Friday 31 July 2009

Plainsong - it gets everywhere

Someone on Holy Smoke had a link to this.

'UK music publisher Kevin Mayhew said his firm would be commissioning many new Masses, but said worshippers would take months to learn new settings, and felt sure that favourites such as the “Clap-Hands Gloria” and the “Israeli Mass” ( folks are still singing this and some people complain about the Missa de Angelis?)would remain in use. '

Course you you could just pick up the Gregorian Missal for Sundays and find all the words in there in a language not about to change.

Time for the dibber

Leaving things to the last moment whilst blaming the weather for my sloth, this am was the time to plant out some winter veg. That would be the stuff that says May, June, July and this being the end of the month and the day to avoid Post Offices (cos everyone is renewing their car tax, been there got the T-shirt,) I now have five rows of small plants -3 of leeks and 2 of kale. Later it's the turn of the purple sprouting broc and then I shall feel that my winter larder is ready.

My email to the Council got a reply saying that I have til April 2010 to get the plot fully working. March will be a busy month then.

Hopefully, come the Autumn I will be able to get back into the routine of doing an hour's digging before going to Mass on Sun. It was slow work, but I did sift through quite a bit of land and the weeds have not grown back, well not the same ones anyway.

So despite set backs I shall be taking to Wales tomorrow potatoes, onions, tomatoes, blackberry jam, parsnips and a loaf of bread from the bread machine. The lone courgette will do for tea!

The Slippery Slope

Just heard an interview with Mrs Purdie where she said that no she did not believe the Law Lords ruling yesterday would lead assisted suicide to become commonplace.

Apart from the 'how many is too many?' line of thinking, didn't we have this in 1967 with both the number and ease with which one may procure an abortion?

More than 10% of the UK (excluding N Ireland where it is still illegal,) population is now missing.

Wednesday 29 July 2009

Solesmes some thoughts 2

So on to the chant.

The routine from Dom Saulnier was all centred around the text.

He pointed out that the people engaged in the music originally had a very high level of knowledge of Latin and therefore much was obvious and intuitive for them.
  • Memorise the text.
  • Say it taking care with the accent of each word.
  • Consider the subject of the sentence, that the verb and its compliment may not be separated and the circumstances.
  • Then vocalise on one note, maybe raising the pitch for the accent.
  • Then and only then add the actual melody.
Also illuminating was the idea of conducting horizantally rather than vertically. This was a
means to communicate the ebb and flow of the music. The music then took on a dynamism I had not experienced before. As someone used to lots and lots of rhythmic notation and primarily an instrumentalist, this approach was very useful as I it placed the emphasis entirely on the text. Only that way can you begin to have an understanding individual notes fit into the whole, when to dwell and when to push on.

The B word

Not since I unwittingly revealed myself a Papist amongst some employees of HM The Queen, have I caused a table of people to stop and stare at me. (Tip, knowing that the Feast of the Immaculate Conception is 8th Dec is all it took folks, take care.)

And so it was that in Solesmes I uttered the B word, Blackfen, and found that Fr Tim has lots of readers in Singapore and elsewhere all wishing him well.

Happy Jubilee, Fr Tim.

Solesmes some thoughts 1

First of all thanks to TCD (The Choir Director from Brighton) for the photos that I have pinched from facebook.

I have explained before that we had three classes per day, punctuated by Mass and the Offices, so we had plenty of opportunity to hear the chant in practice. Someone asked me yesterday (at Fr Tim's Jubilee,) if we joined in with their singing and we did a bit with the Ordinary at Mass, but nothing else. It would have been to intrude into their community. They make an extraordinarily unified sound and so without being part of their community (and how could I be?) I don't see how you could just pipe up with the Propers.

What I didn't mention was that TCD and I had e mailed to ask if we could attend the course and received a 'yes' and that was that. Everything was very simple, you just showed up. All the monks we had dealings with were charm itself.

Solesmes is a very beautiful village, covered with carefully tended gardens, a monastery and two convents. TCD has already described how quiet it is. We did indeed see only one car when we went out to explore the first evening. Thus our lives for 5 days telescoped into listening to monks chanting psalms and listening to Dom Saulnier expounding on chant, with two trips to the supermarket for food and some eccentric cooking experiences.

I've written before that the history of western music is often described as, 'vague squiggles and then the stave, phew, now we know the pitches, all is clear.' That is not the perspective that we received. Infact it's not one that performing musicians subscribe to. I went to a pre-concert talk at the wigmore Hall in April where two experts in period performance were in conversation with the Professor of Music from Bristol and he looked slightly taken aback when they related how they have studied the score yes, but have also explored what is possible on the instruments of that time and gulp, made a musical decision to play things in a certain way. A piece of music is not its score. One of my lecturers at university said that as you cannot put into notation everything about the music, you have to select what is most important and focus on notating that. Dom Saulnier however also made the point that as we were primarily dealing with an oral tradition, what is notated is maybe for other reasons. Modern musical notation is so bound up with pitch being communicated vertically and the passage of time horizantally that it is hard not to think like that. Much of the pre-stave notation seems to attempt to communicate the ebb and flow of the music.

Since in Catholicism tradition is very important, you wouldn't expect that just reading a book was going to communicate the message. (That would be evangelical Protestantism.) This was the magic of studying in such a place with such a Monk. Most English language histories of music are of course written by non-Catholics and in some cases are anti-Catholic. It's a funny old country, one that smashed its religious culture in the 16thC, but loves the music - how many ex-Oxbridge Choral Scholar choirs do we have specialising in renaissance polyphony and before? Similarly we love Italian art, but white washed our churches and smashed our windows. Consequently, we laugh at monasteries and characterise monks as the likes of Friar Tuck. The historical baggage means that the writers do not believe their sources or relentlessly apply bad motives for the actions of others.

The only thing to do then, flee the country and head for a monastery. Who better to learn about chant from than someone singing it daily? Since so much is missing from the historical record what remains can only usefully and successfully be interpreted by one seeking to live the life, because only such a person stands a chance of filling in the gaps and providing the reasons accurately.

Monday 27 July 2009

Home again

Back home after a fantastic week in Solesmes and my brother's wedding in the Midlands on Sat.
When the dust has settled I shall write about it.

It's not all over, because today one of my Mum's kiwi cousins and her husband along with Auntie D are staying with my parents. Tomorrow they are going to Paris to visit Grandma's only surviving sibling, Auntie L. I'm on pudding duty... what to make?

Kiwi cousin has the same Christian name as me as we are both named after Grandma's Mother who died in 1919. She got Spanish 'flu which lay her open to TB. She died aged 27 leaving a husband and five children, the youngest twin girls, who included kiwi cousin's Mother. Infact, kiwi cousin looks like my Greatgrandmother.

The eldest, Uncle B stayed in County Clare. Auntie L got a scholarship to the Sorbonne and married a Frenchman, Uncle J-H, living through occupied France with small children. Grandma lived in England and married Grandpa, (obviously.) The twins, Auntie E and Auntie S, emigrated to kiwi land after WW2 and the rest is history.

The kiwicousins are great. Very relaxed and warm.

And now to the washing-machine.

Tuesday 21 July 2009

Solesmes Day 2

More of the same.

As every question results in a 15 minute answer, whose scope goes from antiquity to the present, it's hard to summarise.

Monday 20 July 2009

In Solesmes

We got here after a very straightforward train journey.

The village is beautiful and there are lovely flowers wherever you look.

The course is great, punctuated by the offices and in fact all time measured according to them.

Class 1 after Mass, class 2 after lunch and class 3 after Vespers.

10 of us in total from UK, US, Poland, Japan and a few other places.

Puella Paschalis has kindly let us share her kitchen (and computer,) and we had a trip to the supermarket to stock up on provisions. Solesmes has a cafe/bar/tabac, but there are on holiday so it is ferme.

Dom Saulnier is amazing. I've made 12 pages of notes already!

Saturday 18 July 2009

Off to Solesmes


Can't say a great deal more til I've been.

Friday 17 July 2009

The Proms

have started today. So whilst most things musical shut down in London the RAH has queues of people snaking round it each night.

Haven't quite got my act together to book any tickets, which is pretty stupid because the foreign orchs especially sell out and Mariss Jansons is coming at the end of the season. Also I would like to hear the Leipzig Gewandhaus doing Mahler 10. I gave a school friend the score for her 21st Birthday, having been so excited to find the score when I went to university that I copied out the beginning and sent it to her. Back in the days of manuscript copies and letters, you understand. It starts with violas. I rest my case (viola case, naturally.)

All on R3, if the worst come to the worst.

Bed-time. Newsnight Review is on. Beats any comedy, but I have much to do tomorrow.

The Pope

Hope he enjoys the rest of his holiday. Is he right handed? Very annoying if he is and was intending to work.

Thursday 16 July 2009

A year ago today

I moved into my new house.

The removal men emptied the old one very quickly and then my Mum and I thought we would do some leisurely hoovering and dusting. At that moment the phone rang and the solicitor said she was releasing the keys to the buyers. We sprang into action, did the cleaning, loaded up my car with the remaining bits and bobs and drove off.

My lovely neighbours took yet more bags of junk and I bid them and that house goodbye. Not before time. The neighbours on the other side had a dog that barked all day and snarled at the window in a rabid kinda way. Opposite was some sheltered housing which was fine for the first 9 years, but then the warden moved out and the people started having loud parties and taking drugs. Ambulance brother has been there a few time, so I know more than I need to. Not great for the lovely neighbours and their three young children. In fact at 9am on the day I moved the Police turned up, following a noisy night....Nice.

Add in the parking restriction which seemed to penalise residents at £60 a go, more often than commuters and you can see why it was time to go.

Anyway all in all I am very lucky. New house is slightly bigger, much lighter, backs onto a park and the allotments, is quiet, nice neighbours and lovely big Catholic family round the corner who include me in things.

When I told one of my friends the day I was moving, she said, 'Oo, Our Lady of Mount Carmel!'

The same friend when I was mumbling about moving previously was at the same time describing someone who was going to live as a hermit for a year in Syria. There's me burbling on when she suddenly said, 'It's a lovely cave, apparently!' I was then imaginig an Estate Agent's details for a hermit's cave....

On pieces of paper

Phillip Pullman is venting on R4 at the moment.

He's upset because he's going to have to be police checked before he can go into schools. I don't think it will come up proselytising atheist, reject, but still....

I calculate that I have been checked out six times since I started teaching and I've only had three different jobs. If I got involved with children outside work, I could have been done lots more times. Yes, the forms do smack of a police state. I don't have any former names, but if you have any name changing in your past, it all goes down with dates. That's thanks to Maxine Carr.

Obviously, as a Music Teacher, the opportunities for misdeeds are many. If you were given to stealing money the opportunities are many too. Unlike many occupations that deal with people, we see the same ones over a period of time and develop relationships with them, where we are the ones in power.

It's unlikely that a visitor to a school with evil intent could form a relationship with a pupil and continue it outside, but not impossible, especially if they were a greatly admired author.

So up to a point I can sympathise with Mr Pullman. But it does annoy me that he considers himself to be above being checked, but it's presumably OK for me to have to keep writing down all my addresses for the last five years, and all my personal details and be checked every three years.

Does this culture of mistrust reach into everyday life? Yes. Occasionally, orchestras I play in outside school suggest that there might be some sixth formers who could play. The answer is no because I cannot vouch that every single person present is OK. They probably are, but I would be held responsible if anything went wrong. I would feel responsible if anything went wrong.

Monday 13 July 2009

Seraphic goes to Scotland

I keep meaning to put a new link up, in the meantime here is her amusing and informative take on the TLM/EF Mass/ Old Mass.

The only point that I would dispute is about the bun fight afterwards. Being, on occasion, of a shy disposition and almost always being on my own at Mass, I have on occasions too numerous, tentatively wandered into the Hall only to be bought drinks, forced to eat fry ups, lasagne, cake.....and generally shown a good time.

PS It's thanks to Berenike et al at Laodicea, that I read Seraphic and why I didn't have a link for ages, because they've done all the work for me already. Both blogs highly recommended.

Friday 10 July 2009

An Allotment ASBO

Got out early to do battle with nature and when I got back there was a letter from the council entitled 'Pernicious weeds.' All my fault, apparently.

blah blah, ' an allotment tenant you have a duty to comply with your tenancy agreement at all times.' All times, even at night? Heavy stuff for someone who took over a piece of wasteland, uncultivated for 30 years and for which the rent is £20 per annum. I phoned, then e mailed pleading shoulder injury. (My visit to the Shoulder Class at the hosiptal on Tues can wait. So much fun.)

Later I returned to my plot to do some more battle and met the nice elderly man who gave me the broad beans on Sun. He's always there. Maybe he lives in his shed. Anyway, he too had received a letter and was 'hopping mad.' His plot is an example to all aspiring allotmenteers. So I don't feel so bad now. Maybe everyone got one. Given that my plot had been rejected by 6 other people before I took it on and the council estimated that they would clear it in 2 years time, I was under the impression I was doing them a favour. Really, I am just a tenant. A peasant.

Allotment gossip. Apparently, the people on the plot next to mine with the huge plants have been putting Miracle Grow into the water tank, which they thought was just for them. How come we haven't each got one then? I'm happy with my small, but morally superior, nearly organic parsnips.

Thursday 9 July 2009

Cake Delivery

completed successfully. Job done.

Sister of the bride is doing the decorating. Some nice symmetry there.

It's all a bit close now. Getting exciting.

In other news, an old university friend of mine has found me on facebook. We lost touch about five years ago, so this is great. We were next door neighbours in the first year. Ah. Unlike all my other friends from those days, this person works up London.

Blackcurrant Jam

Finding myself in waiting for cake 1 to actually bake, I decided to harvest the blackcurrants and anything else fruity and make jam. I got an amzing 4oz of fruit, so the challenge was to find the smallest jar to put it in. Next year I hope to havest a few more. I have my eye on various plums and damsons on the allotment and hanging over from next door's garden, so all is not yet lost on the preserves front.

Meanwhile, time is pressing on and cake 2 is still in bowls waiting to be mixed up and put into the oven. My old oven never took this long. 3 1/2 hours and counting.

Back to the jam and some rolling boiling.

Wednesday 8 July 2009

Some serious

cake baking planned for tomorrow. Two Christmas cake type cakes for my brother's wedding two weeks on Sat. So, if you experience a sudden loss of gas pressure, it's because my oven will be on for between 5 and 6 hours. (affording me the opportunity to take out Gregorian Semiology and learn a few more squiggles.)

And yes, no time for mess ups, his fiancee is coming over tomorrow night to collect them, before driving them, her dress and a few other essentials up to her parents this w/e whilst my brother does his stag thing.

Monday 6 July 2009

A visit to the allotment

Thought I'd better get back to weeding in earnest, so popped over yesterday before Mass and planted some sweet corn. An allotment neighbour came to mourn the demise of my broadbeans, reduced to twigglets of black aphid poo. As I was leaving he handed me a bag of his, saying that I didn't deserve that to happen. He was genuinely concerned at my failed crop. What a nice man.

I only grew them because you can plant them early, my Mum likes them and they have nitrogen fixing nodules on the roots. My three field system 5% broad beans, 5% spuds and 90% fallow at present. I took them over to my parents who will have them with left over lasagne tonight.

Friday 3 July 2009

Free at last

Having had a hectic few weeks marking, report writing, organising some big events, playing in a school production and conducting in a few concerts, it's holiday time.

It's a long one too.

Time to live my summer holiday life.