do you think Father Christmas got his gear from?)

Friday 7 December 2007

Stockhausen RIP

Karlheinz is no more.

One of my finals essays was, 'Melody in Boulez and Stockhausen.' I wrote on why integral serialism destroys everything we expect a melody to do and yes a sense of expectation is there in most music. All that octave shifting does make it hard to whistle, never mind the stuff with the dynamics. Makes early Webern sound positively Impressionist.

One of the essay titles I could have written during the course, (Western Art Music Post-1900 - known as late late, for you had to do pre-1540 or 1540-1700 and 1800-1910 or 1900-present. I did early early and late late, being an extreme kinda musician. Believe me, when Palestrina sounds modern, you know your perspective has been shifted, but I digress as usual, I need footnotes clearly,) was, 'Karlheinz, you cannot be Sirius.' Apparently, he believed that he came from the aforementioned planet.

Anyway, something I quite liked doing was reading the biographical bits about composers ( in this case it put off the moment when you had to listen to the stuff and get into the tone rows...)Stockhausen's Mother was admitted to a psychiatric hospital in the 1930s probably suffering from post-natal depression and was killed as part of the 'let's get rid of ill/disabled/old...people' policies of the time. Stockhausen was quite young at the end of the war (16?) and ended up working as a hospital orderly with very gravely injured soldiers. No wonder he wanted to come from another planet and his music was a little challenging... Also probably explains why he was all into electronic stuff and sine waves. All really pure, take nasty people out of music, lots of rigorous patterns, nothing down to chance, all predetermined. Trouble is if you do the intellectual bit first, you don't usually end up with good music. My school music teacher described spending a day as a student listening to his stuff and said he felt like throwing himself under a bus on the way home, so one to avoid if you are feeling delicate.

Interestingly, both Boulez and Stockhausen were taught by Messiaen who managed to write works of superabundant crazy happiness. We had Turangalila (1947?) blaring out this pm, because we might be taking the boys to hear it. Who was the Catholic? - Messiaen. Which modern composers write tunes and sound like they mean what they write? Gorecki, Part, MacMillan. Pattern?

People did seem to spend lots of time really getting sensitive to melody in the past. It was prized. On one of my many unpublished rants on liturgical music, for I keep not putting things up, I went on about how when people write hymns with words that do not follow a particular metrical pattern, the poor punter trying to sing has an element of uncertainty injected into the proceedings. (Don't even mention the pitches of the melody, nor the dismal harmony.)I noticed the difference reading the English translation of some Latin in my new Old Missal. It makes the sentiments have a feeling of strength, order, completeness, clarity, which is a good thing. Unless of course you want to communicate complexity, doubt, ambivalence etc.

Parting questions. How many Gs are there in last line of ,'Make me a channel of your peace.'

Does 'In bread we bring you Lord,' finish on an F or a C? Tonic or Dominant?

How many verses of 'On Eagles Wings' have an anacrusis? Why is it hard to come in on a C# against a G major triad? Aren't Augmented 4ths a bit dodgy? Didn't those clever monks 'invent' Bb to avoid the dreaded tritone?

No prizes alas.

Caption competition

Fr Ray has a brilliant picture for a caption competition.

Monday 3 December 2007


I played in a concert on Sat with the main orchestra that I play in outside work. We did Sibelius Karelia Suite, Elgar The Enigma Variations and Nielsen 4 'The Inextinguishable.' It went well and a fun time was had by all. It was however, 'a big blow,' or as my section principal tends, so quaintly to put it, 'a serious smack in the gob.' So much so that at the end of Enigma, he had a four bar (unscripted)rest before having to whizz up to a top A, so I had to blast a bit more so that the over all section dynamic remained fff. Fortunately, my mighty Alex 103, see pic, is good for cutting through, when needed. Mostly I aim for the noble, round Dennis Brain (of happy horn player memory) sound.

We played Nimrod on 9th July, 2 days after 7/7 at St Paul's Covent Garden. There was a chance they would cancel it, but it went ahead and afterwards there were plenty of people at the pub. We did have to have another tuba player. The usual one was on the train adjacent to the one that blew up at Edgeware Rd and didn't feel like coming out to play. The brass fixer offered to cab him in, but he wasn't up to it.

Anyway, this is a happy orchestra. I've played in it for about six years and the people are friendly and the conductor very good. He is a timpanist, so in the final rehearsal when all the percussionists come and the hired percussion too, (for the orch owns nothing,) we laugh at how long it is before he asks the timp player if he has any harder sticks. This time she (as it goes) had to get wooden ones out. He usually ends up telling them that they are hired, so they can hit them as hard as they like-and they do!

Nielsen 4 has two pairs of timps on either side of the orch and the last page of my part was rather like playing through surround sound thunder. The last note was rather exciting - drop down to mp whilst the timps did their bong bong ...I, V, I, V you know the sort of thing, then tutti cresc to well very loud on strings up bow.

Some of it sounds like Mahler. Long major chords with a bit of 4-3 type movement are just good. Nielsen seemed to have to keep disrupting his lyrical writing with rather more terse counterpoint and some discordant stuff which seemed a shame. I heard this once with the CBSO and felt the same.

My Mum was chuffed cos the horns got a stand after Karelia. Well we do play the tune at the beginning and we have to hand stop.

Sunday 2 December 2007

Advent Wreath

From the generous Curt Jester via Mulier Fortis.

Sorted. Lights another candle next Sun and everything.

Small things please small minds ....


Here already. Found my cribs and other attire yesterday and put them up. My new piano stool with capacious storage arrived on Fri, so the top of the piano is now clear for the first time in years. How long will that last?

Went to a marathon Mass and ended up next to a boy of 8/9 who was not sitting with his family for we were part of the choir. Anyway, rarely have I sat next to anyone so attentive in Mass of any age, so clearly fantastic parents. He had his own Missal, which was a bit kidified, but only to the extent that the print was slightly larger and things spaced out a bit more. I helped him a little to find the right First Sunday of Advent set of readings, but he was a real pro, pointing out every part of the Mass. Nice voice too. To use Grandma's word, 'edifying.'