Tuesday 22 December 2009

Christmas Cakes

I'm now in production, a bit late, but well under the wire. Two down, one to go and that's for me, so I can afford to be a bit more last minute. The other two were for my parents and my brother and sister-in-law. The hard bit is levering the thing out of the tin, cake intact. So far so good. The tin has lasted about fifteen years, so is bearing up quite well.

Chatting to a colleague at work it truns out she was making and indeed had made by the end of term the grand total of four. She's off to Liverpool to do all the cooking for her folks. Her parents are elderly, so she gets to do the cooking and they get to have Christmas at home, which seems like a very good deal.


Toying with the settings on me blog, as one does periodically and looking at the transliteration function, I though Malayalam was a good language to choose because if I remember correctly that is the language of the people who use the Syro-Malabar Rite. I didn't realise it did it there and then whilst you wrote, so I'm back in boring English now, function disabled.

Now where was I?

Monday 21 December 2009

Bloggers' Lunch

Thanks to Fr Mildew for another excellent bloggers' meet.

This time he entertained us, not with tales of escaping priests and his own take on The Tablet, but with a book of pictures as suggestions for the new minor basilica in Blackfen.

Whether Baroque or rococo, (ie to a musician whether JS or JC Bach, Handel or Stamitz,) it will look great rising above the surrounding suburban streets.

Coming across the piazza outside the Cathedral in sleet, it was time for one of those text conversations with my Dad.

L Is it snowing?
D Quite a bit!
L Returning from London then.
D A good idea.

Hopped on the tube to London Bridge to maximise trains, by which time it was really snowing, but the train arrived on time and I trudged home without a hitch. Hope everyone else was as lucky.

Not so easy for my Mum's French friends due for dinner tonight. They aren't going to my parent's place nor alas will they be able to get the Eurostar home tomorrow. And they said exceptionally cold in France has meant -17C. Brrr

Sunday 20 December 2009

Reading time

At the end of September, Delia lent me 'Come Rack! Come Rope!' and I started it and then read some St Francis of Assisi stuff on the basis that you just can't spend you entire life thinking, 'St Francis of Assisi, 'Make me a channel of your peace', that is the hymn I most dislike' and moving quickly onto other thoughts, the washing up, the need to get a pint of milk on the way home, anything really. See just what terrible effects terrible music has?

Then there were a few CTS pamphlets - St John Vianney - amazing how ignorant I am really...

Usually, by the end of term I'm no longer reading on the train, but sleeping, however, I returned to the Benson. I am now truly gripped and more to the point must finish it by tomorrow.

Saturday 19 December 2009

Rheinberger Horn Sonata

I had a trip to Foyles recently and besides marvelling at how many books of and about chant they have, found a new Horn Sonata to play.

Clearly a composer with good taste.

Foyles, btw, is always a bit of a shock because it's just so tidy and you can pay so easily. Oh yes and you can find what you want. A friend of mine was once looking for a Ravel opera score and having looked in pocket scores, Dover scores, random French scores (for they are sometimes different sizes from everything else published anywhere else,) went up to the desk (not the till in those day oh no that was probably on another floor...) and being the polite man that he is said, 'Ravel seems to crop up in a few places.' He said afterwards that what he felt like saying was, 'There's *&%$£ Ravel everywhere.' You had to really want a book or a piece of music in those days and be prepared for a quest to find it and a struggle to buy it.


I glanced over 'Allotmenteers Monthly' in the supermarket today.

Perfect parsnips everytime
Potato chitting tips

chirped the cover.

My thoughts turn to seeds and the fact that I never did clear the allotment properly and now all is covered in snow and the ground frozen. Digging; such a general New Year's resolution.

Maybe I'll get over there this week and see if frozen kale is at all palatable. Nothing a saucepan of boiling water won't fix, I'm sure.

And now to make chocolate brownies for non Xmas Pudding eaters.

Monday 14 December 2009

Divisi double stops

My lunch-time concert went without a hitch. Well, the minibus containig three cellos, two double basses, stools, the electric stage piano for the organ continuo and all the stands arrived 30 mins late, by which time we had unpacked everything else, put all the chairs out and were ready to go. We started playing five minutes after the stuff arrived, which I count as a success. The music was in my ruck sack. After my conducting from memory experience 18 months ago, I never put it down anywhere.

We did the Corelli Christmas Concerto, which has grown on me a lot. He just writes well for the violin and it's very uncomplicated straightforward stuff. You just have to try to play it well.

The Elgar Serenade passed off with only a few raised eyebrows on my part until the last chord of the which was a shock. Listening back to the recording today I heard a G natural in an E major chord. Due to the smallness of the orchestra;, I can tell you that the offending note came from one of two people - the outside second violins to be precise - and given how loudly it was played before sliding to a G#, I have a clear suspect.

Just in case you think I seek out offending players in a Toscaniniesque fashion, rest assured I do not. For one thing this is a school. So whereas out there in the big bad world, there are conductors I choose not to play for and conductors who don't want me (sniff), you just can't work like that in a school. These guys are learning and you can only learn to do concerts by doing them and that means the occasional prang.

Sunday 13 December 2009


The sanctuary was awash this morning with pink/rose/ whatever the correct shade is vestments receiving their second use.

Then I had a lovely roast dinner with the family with the largest indoor real Christmas tree I've ever seen, decorated up to the ceiling and they have lofty ceilings.

Yesterday, I went Christmas shopping with my Mum, sister-in-law and her Mum up London, where we dodged the crowds round Covent Garden and the South Bank and I got quite a few presents sorted out. Some work to do, but I'm getting there.

In the evening we went to hear a Buddy Holly tribute act who was a bit like Clark Kent, but morphed instead into Elvis in his second set which he seemed much happier singing. One of the raffle prizes was £100 of booze, mostly spirits, which I won. This was on top of winning a bottle of brandy last time I went there. Everyone in the family went home with their bottle of choice.

Wednesday 9 December 2009

Christmas Cards

Experience has taught me that is this the time that I should write them. It seems too early, but next week is always a bit mad and then we're into First Class stamp territory and the foreign cards arriving between Christmas and New Year - not that that's ever been a problem for various of my friends and family.... and it's nice to get post when you are on holiday.

I don't do round robins because I think they are are either smug

'April saw us on our round the world cruise...'

or occasionally a bit morbid (may be that's just the Welsh side of the family terrrrible, OK that's one particular slightly distant set of rellies...,)

'Molly the dog took a turn for the worse and we had to cancel our trip to... (think of less than exciting destination of your choice, probably owned by the National Trust.)'

The sadness is that they are fine in real life.

I have one set of friends from university who married each other and have six children. Chris writes the only round robin worth reading which has a paragraph about each child - 'Noah wants to be Dr Who when he grows up...' and used to end with '... and Rachel is expecting a baby in...' but now ends differently, though you never know. Maybe young Naomi needs a younger sibling.

If I had to write one, mine would go

digging digging digging
slip, click ouch shoulder
more concerts
Digging digging digging

Neither smug, nor morbid, just a list.

Tuesday 8 December 2009

Monday 7 December 2009

Walking the tightrope

which is having the success of a concert depending on one final chance to nail a piece, I found myself having one of my very specific anxiety dreams.

Thus I am shouting, 'But what's the RV number?' at a trumpet player expecting to play that Vivaldi Concerto for two trumpets even though we do not have the orchestral parts. Antonio, we all remember, wrote the same concerto four hundred times... before I phone up the local very helpful music shop to get the parts. I like them, you have but to say, 'Barenreiter, Urtext,' and they respond, 'Of course.' Then some random Russian turns up in the rehearsal and starts barking instructions at the strings.

The reality was that we got through the whole of the Corelli Christmas Concerto in forty minutes. The soloists are fine. The ripieni will be for the concert. The organ continuo boy was good. One Violin I forgot to come and I may just cut him... That way, he won't forget again and I won't have the worry of him messing something up and yes there will be plenty of musicians in the audience who will notice every little thing. He'll get to play in the other piece. I just have to time our arrival on foot at the venue at the same time as the minibus with the Cellos, Basses, stands and other bits arrives, so the school doesn't get a parking ticket. Last time we did a lunchtime concert, the building opposite the school caught fire, the road got closed and my HoD was left outside the place in the rain with the boys and the gear. He was not happy. ;-(

Anyway, I like Corelli. Good, honest music. Plays itself, if you can play it. Just those scary moments of doing an upbeat in a new tempo and feeling that only a quarter of the players are really with you. On the fix it list for Thurs. Sigh.

Sunday 6 December 2009

Wednesday 2 December 2009

Reports done

Having been chained to a computer, I am now free to get on with everything else.

In other news, the school dinners have taken a dive and everyone is depressed. Lunch represents a high point in the working day.

Yesterday's bean sprouts boiled in dish water with plain rice were worthy of Ash Wed. Today everything had chicken in it. Are they clearing out the freezers?

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....

Wednesday 28 October 2009

Happiness Complete

I have on loan a 1936 Liber Usualis and am now facebook friends with a certain famous chant musician. :-)


Good, honest music. Open strings and the rule of down bow. Life was simple in those days!

Can't quite find a version that does everything I want and gulp Roy Goodwin seems to have harpsichord continuo and I'm going to use an organ only- cos it says concerto da chiesa on my score and I have an organist in my form who I want to use. No archlute either. We will be at 440 too. This is well flat! That aside I like the tempi and phrasing. I like the proto Vivaldi sound without the angst and pyrotechnics.





Saturday 24 October 2009

The best news

The clocks go back tomorrow!

Obviously, the whole light failing during period 8 thing, along with going to work in the dark, coming home in the dark and only seeing me garden at the weekend is grim, but thinking entirely short term, I NEED a lie in!

Other people I know are even more sleep deprived and really need a lie in. Maybe GMT -1 would be a good idea.

The otherwise silent Church, this morning, was bathed in the mostly soothing sound of sleeping young people. (Don't you hate that term! Some teenagers, some younger children - hard to say, lots of bodies in sleeping bags anyway.) Occasionally, this was broken by some serious snoring, so at least one person was safely in the land of nod.

All this Catholic devotion stuff is fine but my diet has taken a definite turn in the direction of junk (yum) St T of L last week saw me having 3 fine breakfasts and yesterday's Mass and Adoration was followed by drinks in the club and chips. Fantastic! I'm on a roll (or maybe just rolling,) and have just been shopping and bought all the food for my friends. Five days of feasting will follow, after which a turn in a more puritanical direction will be needed if I am to fit into me posh frock for the week after next's posh work dinner.

See Fr Tim and Mac for erudition and photos.

Friday 23 October 2009

Holidays are here again

Yes, a mere 35 working days after the Summer hols ended it's half term.

A friend and her 7 year old son are coming to stay tomorrow til Wed, so I'm off to make my house fit for guests and to make sure that the gravy doesn't touch the carrots and all those other important details. We have lots of museums to get through as Jo has decided London's the place to be and has compiled a list of things he'd like to do.

Heard this in the car on the way home.


Be patient with possibly one of the longest crescendos you've ever heard, if not the slowest to get going.

Marvel that the sound is mixed to make a harp gliss louder than the first horn solo and notice how horn 1 has a sizable dent just under his little finger hook. You have to drop an instrument to sustain a blow like that. (I know cos I've done it, but I took my horn to Paxman's where for about £20 they will bang it out for you! Not a nice sound.)

The Berlin Phil are an amazing orchestra. As people say, it's like hearing one person. I heard them do Turangalila at the Proms two years ago and weirdly they didn't actually take the roof off til the last chord. Since it's an 80 minute symphony, that's pretty restrained!

Bed making ....

Wednesday 21 October 2009

40 Hours

Thurs to Sat.

Interesting times

Reading The Times front page today led to a game of mental bingo, crossing off the following.

CDF/ Holy Inquisition, previously headed by one Joseph, Cardinal Ratzinger.

SSPX/Holocaust denying. I'd be heartily sick of that cheap link if I was a member of the SSPX.

[A threat] to wreck decades of ecumenical dialogue. Or perhaps bring it to true fruition? Like ordaining woman as 'priests' and soon probably 'bishops,' isn't.

Anglican orders being utterly null and void. (No inverted commas on this blog.)

Welcomes being too effusive. (Should they be begrudging then?)

Mention of tanks elsewhere, Panzer Kardinal anyone?

Also elsewhere in The Times a quote in defence of the CofE from the National Secular Society. Desperate?


Marvel at no mention of the aging GERMAN Pontiff, ex-member of the Hitler Youth (and no picture!) no naming of Bishop Williamson, such restraint! No mention of relics and indulgences either, but that was last week. They missed out Galileo and Pius XII too. Sigh. Come on Ruth, this is the front page get all the prejudices out there. No via media on the anti-Catholicism!

Now we've got all of that out of the way, this could all prove to be very good. Goodness knows England needs re-converting. The more the merrier and a return to merry England. It could make being British and Catholic almost normal. I might be able to see an historic Church and go to Mass there of a Sunday rather than feel totally alienated from our architectural and cultural heritage as I do now. It could be very good for music. What if the odd Oxbridge College decided that its Chapel was going to join up to this new venture? Catholic musicians could participate in an excellent training in Church music, for example. That would be good, because then more chant and polyphony could be used in all our churches.

SP has brought about great fruit in two years and the same could be true of this venture, if we support it and the people it pertains to. Yes, we could grumble about whether they are having it easy when so many people have been martyred and persecuted for being Catholic in Britain since the Reformation or in my case just had gratuitously, rude hostile things said to them. If the Roman Catholic Church and the Patriotic Church in China can try to patch things up, surely we can have a few ex-Anglicans on board?

It all makes next year's Papal Visit/ Beatification of John Cardinal Newman an even better prospect.

Tempting to add a little joke about getting our Churches and Cathedrals back, but some people don't find that sort of thing funny. I find it very sad that they are the way they are now, but I'm only a Catholic.

You are far better off reading this on FrZ or this from Fr Tim.

The British secular press; always a good laugh!

Tuesday 20 October 2009

My least favourite musical job

Page turning!

I' prefer to play the notes most of the time.

Anyway, that most unpleasant of tasks passed off OK tonight. One of the pieces by Granados was in an unfamiliar Russian (what else?) edition, printed on paper that I'm not prepared to describe here, as I can only be crude about it and after the first turn I had to remain standing holding the pages so that the they did not fall back. None of the pieces had impossible, let's repeat the exposition turn backs or the immortal words, 'To Coda,' which happens in one of me orchestral pieces infact a DS and a 'to coda,' always a laugh. You don't really want to be looking down fumbling pages over with your left hand whilst supposedly preventing the cellos rushing and the wind spread across the width of the platform going in all directions.

Not as bad as a Lieder recital we went to a while back where the pianist was playing off A3 photocopied spreads, one of which slipped off the stand landing audience side and the turner had to walk round the back of him to pick it up. He just carried on playing, as it goes.


Vernacular words, in fact.

Before Berenike expends too much time finding excellent translations of the Good Book and commentaries all entirely sound and Catholic, I'd better quickly put my case.

Words, spoken language are great for conveying facts, intellectual discourse and humour for me, but don't really touch me that deeply. I enjoy writing, up to a point. I admire and enjoy the writing of others and language is good for marshalling certain types of thoughts, but they just don't do it for me in the end.

I could provide a very short list of novels that I have found overpowering, I could provide a very long list of music. Music touches me everyday, writing occasionally.

With the new opportunities to attend the Old Mass, I now realise why for the first twenty years of my adult life, I have been dutifully going to Mass and I have to say not being radically altered alas. I just presumed that it was a deficiency on my part. Try harder, Leutgeb! But now I know it is not so. That's why I will never be a Prod. It's not just the lack of Sacraments and Authority (which let's face it are deal breakers - No forgiveness, no Blessed Sacrament and who are you to define truth and which one of you anyway or do I have to work everything out myself?) I can't be doing with too many words. The NO is tipped very heavily in favour of words at the expense of music, gesture, the visually beautiful, incense, silence, routine and anything else that you think makes up the Liturgy.

The idea of Bach Chorales is beginning to annoy me too. That they pack in so much harmonically in so short a time and whilst holding in balance the four contrapuntal voices is an amazing exercise in musical suduko, but why the rush to get through the text so fast? Why so many words? Musically, vowels are where the beauty is and why the melismas of plainsong or polyphony weave their magic. I don't like syllabic text setting in this context. I was talking to a pupil the other day about the need of Lutherans (and indeed Anglicans) to provide a new musical repertoire for the new ideas and indeed metrical, vernacular psalms apparently were very attractive to some people, and he said,' So they did that to may the text easier to understand?' Subtext: Catholic bad, Protestant good. Miss Leutgeb subtext Catholic truth, Protestant heretic. But does making everything as plain as plain can be make it more understandable? More affecting? More likely to convert you? For me NO!

Interestingly, (to me and this is my blog!) just as I have never watched Star Wars all the way through, because I just get bored, I find the Bach B minor Mass boring and have never listened to it in one go. Heart not in the text? Interesting, because I love the Matthew Passion with a passion and when I first heard it, the first chord it caused a bolt of electricity to go through me. Just the first E minor Chord. Now that's genius. No written language has ever come even faintly close to that. Not even getting a static teading!

So Bible study at the mo. No thanks.

And so to work.

Sunday 18 October 2009

Locus iste

Today, being the Dedication of the Cathedral, the gradual was Locus iste, which Bruckner set so beautifully. Fairly singable for a church choir.

Not sure which Church this is. It's not Linz Cathedral which is neo Gothic and I thought the Alte Kirche where Bruckner was the organist was, well, old, though stupidly, I've never been in, despite it being on the Hauptplaz. Also the Monastery (Stift) St Florian, where he is buried beneath the organ, has the organ at the back not to the side of the sanctuary, I think, so name that church!

It's Linz, or somewhere in Upper Austria, it's pretty huge and has a very wet acoustic and I'm in the mood for some seriously washy sound, surely that is musically totally apt for the words? You want the sound to reach every crevice of the building. Apart from the rather bright first note of the sops, I think it's perfectly fine.


Saturday 17 October 2009


I've been busy the past few Saturdays, so have not been to the supermarket to buy my favourite apples -Cox's. Would you believe that that the Tesco Metro by the station does not have any? (Do you care?) Well it does not and some of the apples have been imported from Kiwiland and therefore refrigerated, poor things.
So today I righted this wrong and bought two bags. This put me in the happy poisition of having toast (from own bread), some very tasty cheese, my own tomato chutney and an apple. A perfect Saturday lunch.

Friday 16 October 2009

Hundreds and Thousands

Thanks to Catholic Mom of 10 for these figures.

Total number of pilgrims who have visited the relics of St Thérèse in England and Wales:
Portsmouth 4,500
Plymouth 3,000
Taunton 1,800
Birmingham 11,000
Coleshill 3,000
Cardiff 4,400
Filton 6,000
Liverpool 17,000
Salford 30,000
Manchester University Catholic Chaplaincy 2,000
Preston Carmel 2,000
Lancaster 8,000
Newcastle 5,000
Darlington Carmel
York Minster 10,000
Middlesbrough 15,000
Leeds 14,000
Kirk Edge Carmel (Sheffield) 3,000
Nottingham 8,000
Walsingham 5,000
Oxford 6,200
Gerrards Cross 2,000
Aylesford 17,000
Kensington Carmelite Church 10,000
Notting Hill Carmel 3,500
Wormwood Scrubs 250
Westminster Cathedral 95,000

Grand Total 286,650 pilgrims

So that would explain the one column inch in the print edition of today's Times, which actually referes to Protestant England(!) and then says 300k venerated the relics. PARDON? Three Hundred Thousand People. Oh right, I guessed that from the reporting.

Thursday 15 October 2009

St T of L at Westminster II

Being the saddo that I am, I check sitemeter now and then and see that I have a link from The Catholic Herald to the previous shockingly trivial, vague and generally vacuous post.

So I though that I'd better try and be a little more cogent, even in my enfeebled state.

Here goes. Over the past three days I have got up earlier and gone to Westminster Cathedral and thence to work. Why? Well lots of reasons. The er obvious one, St Therese of Lisieux of course, on whom I am by no means an expert, but she is a Saint and Doctor of the Church and that is enough for me. And for the reason lots of people love her that is that she didn't do anything externally very amazing in her short life, though joining the Carmelites at such a young age impresses me no end, but she lived a hidden life that was extraordinary. My reading extends little beyond the CTS Pamphlet, but that says all you need to know.

Another reason is that I like good old fashioned piety. I like Cathedrals full of people praying their own prayers and doing their own thing. I like lots of people lighting candles. I like the Altar covered in roses. I like the fact that woman and men who are written off by the world are held up as examples by the Church. I like the fact that we can all have our private intentions which we may never share with another soul, but yet all be united together in the Church. I like the family in front of me at Mass with their children in pyjamas. I like the slightly wacky lady next to me (who was probably thinking, 'I like that slightly wacky lady next to me.'). I like the Irish Nuns behind me, the people in posh suits and everyone else. There were oo lots of people at the 7am Mass this am. I don't know how many people half the nave holds, but it was pretty full. I want to be with other people who hold the same beliefs as me and are trying to live according to the same way of life. I don't care where they come from, what they look like or anything else about them as long as we share that.

I don't want to 'share' my intentions out loud with other people! Mind your own business! I hate meetings. I hate Committees. I don't want to discuss the teachings of the Church. I can listen to my PP or read the Catechism thanks. I don't want to change the Church. I want the Church to change me. I go to Church to say my prayers. I go to meetings at work.

So, emboldened by my visit to St T of L, I put my votive candle on the counter at Pret a Manger (impressive witness eh?) as I paid for today's brekkie and had a chat with the lady serving about when the relics were going and how big the queue was. I hope she got there later in a break. How often is visiting a Cathedral to venerate the relics of a Saint a perfectly normal piece of conversation when you pay for something in a shop in England?

If anyone reads this who has any power to do anything, please stop wasting time discussing stuff in meetings and just lay on lots of Masses and devotions. Don't ask people to 'share' anything. Don't have any liturgical chit chat, banal music, or novelty of any sort. Give us the real deal.

As Fr Z says - Say the Black and do the Red, then we can all get on with our prayers.
In fact just dust down your 1962 Missal and do what it says in there.

Then there might be more need to have 100 000 votive candles to hand in our Cathedrals and Churches.

PS Thank you to the organisers of the Tour and all the people who worked in whatever way.

I'm looking forward to a lie in tomorrow - get up at 6 - but it's been a very good week.

Wednesday 14 October 2009

St Therese of Lisieux at Westminster Cathedral

NB Please read the post above for Thursday 15th Oct. This is twaddle!
I succeeded yesterday in getting the 0545. I admit that I had to run part of the way to the station, but I made it.

Got to the Cathedral at 6.40am and went to the 7am Mass and as I was leaving saw a colleague from work, which was really good. Later in the day she popped into my lesson to ask if her form were involved in that night's recital and we shared a certain pleasure that they were not... I had to stay of course, but was just listening, so no ham fisted piano accompaniments. ( not on that occasion anyway.)

After Mass I walked round to the piazza to join the queue to venerate the relics and was able to stay a while. I've never been to that Mass before, so have no idea what it's usually like, but there were maybe 100 people and they had the relics of St Edward the Confessor on the Altar.

So I went back this morning too, though missed the Mass, but am aiming for an early night and a showing for St Teresa of Avila.

Since bara brith is the home of the trivial, you will be pleased to know that the piazza is sporting a burger refreshment type van. Not a vegetable in sight! I have had some very nice breakfasts these past two days and am wondering what fuel I need to get me to the end of the rehearsal after school tomorrow. Food can replace sleep! 1 bacon sandwich= 1 hour!

Saturday 10 October 2009

A zippy Missal cover

Car keys, Missals and handbags make an unstable mix and it's the Missal that's going to come off worst, so finding myself in the piazza outside Westminster Cathedral at lunch-time popped into the CTS Bookshop and hey presto! All zipped up and safe and before any great accident occurred.

Oh yes and the Rosary Crusade was great. Lovely weather too and lots of people even though squillions must have been at Aylesford. St T of L advertised out ide the Cathedral as 58 continuous hours, four Priests hearing confessions etc...

Friday 9 October 2009

An interesting conversation

I had a funny (sort of ) conversation over lunch with one of the History Teachers which started off with him saying that the parents of a JApanese boy had asked him to teach Pearl HArbour objectively...

Then he said that the Stuart/Tudor Period was tricky because it was a diatribe against Catholicism (not when I was at school...)

So I said that we were used to that and that anyway we now have Eamonn Duffy and are very happy with our revisionist history of the period.

He then said that boys were wide eyed when transubstantiation and indulgences were mentioned. Continuing in my, jolly japes, mode I said that transubstantiation was still very much the thing and that folks were getting indulgences even now visiting the relics of St Therese of Lisieux, not to mention the Year of Priests, but we just don't pay for them anymore.... 'Year of Priests?' this was all beginning to get too much for him! Just to over egg the pudding a bit more I said I thought that the Missal of Pope Pius V was great.

We then had the usual twaddle about Henry VIII was really a Catholic, he just didn't want to follow the Pope. Oh yeah... I pointed out that the Dissolution of the Monasteries and the iconoclasm of the period were really quite something.

Thursday 8 October 2009


I've picked up a few new ones recently, including, dadwithnoisykids, whom I have long admired greatly.

Better start doing a bit more than sticking pics up and the odd Youtube link... oh so you'd noticed too!

Rosary Crusade

It's this Sat for anyone within striking distance of London who is not going to Aylesford.

All being equal, I'm going.

Then, having had a look through the itinery for St T of L at Westminster Cathedral, I'm planning a dawn raid. All the Evening Masses are ticketed and let's face it there will not be any spare room, even standing room.

I occasionally have to get into Town at silly times and by getting the 0545, I could get to the 7am Mass. I'd only have to get up an hour earlier than usual to do this and if I choose the day well, may not even loose it in front of a class ... Tell me folks won't be queuing round the block at 6.45!

We'll see.

Wednesday 7 October 2009

Now that's what I call Horn Playing

The best orchestral solo, played by the best ever player.

Dennis Brain in 1944 on his piston valve Raoux, before he went over to the dark side and got an Alex, (see below.) Though being a high player, not for him the 103, but a single Bb with A/+ and a manual F extension, I believe. Because it's not only organists who have anoraks. He was probably in RAF uniform too having spent WWII in the RAF Central Band in Bedford, [popping down to London for concerts now and then.


Whilst we're on the subject of Tchaik.

4,5,or 6. Which is your favourite?

For me, it changes. Today 6 or maybe 4, without the pizzicato movement.


As Fr Tim says we get to celebrate it twice and I don't think I'm singing tonight, (well I hope not...) so that's another plus, for me and the congregation.

Need something to cheer me up on this otherwise cheerless day.

Time for some horn tootling, I think. My next concert draws on apace and with an overture and two symphonnies, quite a bit to play therefore and a certain amount of stamina to rebuild. Sorry next door...

Bach broke lots of rules

was all I needed to hear to know that the A Level Board has lost the plot.

That and the other half dozen morsels of nonsense and the florid lunchtime text from younger colleague to out boss.

Younger colleague was on the how to teach techniques and composition course, I'm doing the Set Works Listening/Performing today.

The fact that they seem uncomfortable with teachers wanting to know how to teach pupils so they get 100% is a problem because to get the new A* at A level you have to get 90% in the A2 modules. Oxford expect you to predict at least A*AA. So it matters quite a bit, because the boys actually have to get the grades too. I've written two UCAS References for boys in my form in the last few weeks.

On the plus side our three best AS candidates on a written paper with a maximum mark of 90 got 90, 90, 89.

The immediate question is, do I do as younger colleague and go for the Examiner, or shall I let someone else take that role? Apparently, there was lots of eye rolling yesterday. Something about the woman not identifying a note as a leading-note and then not following the 'leading-notes may fall at a cadence in an inner part to the fifth of chord I rule.' Why bother, maybe just slap some notes down that you feel sound nice.... Unless you are an organist of a certain disposition, you should not be the Chief Examiner dealing with Bach Chorales. It's just wrong.

Maybe it'll be a different woman....One can hope.

Update. Actually, it was good. The Performing guy was like Jools Holland and as an musician should be - strange shirt with clashy worn out tweed jacket and a wealth of useful and amusing anecdotes. Written Paper bloke Dumbledore, in a suit and a bit taller. We even got scripts and comments as to why candidates got vrious marks. Performing is always good because either it's excellent and well worth hearing or so bad that it's just funny. I shoudl say that I never laugh whilst pupils are doing their thing because that would be cruel, but remaining impassive in the face of somethings I have to listen to is challenging to say the least. Not becoming deeply depressed when listening to a string of indifferent Grade V Violinists playing to you in a freezing room in Jan during the Scholarship auditions is also a challenge. You can see they don't much like the instrument often, which just makes it worse. Sigh.

Must just be what passes for composition that no-one seems to know how to mark.

Also, their technique of asking random people to give a mark or comment on a piece of work, kept everyone awake. So definitely one of the better courses I've been on recently. Lunch was good, just a pity it was chucking it down on the way home and that Boro' Tube is on the City Branch of the N Line. Mustn't grumble.

Read some well written essays. Good to know someone knows something somewhere. Amazed that there is no dictation on the A2 Listening. Really amazed given what you had to do til last year. Random modulations and wacky chords in all sorts of inversions.... Frowny expressions from boys.... no longer.

Tuesday 6 October 2009

Grandma RIP

Please pray for the repose of the soul of my Grandmother, whose second anniversary is today.

Grandma; born 13th Novemeber 1916 on the Atlantic coast of Ireland, died 6th October 2007 in a suburban London hospital.

Sunday 4 October 2009

Mixed Tomato Chutney

There comes a point when you have to accept that the nights are drawing in and that sadly some of those tomatoes, on those plants, grown from seeds that you first plonked in an egg box in the airing cupboard in Feb, just aren't going to ripen.

This is where Nigel Slater's recipe in today's Observer Mag is going to work its magic, I hope. I have long suspected that any recipe starting, 'Green Tomato,' is getting a reading on the yuckymeter. After all, which Opal Fruits (Star Bursts for any readers of a certain age,) did you always leave til last? And Fruit Gums and Wine Gums... So, at last someone has come clean and that green tomato chutney can swing from 'the divine to disgusting.'

I think that I can muster 900g of toms of various varieties and shades and once I've got the rest of the ingredients I think it's time to fill the last of my jam jar collection with some chutney.

The big question then chutney artisans. What spicey seedy things do you add? Nige says 1 chilli and 2 tsp of yellow mustard seeds. Any thoughts?

Our Lady of the Rosary

pray for us.

Tuesday 29 September 2009

Holy Michael Archangel

Saint Michael the Archangel,defend us in battle.
Be our protection against the wickedness and snares of the devil.
May God rebuke him, we humbly pray;and do Thou, O Prince of the Heavenly Host -by the Divine Power of God -cast into hell, satan and all the evil spirits,who roam throughout the world seeking the ruin of souls.

Sunday 27 September 2009

St John Vianney

pray for us.

RH Benson Coincidences

This am after Mass I was having a chat with someone who mentioned a book by RH Benson; 'Come Rack! Come Rope.'

This pm I bumped into someone I have only met once properly who remembered (when I had forgotten) that I had expressed an interest in this book and she handed it to me wrapped in a jiffy bag.

Better read it!

Wednesday 23 September 2009

Sunday 20 September 2009

Elgar Serenade second movement


Thank you

to everyone/anyone who prayed for my Aunt.

She is getting on very well - out of bed in her own clothes and judging by the photo my uncle emailed us looking a very healthy colour.

Not bad for someone who was in intensive care on Thurs.

Friday 18 September 2009


As a Catholic and a musician, you would think that I had an idea of practising and I do, but the music practice bit is hard to keep up when you are out at work all day.

Tomorrow I play Borodin 2 all day. I've never heard it and I calculate that that I my not have picked up my horn since the Parish Music Evening. I'm hoping it's not a big blow. Or as my ever blunt section principal would put it 'a serious smack in the gob.' It can't be that hard. Horn player knowledge tells me there is a solo in there somewhere, but I'd know if it was for horn 2 (me), so I shall be safe.

Time to test my powers of concentration.... I hope my valves haven't seized up...
Ho hum.

On teaching smaller people

My school has two year 6 classes (10-11) before the other seven years and I am teaching one for the first time this year. They are very cute and apart from having tendencies towards putting their hands up to tell me random facts, are great. It does take a while to get stuff done, because I'm aware that they are more fragile than year 7 and so my usual snappy manner could cause distress and so I find myself having to wait whilst 6 boys regail us with their story every time I ask a question.

Anyway, we have this song which we do at the start of the year and we have to do major and minor, so to demonstrate I played it in Emin instead of E maj and they thought it sounded very melancholy and infact better. I left in a few augmented 2nds so it had a slight East European tinge too. As a naughty treat, we sang the first verse in E min and they went for it and it sounded really heart rending, sniff, so I suggeted (obviously in a teachery, this IS what we are going to do kinda way,) that we ended with verse 2 in E maj to cheer ourselves up!

I used to demonstrate the difference bewteen major and minor by playing Xmas Carols in different keys. We three kings is great when you make the verse major and the chorus minor! Musical vandalism in the class room.

So far, there seem to be some very interested boys in the exam classes and we staggered through the Elgar Serenade on Mon am, so the concert should be fine. 12 weeks til Xmas....

Tuesday 15 September 2009

To B or not to B

Played new AS boy the set works today, so he knows what we're up against. The reason we did that and not something a little more meaty, will remain obscure.

Anyway, after we'd listened to the three movements of Bach's Orchestral Suite No3 that he has to do, I asked him what he thought and he said he didn't like the B natural in the last phrase of the violin I part of the Air. Nothing specific then. After a discussion about why that note weakened the approach to the cadence despite being in a weak place in the bar, though in a syncopated rhythm and why the melody might fall to that note and having contrasted it with three bars previously where it's all very chromatic etc, whilst taking in the fact that Bach must have intended that effect, we decided that it was to make the beginning of the next movement go with a bang. He's right that it is a rather abrupt ending, all things considered.

Usually, when you ask boys for a rection, they say something vague about whether they like it or not and we move on swiftly to stuff they need to learn.

Sunday 13 September 2009

Brian Keenan

has just written an autobiography.

Sounds good.

Please pray

for my Aunt who will be having a heart operation on Wed.

Hopefully, she is presently listening to R3 as she likes Beethoven fifth pno conc a lot and it's taking her mind off things.

R3 Post Proms

can be a bit flat, especially as Sunday night is traditionally weirdo radio play night on the Third Programme, in my mind at least. Just as Sat pm is World Music(s) followed by Jazz and I have trained myself to leave it on in the interests of education and improvement.

Anyway, today they are playing the concerto finals of the Leeds International Piano Competition and three of the finalists chose Beethoven (another Catholic, yup, one trick pony me,) Fifth Piano Concerto, The Emperor. Fine by me.

Reminds me of the same competition when I was at school and everyone chose the Schumann Piano Concerto. Kept switching the radio on during the evening and getting the same piece. Tough on the orchestra. The next day I was in Schott's a music publisher/shop in London, (though yes I think the main office is Mainz, if we want to get fussy,) and the lady on the front desk was singing the last movement!

Another new vocation

Yesterday, I was again invited to the house of the Lovely Catholic Family round the corner to a birthday party. In fact, I even got an early invite to spend time with the deep fat fryer and fry up various veggies into crisps, (one who is tired of deep fried parsnips is tired of life,) whilst the garden had been transformed into a party venue with a gazebo, tables, chairs etc. The weather was utterly perfect for Sept; warm, with a breeze right through the afternoon. The garden looked beautiful and I would have loved to play in it as a child.

Anyway, the birthday man, for now he is 21, had I hope, an excellent day. Certainly all the guests were having a very enjoyable time. Some climbed trees, some played with a guinea pig and some just chatted to each other, all whilst eating lovely food. (I was in the latter category, to be fair.)

As often happens in these parts, people squint at me, thinking we probably have met before and then I suggest that maybe I taught some of their children. Fortunately, it's always the parents of the children who you have plenty of good things to rhapsodise about, not the ones in Leutgeb's multi volume black book of 'teaching incidents I try to forget.' Moving swiftly on and getting to the point, someone I used to teach has entered a seminary for an order, not in this country, aged 19 and there he was in picture, beaming in a cassock. Believe me, when you get a list of leavers' destinations - university, apprenticeship, work, seminary/noviciate is not one of the boxes with a number in it. It's not even a box.

Friday 11 September 2009

Impending tardiness

is my favourite phrase of the moment.

Spent another two lessons reading university application personal statements and gratifyingly one member of the form stayed up most of the night finishing a book so that he can write about it. I am minded to put that into the reference. He has got hold of the first year reading list and is reading through it and was complaining that the postal strike means that some of the books have not yet arrived.

The other boy has also read a lot so when I asked him what else he had read by Oscar Wilde apart from, 'The Picture of Dorian Gray, ' he rattled off a whole pile of stuff.

Now I must attend to me picture in the attic... after this week it's looking a little tired.

Thursday 10 September 2009

Trying to say the right thing

Spent much of this week talking to the Year 13 part of my form about the great unknown that is next year.

My favourite question is, 'What do your parents think?'

The ones who have to have the application in early are getting it together, the others have a little time. It's all sooner than they would like.

At the other end of the spectrum, I am for the first time reaching Year 6, who are, as yet very cute, but ask squillions of questions. They do at least wait their turn before telling you random facts. No-one left his bag, PE kit, lunch card, blazer in the room, so no tears so far. I just have to remain in gentle primary teacher mode and all will be well.

Monday 7 September 2009

Mahler 10

was the soundtrack of the disater that was my U6th year at school.

I listened to it so many times that I nearly wore out my friend's tape and she was forced to buy me a recording as a present when I went to university.

When I arrived, I discoverd the score in the library, copied out the first page and sent it to her. I bought the same friend the score for her 21st birthday.

Mahler never finished the symphony, but he had sketched most of it in short score by the time of his death and Deryck Cooke completed it in the 60s and then revised it in the early 70s.

The Adagio first mvt sometimes gets played alone, but the whole symphony rarely gets an outing. Tonight is one such occasion, at the Proms with the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra.

PS To the people who say that Mahler only converted to Catholicism to get the job at the Vienna State Opera, I say listen to the 8th symphony.

Thursday 3 September 2009

Leutgeb eats her greens

In between wowing the visiting schola on Tues with her Liber Usualis, TCD (The Choir Director, not Trinity College Dublin) from Brighton had a guided tour of my allotment. Having nurtured my kale from seed, it's looking quite perky, but not curly. I was waiting for curliness to set in but was informed, 'it's not that type.'

Dodging showers today, I was able to dash round, pick some any enjoy it for tea.

The kale comes via The real seed company, who save seed and then put it into little packets for you to plant. The kale comes originally from Sutherland, but is coping well with the tropics in the garden of England. Interestingly, listed amongst their seed providers is a sister from St Caecilia's Ryde.

PS When allotmenteers bore you going on about how fresh their food is, what they mean is that things like kale start wilting as soon as you pick them, so the ground to table time has to be short.

Wednesday 2 September 2009

Front or back?

Through a window, I caught a glimpse of the benches inside the Church the other day, just before Mass was about to begin and the Church appeared empty, which seemed really weird. When I got into the Church, of course, it was just that the congregation were polarised. Nothing to worry about, just some people go for the front and some the back.

Given a choice I go for the back.

So, without one of those handy poll things, where do you prefer to be in the Church?

Tuesday 1 September 2009

La Rentree

is just around the corner and this is the time of year when I get stuff organised at home.

So I've tidied the back garden and filled the brown bin with stuff, made a year's supply of jam, taken my winter coat etc to the dry cleaners, signed up to be on the elctoral roll, *cough* finally got round to updating my Driving Licence and filled the freezer with homemade stuff that can be brought out when I need one of Leutgeb's ready meals. Homemade tomato sauce from me own toms and herbs. :-) Mm might knock up some liver and bacon too.

I love my ready meals on days when I need to eat homecooking, but have not the time to do homecooking. Basically when I need my dinner now!

On to filling a bag for the charity shop... and deep cleanse the house.

It all makes me feel prepared to face the relentless onslaught, I mean deeply fulfiling work, which is teaching.

Monday 31 August 2009

Watching paint dry

My Dad has very kindly painted my front door Buckingham green which is green in a jolly way without being Irish Tricolour green or Celtic green and not dark like British racing green green.

But I can't go nowhere til it dries - 16 hours it says on the can, but we think it will be a lot quicker and I'm not staying up til 4am before I can lock the front door. Oh no.

Saturday 29 August 2009

I was almost disappointed

when I noticed that the sign at the till in the local posh butchers had been changed from;

'Due to the large numbers of forgeries, we no longer except Scottish notes.'


'Due to the large number of forgeries, we no longer accept Scottish or Irish notes.'

So much for, 'I promise to pay the bearer on demand...'

The first time I saw the first notice I became entranced and almost stuttered when asked if I wanted anything else.

The Caecilia

Just pinched this from Musica sacra.
The Catholic Renaissance, would include magazines that looked like this, with contents to match.

Thursday 27 August 2009

7 Things

Patricius at Singulare Ingenium asks "What are the seven things that we as Catholics want or would like to see happen?"

Clearly trying to save this blog from drifting into the random musings of a holidaying teacher obsessed with plums, (but with a mind drifting in the direction of apple chutney...anything to put off the moment of having to mug up on Controlled Coursework for GCSE, the ICT security implications of which will, I am certain, not be addressed by the exam board, actually I'm sure they aren't, I went on the INSECT course, but I digress.)

Mm having had a sneak look at Fr Tim's answers....

1 Send all the Music Directors of the Dioceses (whoever they are???) to Solesmes and give them the Gregorian Missal for Sundays and Feast Days. Buy lots of copies of Plainsong for Schools and start teaching the infants the Missa de Angelis. Get rid of hymns written by Protestants. ICEL worried about the new English translation sounding like Cranmer? Too right, but we don't seem sensitive to music written by heretics. So, music is just a vehicle to which you attach words and has no inherent meaning then? Purcell in a Catholic Church? I've heard it. Get some qualified like, MA( Oxon), FRCO, LRAM, ARCM music editors to go through the hymn books and where needed provide two versions of hymn accompaniments, one for organ and one for piano. (rant warning) Just as there are practising Catholic teachers out there in non-Catholic schools, there are practising Catholic musicians out there driven to insanity who will not involve themselves in parish music because the repertoire and the way they are treated is so awful.

2 Put a choir loft in the new Basilica of Our Lady of the Rosary Blackfen with of course a stellar organ, trumpet stops, the lot. Have also a chamber organ for smaller music too.

3 Commission Catholic artists and musicians to produce beautiful works of art for churches and cathedrals and ignore the people who say it's a waste of money. They are just closet puritans.

4 Get every diocese to follow the lead of Bishop O'Donoghue and implement his Fit for Mission documents.

5 Challenge anti-Catholic legislation and do not go for the compromise. It never works.

6 I used to think that we could just wait 20 years til the dodgy stuff had gone out of fashion, but that will be too late to save things so I'm afraid some people are going to need to be put out to grass. Sorry folks but, lay chaplain is an oxymoron. If your chaplain can't celebrate Mass, they need to go.

A GCSE Catholic RE needs to be introduced which takes in the Catechism, Scripture and Catholic Culture. That would mean Saints, the liturgical calendar, some sacred art and Catholic music. My Grandfather's text book - 'Red Letter Feasts for Catholic Schools, with illustrations from the old masters', published in the late 50s shows that it can be done.

6 1/2 Have a campaign to encourage us all to support Catholic religious orders, charities etc even more, to generally build up the Church in this country. (Pop over to The Sisters of the Gospel of Life and buy them a buggy and get your Xmas cards from ACN.)

6 3/4 Free up lots of time, energy, people and money by getting rid of committees and boring meetings. Support people who are doing stuff, not talking about it.

6 7/8 Priests say the black, do the red.
Laity bask in the unfussy silence, whichever the Form of the Mass.

7 Celebrate Feast Days in a Boglesque manner, with Masses, Processions, Food and Fun.
Implement a Fit for Mission: Merry England programme.


Interesting that the GCSE Results have received more attention on R4 today than last week's A Level scores. Perhaps because their publication does not coincide with the release of a certain inmate of a certain Scottish prison. No conclusions reached in their discussion on The World at One, but difficulties in saying IGCSE, which became IGSE, on several occasions. Get a grip. Maybe it should be iGCSE.

Anyway, I was reminded of one of the Latin Teachers at work, a sarcy scouser, whose take on the grade inflation situation was,

'Julius Caesar couldn't have done our Latin O Level.'

Tuesday 25 August 2009

The Allotment Police

I hope I survived the survey; 'Leutgeb, you're fired!'

The plan was to go up to Town with my Mum and the Priest from Ghana who is staying in their Parish and holding the fort for Fr H, but Fr E had to do something else so we didn't go in the end.
Instead, I pottered over to water me kale and a lady walked all round the site.

'Look! Look!, ' rather in the manner of Janet and John books, or Peter and Jane, for those of you of a Ladybird disposition, I wanted to shout, 'I'm so keen, I've planted stuff that won't be edible til next March.' A few strands of couch grass of the very high in seed variety missed out on last week's cull, but my reasoning is as they are adjacent to next door's 4' high mass of brambles, I'm the one who is a victim of pernicious weeds not them. Indeed, I had to cut some of their stuff back last week, if we want to get petty and the Council, it would seem, have tendencies in this direction. Our side of the allotments is pioneer territory. Next door but one, Irish gentlemen has cut trees down and made a ladder out of the branches. Log cabin sheds will be next...

PS Speaking of Janet and John, does anyone remember the story of 'Here we go'? Did it in fact, provide the inspiration for the famous football chant? It was a yellow book and contained lots of words like there, where, when, the, then etc Was there a story? I always found the print very ugly, especially the g's.

Did anyone else listen to those BBC Schools musicals and then perform them? We used to sit in pin drop silence whilst they sang the songs millions of times before we were allowed to and there was always a man with a rrrresonant Bass-Baritone voice. This was great when they practised the percussion bits. We never had any percussion instruments, so sat silently whilst they counted you through it all. 1-2-3- ting! 1-bash-bash-3-ting, always with a flurry as you approached the final cadence of a verse. Brilliant stuff.

Monday 24 August 2009


One of my life goals was achieved this am when I made ratatouille with onion, tomato and courgette I had grown myself. The olive oil is just a step too far, even the Romans had to bring that kind of thing with them. I was saving my last onion for this moment and despite being ignored for two days, the courgette did not let me down.

In other news. Plum glut leads to panic buying of jam sugar. The supermarkey only had 3 bags full when I had a look earlier. Baa Baa black sheep had obvioulsy been in the vicinity.

Sunday 23 August 2009

One word


Thus the conductor of the orchestra I play in emailed the Committee.

Always on the lookout for clever means of funding, the ever efficient secretary contacted one of those composer trusts, because we were playing a symphony by this guy- early 20thC English, never heard of him and they have given us £500. That will pay for the hire of the Church on the afternoon and evening of the concert, or most of it anyway. The other piece is Dvorak 8 and that will come from Westminster City Music Library, is out of copyright and will cost a lot less to perform.

Repertoire often comes down to - no soloist, no harp, no extra wind, timps only and out of copyright. (Harps with a harpist for the afternoon rehearsal and evening concert cost £100 each.) As the conductor likes early 20thC French stuff, it can be tricky. We get threatened with having to play Mozart and Beethoven symphonies if we are short of cash, but most of us would be happy to do Mozart 41 or Beethoven 7 now and then!

Committee meetings have taken the form of us sitting in a cafe at the South Bank, listing repertoire with people saying rude things about stuff they don't like. I'm still rooting for Brahms 3 and St John's Waterloo as a venue, but we always come back to the same 3 places, which work fine...so we stick with them.

Brahms 3, Brahms 3, Brahms 3

Oh dear

Catholic Church Conservation has this post about the Monastery of St Florian outside Linz. My Austrian friend of previous post lives in Linz, although she comes from Styria and we have visited this monastery. As it says in the article, Bruckner's favourite organ is in the Chapel and he is buried in the crypt directly below the organ.

I haven't experienced anything iffy there and coming from a country devoid of anything visually Catholic, walking round a city where they have a Guild of Cribmakers just after Christmas was lovely. Different shops with their own cribs in the windows. Great.

Of course, you only see the surface as a tourist and my German not being exactly great, unless you want obscure musical terms, means pretty much anything could be being preached.

Saturday 22 August 2009


The best opera, by the best composer, as a friend once described it. On now at the Proms. Just into Act II.

Florestan will soon be released and reunited with his wife Leonora, aka Fidelio, for it is a rescue opera and she, a trouser role.

People sometimes rumble on about various problems with it as a work, but the music and sentiments more than compensate, for me at least and put Beethoven in the list of good composers. After WW2, the first work performed in many German Opera Houses was Fidelio.

This in contrast with Wagner whose Die Walkure I have to teach as a set work next year. Sigh. Not my choice.

Looking back, I was very lucky to teach Fidelio and The Matthew Passion as set works.
Still, I have my new CUP Wagner Companion to entertain me til I go beck to work. I'm feeling work avoidance dusting and hoovering coming on...haven't cleaned those kitchen cupboards out since I moved either.

Plums Plums Plums 2

One of the best ever cooking ingredients is Ready Roll Puff Pastry.

Another interesting fact is (I hope,) that it contains no milk products.

Two of my immediate family have become lacto intolerant in the past few years, so this has to be factored in. Main courses are fine, but most dessert recipes start with butter.

This one does not.

Unroll your puff pastry onto a non-stick baking sheet or line it or whatever.
Then roll out marzipan and fit onto the pastry leaving 1/2" border all the way round.
(You can get ready roll marzipan too if you are feeling really decadent. Otherwise it's a rolling pin, icing sugar and a sticky work top.)
Cut up your fruit quite thin.
The original recipe said nectarines, but I have plums.
I guess you could experiment with other stuff. Have fun.
Arrange artistically.
Bake at 180C or Gas Mark 5/6, until the pastry is cooked and the fruit is soft.
Take round to your parent's for Sunday lunch.

The sort of pudding that works well for breakfast on Monday too. Cold. Mm.
Or taken round to your Mum's friend who has broken her wrist. what is it with wrists?

My other trip to deapest Kent

Yesterday I was also down in Kent visiting my landlady and landlord from when I started teaching and meeting up with my friend from Austria who was a language assistant then.

Burgi (aka Notburga) is a pretty serious singer when not teaching English and Spanish and we got talking about what you have to do when you are not enjoying a performance. This was on the back of two performances she had just done of 'The Creation.' Even the stamps have Haydn on this year. Her Choir had hired a very famous soprano - so famous in fact that I have heard of her. I was very impressed to hear she was singing with such a top name. But it turned out that the lady in question had not been singing for about three months after an operation and her performances were dire. Terrible tone quality, unclear diction, out of tune and out of time. Oh and no phrasing either.

Burgi said that all the while she studied the faces of the orchestra and they betrayed nothing. She said there was almost an audible gasp from the choir whe she first sang. We decided that you have to focus on something else when either the soloist or indeed the music is not working the magic. You can just focus in on your own playing, or the mechanics of accompanying carefully or indeed any number of things that mean that you are actually engaged in the music and really trying to do it well. Tough stuff if the soprano soloist should really be indisposed and someone needs to be phoning round for a dep.

Scotney Castle with Fr Mildew

Down into the Garden of England, via oast houses, beautiful countryside and the A21, which retains the feel of motoring in yesteryear to Scotney Castle.

Met up with Ches ( who knew where everyone else was and what we were up to- always a great boon when you arrive on your own,) Fr Mildew, blog commentors Delia and Dilly Day Dream and several other friendly people. We 'did' the big new house (1837) and then repaired to the walled garden and a big picnic table where we laid out the spread. Thanks to Delia and Dilly Day Dream for lots of lovely food. In answer to the question, 'How similar are people in real life compared to on the interweb?' I'd say pretty similar. (Not sure how that pans out for me. Oh well.)

Fr Mildew entertained us with his commentary on the letters' page of the that publication we don't actually read. (At £2.50 a week, you could be doing lots of entertaining things with the extra £10 a month. Quite a good bottle of wine. That M&S Meal Deal. Give it to Charity...Buy your Mum some flowers....) Then he read us an account of the escape of Fr Blont from Scotney Castle, now a ruin. We viewed it from the hill, where Fr Mildew packed in more story and drew a small crowd of other visitors, as he pointed things out with his stick. Then it was down the hill to find the Priest Hole. We had two possible sites and Delia's torch was great, giving us all an extra view.

The weather was very good by now and Fr Mildew took us to a bridge over looking the Castle where we took some photos. After a walk around the grounds it was time for a cup of tea and more talk before the trip home.

Thanks to Fr Mildew for organising it all and for his very informative and entertaining story-telling.

Saturday 15 August 2009

The Assumption

After a Missa Cantata and Benediction, (what better way to spend Saturday morning?) it was someone's birthday, 19th in fact and she had baked and created an exciting cake in the form of a train, on Match Makers (orange flavour) track, each carriage decorated in a different way. Much more attractive than the Ffestiniog Railway and a great deal more tasty.

Which reminds me, that I was gently chided for not mentioning the lovely BBQ I went to last Sun. Often on Sunday a Mother with a line of beautifully behaved little boys sits at the front. I had mentally named her, 'pretty Mum with lovely sons,' but now I find she has a real name too. Last Sunday she was there with her five older sons and new baby son. Always happy to be gathered in, (not to mention extremely grateful,)the Mother of the large family round the corner - BCF (Big Catholic Family,), invited everyone over for a BBQ. The children all had a great time in their lovely garden - paddling pool out, table tennis... and all played wonderfully together whilst being entranced by the baby and being fed delicious food. (Almost a Boglesque rhapsody on a summer afternoon in England? Plums dropping from the tree as we ate, at one point into the potato salad! All true.)

Thursday 13 August 2009

The old, the new and the old again

Tomorrow my friend M the organist is coming round. She is a retired primary school music specialist and had things been different would have gone to Music College. Instead, she got herself harmony and counterpoint lessons, joined the London Philharmonic Choir and sang under Adrian Boult and generally set about doing as much music as time would allow. She is an excellent pianist. When we go to concerts she produces her own programme notes and is not afraid to disagree with the printed ones. She takes music seriously.

She was chuffed to get a postcard from Solesmes and it turns out that she sang in the nuns' choir when she was at school as well as then teaching plainchant and is bringing her LU round tomorrow. She's also re-introducing plainchant at her Church, bit by bit.


OK, so now for the serious stuff. During the course of my pizza evening with old school friend, I learned the amazing fact that she has given her bread machine away to a gluten free friend and now kneeds her dough whilst surfing the net.

She explained, right hand mouse, left hand in bowl with dough. I nearly snorted quattro formaggio pizza in a most unladylike fashion.

Doing more than one thing at a time. Any takers?

This reminds me of a car journey game I used to play with my much younger (and now married) brother. It consisted of putting unlikely names with animals.

Darren the lion.
Wilfred the zebra.
Doris the tiger.
Emily the python.
Gerald the cheetah.

That sort of thing.

A bit of research

I thought I'd look up a couple of my Grandmother's relations on the interweb last night and turned up something interesting, (to me at least.)

My Grandmother was born in the West of Ireland and her Maternal Grandmother was the first school mistress in that village when they opened a school in 1880. That much I found confirmed on the 1881 census for that part of the world.

They also had a connection over at least three generations with a religious order. It was this order of nuns who educated my Grandmother and her sisters after their Mother died in 1919. In fact, Grandma was with them from age two to twenty as she went to one of their teacher training colleges in Manchester.

Anyway, back two generations from Grandma on her Father's side was where the connection with that order started and her Great Aunt, went to Canada in 1880s, into what was then mission territory and set up some schools, all before the age of thirty. The place was very anti-Catholic, to the point of the nuns being taunted in the street and sounded pretty tough. Also interesting (because this is a theme in the family,) is the fact that she was very good at languages, speaking French and German, something that was very useful with all the different immigrants from Europe, including French nuns who presumably had been kicked out of France in one of their periodic religious expelling sessions. She rose to be Mother Superior General (which I knew and not something Grandma was fussed about,) which explains why she was mentioned by name in the article I was reading. It set me thinking how bold people were in the past, striking out into foreign lands and with the support of their order and the local hierarchy, doing all sorts of things.

Anyone else got any interesting rellies of a religious sort?

My Mum was taught by one Mother Ethelburga who was related to St John Rigby and I once went to a talk given by a Dutch Priest who was a third cousin of Bl (St?) Titus Brandsma.

Wednesday 12 August 2009

Plums Plums Plums

'Tis a good year for them.

On Sun, a friend offered me some from her garden.
Yesterday, Colin, allotment neighbour offered me some of his.
But, I have my own glut, thanks to Ruby next door.

Feeling like a snack? Pop out and pick a plum.

So this am, trying to keep my freeze or bottle something daily plan I picked a kilo and made jam. Looks like it's setting too. four jars, this time. Will have to see if Ruby would like a jar.

Tales before the stave

An interesting post-lunch prog yesterday, talking about the sqiuggles in The Winchester Troper.

Here on iPlayer.

Needless to say it had to have the,' 'how the English got there first, ' spin which is a shame because it would be interesting to know if the musicians in Winchester had any contact with the people across the water who were doing the same at about the same time. At one point one of the contributers even says that the script is similar to what was being used in France. Sigh.

Anyway what was very interesting was how the m/s ended up in Cambridge as part of the the Reformation plot to make England the centre of the universe. The prog said they wanted stuff pre-1066 and this book fits the bill.

Also, post-Solesmes, it was interesting to hear their take on the notation being an aide memoire and how the pitch is inaccurately notated (to our minds,) as Dom Saulnier siggested the making of books was not necessarily for people to sing from. Also, some of the stuff in this book appears to be for the Coronation of Edward the Confessor.

One wonders how many m/s were lost at the Reformation anyway. I once asked the librarian of one of the oldest Oxford Colleges what they have by way of music manuscripts of the Middle Ages and the answer is none.

Tuesday 11 August 2009

Jam Sugar

Having made five jars of blackberry slop, I invested in some jam sugar and made three jars of jam today. Magic pectin!

The blackberry slop is pleasant enough with yogurt or added to apples as a pie/crumble filling, but does not do the job of jam.

The allotment site has a vast patch of blackberries, so I may make some more tomorrow. Time to squirrel away food for the Autumn/Winter.

When things get busy at work I console myself that at least I have home cooking.

Pizza sometime

with school friend. Actually, we knew each other when I was 9 and she was 8 and we played (scraped) in a String Orchestra. Although she only lives a few miles away we only see each other about twice a year as she works in the high octane world of CGI (my friend in Soho! I have seen her name in the cinema,) and is always at work, or so it seems to me, holiday rich teacher.

And so tonight we meet in our Pizza Express to catchup.

She too shares my interest in things home grown, though has little time for it, so I shall take her a few things.

First, the delights of the Shoulder Class, which is really aimed at the elderly.
As I joke to my Mum, the walk there and back is the best bit.