Wednesday 31 December 2008

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year 2009 to everyone, whenever it arrives in your timezone.

OK, so not for another 7.5 hours here, but I have to get ready to go out and I'm looking a bit drained, so that could be a lengthy task....

Someone at Church is having fireworks, cool.

Monday 29 December 2008

Evening Devotions

does it again for Christmas.

Carol Singing

I had clocked that Fr Tim had put up the info about Carol Singing for the Good Counsel Network in London Tube Stations, been overtaken by events at work and then someone mentioned the last one to me and then texted me all the details on the morning, so no mistaking! By then I was on holiday, so off I went.

Top stuff at Bond Street Station. They had sheets with all the proper carols you'd like to sing and as is always the case with such things everyone was great. Two instrumentalists turned up playing the violin and flute and wove some lovely harmonies around the melodies and a comedy moment was provided by a passer by carrying a moose head! And the organiser even got us refreshments. I'll definitely do it next year.


The Times says several hundred thousand, so we know that means over a million people, during the holiday season in dodgy weather...

Post Party

Yesterday, I had a Christmas/ Birthday (for Leutgeb was a Christmas Baby,)/House-warming Party. Thanks to a huge imput from my parents and other members of the family, plus a goodly turnout of very friendlysome guests, some bearing magnificent Christmas creations - not often I am visited by a homemade illuminated gingerbread house - a fun time was had.

My Mum is still marvelling at the delightful child guests and fortunately people came and went such that there was always enough space for everyone.

I may do it again....and now to the left overs....

Monday 22 December 2008

Happy Christmas everyone!
Busy doing stuff now.
Off to my parents for Christmas.

Friday 19 December 2008


I thought I'd have a nostalgic rummage in the Pick 'n' Mix today, but didn't in the end.

I picked up a few things I needed and was served by a lady who was politeness itself.


O Radix today....

Thursday 18 December 2008

James MacMillan - top man

From this week's Catholic Herald.

Rediscover real Church music
Composer James MacMillan says that authentic Advent and Christmas music can help drive out the dreary rubbish imposed on Catholics in recent decades

19 December 2008

Every Christmas I think to myself: Why I have not written much Christmas music? I have written loads of stuff relating to Lent, Holy Week and Easter. A lot of my instrumental music is inspired by this period, and I have recently set the St John Passion, as well as the Seven Last Words from the Cross. I have also composed motets for Pentecost, the Ascension, Christ the King and Advent. But my Christmas music is rather meagre - one of the new King's College Cambridge commissions for the Nine Lessons and Carols, and a Communion motet for Midnight Mass, and that's it. On one hand, Christmas is so full of music that the modern composer can hardly get a look in - all those famous carols, sung lustily all over the place by believers and non-believers alike. On the other hand, Christmas has been so effectively colonised by secularism that Christians can sometimes feel dispossessed of their festival entirely. That hasn't happened with Easter or the other feasts, and neither is it likely to happen.One of the pernicious influences of that secularism is that Christmas seems to be getting earlier and earlier every year. The great god Mammon, who has muscled in on our festivities, wants to get the consumer-fest under way in November, or even, so it seems nowadays, at the end of October. I should not have been too astonished to discover that this is having an effect on some of the faithful, too. A priest friend of mine is under annual pressure from some pushy parishioners to include Christmas music during Advent. "Empowerment of the laity", indeed.The Church needs to respond to this challenge by rediscovering the wealth of our Advent treasury. The great "O" Antiphons are largely lying dormant, and could be reinvigorated. I set "O Radiant Dawn" recently, and get my little schola in St Columba's, Maryhill, to sing it during the Sundays of Advent. The Introit and Communion Antiphons for Advent are rich and full of the theological preparation necessary for the faithful to make Christmas a genuinely holy time. But like most of the Church's rotating Propers, they are edged out by the obligatory hymns which make up the "bread" of the modern Church's dreary and unedifying four-hymn sandwiches. Parishes can go into autopilot when it comes to standard liturgical practice nowadays, and the fundamental stumbling block to genuine imagination and authenticity in our liturgy is the modern Catholic hymn book.It would be wrong to be pessimistic, though. Pope Benedict's liturgical reforms may take time to find their feet in Britain, but his encouragement to good practice is a breath of fresh air, and they will surely come. One glorious expression of Advent is the hymn "O Come, O Come Emmanuel", which can still be heard in many Catholic churches today - a proud survivor of the decades of interference and "improvement" strategies of the now ageing and fast-fading hippy "liturgists" who moved in, opportunistically, to reshape the liturgy in their own image after the Council.I remember attending Mass in a Huddersfield church on the first Sunday of Advent in 1991 and hearing this glorious and rousing hymn. The experience inspired me to write my own Veni, Veni Emmanuel, a percussion concerto for fellow Scot Evelyn Glennie (pictured below), which has become my most performed work. I was in Rotterdam a few weeks ago performing the same piece (again on the first Sunday of Advent) with Colin Currie, another Scottish percussion virtuoso. (Why do we Scots like hitting things?) The concerto is a kind of journey which begins in Advent, with much anxiety, hope and expectation, but ultimately leads to the Resurrection. At the end of the piece all the orchestral players put down their instruments and pick up little bells and join the soloist in a joyous peal for the Risen Christ. The performance in Rotterdam's wonderful De Doelen concert hall reminded me that the coming of the Saviour, in the shape of a little child, is the start of a world-changing life, marked by the shadow of the Cross. Advent and Christmas may be overshadowed by the drama of Lent and Easter, and they may have been wrenched out of our hands by a new paganism, but they are essential periods of the Church's year in helping us understand the process of God's great narrative towards the Sacrifice of Jesus on the Cross, and his Rising from the dead.It might be time for me to think seriously about how I can address the lack of Christmas music in my catalogue. A musician friend of mine raised the question of a new Cantata for Christmas. That would be one way of doing it. But getting church choristers to sing new Christmas music is also important. Even more important than that is the re-energising of our Catholic congregations, not just to sing as well as our Protestant cousins, but to value the wonderful liturgical heritage of the Roman Church. Gregorian chant is our music. It is paradigmatically Catholic. We could discover the true depth of Christmas by trawling deep in this profound musical and liturgical reservoir. We need to remind ourselves in sound of what it feels like to be Catholic in our souls. In true Catholic fashion, that points to a balance of our ancient roots and our contemporary mission.There is a place for the living composer in the Church's 21st-century liturgy, but that composer needs to have a healthy respect and understanding of the continuum of Catholic history through the ages. There is a core essence to the "sound" of Catholic worship, and it has nothing to do with the sub-Joan Baez protest songs that have been imposed on us for the last few decades. The rediscovery of our Catholic souls can begin with music. But it can also begin with the counter-cultural reclaiming of Christmas as a truly prayerful and holy Christian festival. "The Holly and the Ivy", anyone?

Apologies for the lack of paragraphs.

Beware Mulled Cider

Having suffered a couple of hours of marking, for yes all that work I didn't get round to last week does actually have to be done, I decided to visit one of London's foodie districts. It being that time of year when things liquid get mulled, I thought I'd try mulled cider. 4 mouthfuls into my polystyrene cup and I went for a small one, it was time to seek a burger... powerful stuff.

For lovers of Dickens, there were braces of pheasant hanging, mince pies ... all with a back drop of railway arches and trains going overhead. That's London for you.

This isn't turning into a food/ allotment blog.

Today it's O Adonai...

Wednesday 17 December 2008

Christmas Cake the second.

My cake a day habit continues as cake the second enjoys its two hours on Gas mark 2.

Cake the first was not keen to exit the tin and I was worried that I would have to perform open cake surgery on it, but I crow barred it out in the end.

One of today's jobs was to buy another roll of grease proof paper; the cake tin not being as non-stick as I had remembered.

Tuesday 16 December 2008


The 'O' Antiphons are about to start over here in GMT as Fr Tim points out.

Having a (very good) recording with the notation to follow,

now that's very handy.

Christmas Cake

A bit late, but it got baked this afternoon.

This is the first of two. One for my parents and one for me.

The second one will have 3 table spoons of brandy and 1 of calvados as the brandy is running low.

Mince pies and Xmas cake are matters of great importance to my Dad. Apparently, Grandma used to have mince pies warming on the hearth when he got home from school before Christmas.


After six weeks of form filling, e mails and phone calls, I now have a half plot on the site behind my house.

I think I am going to get a gardener to clear it and then I have two months to dig in manure 'n' stuff before I can start planting. Five people have already turned it down, so the lady in charge was dead chuffed that I'm taking it and I am dead chuffed that it is on that site. I will be able to pop round on those light Summer evenings to tend my courgettes and pick strawberries....

It is just visible from the back bedroom which is nice.

Sunday 14 December 2008

A few of my favourite things

A tag from Mac.

In no particular order.

1 Music. Instrumental music generally. Orchestral music specifically. The horn, stringed instruments. The piano when played by Angela Hewitt. Bach, Beethoven, Mozart, Monteverdi, Brahms, Bruckner, Mahler, Schubert, Gregorian Chant, The Chieftans, Cerdd dant - a welsh type of music where a harpist plays a folk melody whilst two singers sing completely different music that fits. How many traditional musics are this contrapuntal? Singing of course with that exquisite Welsh clarity.

2 My family. Meeting cousins of my Mother from say, New Zealand and finding they react to things just like we do makes you fell less alone in the world and also have a different different details of family history. We could write one of those novels that keeps telling the same story from different perspectives.

3 Working with teenagers. It's great to be around people doing things for the first time. It's new to them if not to me and they do ask interesting questions or say new things, occasionally. Last Summer I had to teach a new orchestra how to play some music and how you accompany in a concerto. That's exciting. (You can tell I'm on holiday....)

4 Gardening. Being outside growing stuff is great. I like the fact that it happens slowly. I love flowers, trees, vegetables, can't wait for my blackcurrants and the jam I will make next July. There be farmers on both sides of my family. Growing food is what my Mum calls, 'reality.'

5 Wales I find it very exciting driving along the A5 to my parents mobile home. Wales was our second home in our childhood, or even the real home, but my parents couldn't get jobs there when they graduated. We used to get sent cuttings from the local paper from Grandma. The smell of coal smoke always sends me back. It's different from England and I like it lots.

6 The Church. Too much to say. I find I can walk into a room of Catholics and suddenly I react the same way as everyone else. Doesn't matter where in the world or whether I've ever met them before, mind reading is happening and people attain levels of kindness not found elsewhere. Everything suddenly makes sense and works. The Extraordinary Form of the Mass.

I tag

Maggie Clitherow

Roses and Jessamine


Antagonistic Pots and Pans

Wednesday 10 December 2008


When I saw this aged 2 after the final line I turned round with tears in my eyes to look at my Mummy.
Tough stuff.

I like the fact that the weasel gets knocked behind the ice cream van and the main thing you see is that his cornet is ice cream end down on the road. Sensitive.

I took this sort of thing to heart!

Ivor the Engine

Such a brilliant little series.

Here's episode 1.

So true to life. Shopping expeditions to the local shops with my Grandmother were just like this.

Also, back in the mostly mono 70s, people played real instruments and you got to hear a bassoon lots. It must have made it easier to learn all the sounds.

I like the way they talk about the day being bright but it's actually pretty overcast. It's just not raining yet and the steam effects with cotton wool. Life was a lot simpler before CGI.

People really do have extra bits to their names in the top left hand corner of Wales. We were always hearing about Mrs Jones the Rectory, Mrs Jones Irish and Mrs Holy Jones and so it went on. I even had both Grandma's who wanted to be called Grandma hence Grandma-in-Wales and Grandma-in-Malden.

I must keep away from You Tube, for I risk watching all 40 episodes back to back.

One of my cousins bought the complete Bagpus for her kids and she said most of it was the title and end credits. One of my brothers has the complete Mr Ben. Fine stuff.

I must also check out the public information films that had improving stuff about castles and battles. Basically lots of still photos, with dates of battles and the odd sound effect of a fracas when they used to alter the camera angle on the pics. After general carnage, BBC composure would be restored and they always ended, 'That was a public information film.' Anyone else pre school in the early 70s watching five minute progs at lunch-time?

My main TV gripe as an infant was the Budget. Because, after a hard day reading 'Janet and John' (that's all the really boring words in English strung together into something that is repetitive and does not tell a story, but by jingo the,them then, there, why where, were etc were etched into your mind,)and learning the two times table mixed in with heavy doses of Catholicism for infants, followed by walking what felt like a very long way, I needed to sit down with what we called a 'drink and a biscuit' in 'the other room' for there were only two downstairs rooms. You were either in the kitchen or, 'the other room.' Time for a stiff Ribena in a plastic beaker and a swift Rich Tea biscuit, whilst settling down for Playschool with my idol Brian Cant, followed up by some series where I now know the theme music is by Faure, Stravinsky and other proper people. Anyway, the Budget was awful because the Children's Programmes were on BBC2 and they started later. Oh the waiting. Parliament was not televised of course, so there was that picture of Dennis Healy at the dispatch box droning on about tax and lots of 'here here.' Poor me. (not.)

Thus ends my childhood nostalgia trip.

Sunday 7 December 2008

St Nicholas from NLM

Better late than never....

Monday 1 December 2008

Monastic Prezzies

Following on from FrZ, I did what Grandma used to call, 'going upstairs pressing a few buttons and then somethng gets delivered.' ( Her description of one of my cousins getting a CD for her from Amazon. She decided that she wasn't going to get involved in technology beyond CD players, so never got into the internet.) I took a timely delivery of Mystic Monk Coffee on Saturday. Timely, because I was off to a 'do' at Church and wanted a little something to give to some people.

They sent a little sample, so I tried that and it's very good. Quite coarse ground compared to what I usually use, which is interesting and very tasty too.

Very good names - Midnight Vigil etc.

The community are saving up to build a monastery and have lots of good deals where they will send you a bag every month.

I have a friend who is a third order Carmelite (I think,) who is a big fan of all their Saints. She went to Rome for St Edith Stein's canonsation. (Big fan.) She's got to have some for Christmas.
Next up, honey from Farnboro' Abbey.
Anyone got any other places they get prezzies from?