Sunday 31 October 2010

The leaning tower

As I was flying out of Pisa and had to get the train there on Thurs am, it seemed silly not to take a peek at the tower. I walked through Pisa, because Il campo where the tower, cathedral etc are situated is on the opposite side of the city to the train station. I didn't have a map so looked at the one outside the station. Keep walking and turn left at the end. So I ended up walking along a residential street and there was the tower at the end, which was very funny.

From the plane, by chance, I got a great view of Il campo and later the Alps.

Kindly sent to me...

Out at Leutgeb's market garden, the pumpkins have been harvested (all three) and carried round the corner where they are being turned into soup and probably fshioned into something as artistic as the above.

Friday 29 October 2010

How embarrassing

'In all their years of facilitating the commission of new music, Boosey and Hawkes had never dealt with such rudeness and shoddy behaviour.' James MacMillan

Take a look at their back catalogue and wonder at that statement.

I have some B&H scores and I know that they did not commisssion all that they publish, but my score collection contains, for example

Stravinsky The Rite of Spring
Bartok Concerto for Orchestra
Shostakovich Symphony No 5
Richard Strauss Four Last Songs

James MacMillan is a very well thought of composer. Do you think Welsh National Opera and the LSO commission work from iffy composers?

I got back from a few days in Florence yesterday. By the Duomo there is a shop staffed by kindly sisters and selling altar vessels, vestments and interesting for me, Christmas decorations. I popped in for a look and was somewhat taken aback. Outside, the Duomo and inside the shop, nice nuns selling really ugly stuff.

In. Florence.

It's rather the same with music only we try to make the congregation sing ugly stuff too. We laity are active in the world, out at work, running homes, bringing up children, being ill. We're busy and we're tired when we get to Mass. Then we get lumbered with another job, singing. Singing rubbish that is not part of the Mass for the most part. And people write books on why Catholics can't sing. We can, we just have taste and want to say our prayers please. But it does not end there, then the bossy people start lecturing us on why should be singing and telling us how we should be feeling. That's the laity perspective.

From the outside of the Church people look on and laugh. Professional musicians who specialise in Renaisance polyphony point and laugh at the mediocrity that throws away musical treasures. I'm a musician and I meet these people and they think the Catholic Church is rubbish with music. And we have all the best composers. There I've said it. I take great consolation in the fact that James MacMillan does the music at his Church in Glasgow. So there.

Despite losing a night's sleep, sitting in the rain for five hours and not having a practice, because we had to sing the aforementioned music on R4, I thought the MacMillan Mass was a great success at Cofton Park.

I don't know what qualifications 'trained liturgists' have but FRCO are good letters for organists.

I could write oh so much more, but it's doing that's important. Empirical research shows that folks can sing the plainsong ordinary and do it well. Where it's a new one I see a flash of sheets in my peripheral vision as people take a look and gradually get the hang of it. The things we sing every week, people do very well indeed. The point is it's the real deal, it's the tradition of the Church, it's what we are supposed to be doing. This stuff has been passed down the generations, sung by all the previous generations of your family and if it was good enough hundreds of years ago what makes us think we need to be doing something else?

Sunday 24 October 2010

NYT discovers Catholic blogs


Catholic Taliban strikes again.

Yes hot foot from 4 Missas Cantata (or whatever the correct anglicised plural should be, ) I had a cup of tea and an all important biscuit, played the piano a bit in a choir practice, drank a swift J2O in the club, whilst discussing such contraversial issues as how to get to work when there's a points failure, watched the St Anthony Publications DVD on The Papacy (v good, bought a copy to lend to people who were away,) cycled to my parents for a late lunch, sorted out some travel stuff and am now back at home. Phew hard work this Taleban stuff!

Newborough Beach, Anglesey

September 1st 2010.

The double peak in the distance is Snowdon.

Then we had lunch and then a swim in the Menai Straits.

Shh, don't tell anyone. My parents get exercised every time this place gets mentioned in a 'Best beaches in Britain, ' article. So the story is Wales is miserable cold and wet and the people all speak a weird language to annoy tourists.

My Dad used to come here as a child on a Sunday after church sometimes with his folks. Over the Menai Bridge and turn left. Beautiful sand and not much else. You have to drive through Forestry Commission land to get to the shore.

Wales; it's not always raining.

Dom Saulnier

in action on The Chant Cafe.

Great stuff.

Saturday 23 October 2010


Yup three days of the Forty Hours, or as was calculated in the pub at lunch-time 40 hours and 30 mins and everyone is smiling.

Wednesday 20 October 2010

Things on the move

This blog often reads like leutgeb's expolits in happy-land, because I decided when I started writing it that I would focus on the positive and fortunately, for the most part, I have much that is positive to focus on.

Careful reading however will reveal certain people and topics that just don't get a mention. There was a whole group of people, for example, who did not look happy in amongst the thousands of photos of the Papal Visit. I just chose to ignore them, but you know who you are.

Fr Mildew's situation has made me wonder again about certain situations. In a classroom, I jump on any pupil who has got the wrong end of the stick because they have it wrong and because they might confuse other pupils in the class. The same is true, but the implications far worse for priests. In my parent's parish a supplying priest who must have been brought in at very short notice said that he did not preach off the cuff sermons because he might say something heretical (his choice of word,) and that's an attitude of care that you can respect and admire.

But in some situtations merely ignoring the unhelpful (my am I being mild...) and supporting the good does not go far enough. The boy stacking up the contents of his pencil case into some modern art creation, may just desist or the whole lot may crash onto the floor, distracting the whole class.


Monday 18 October 2010


It is important to recognize dissent for what it is, and not to mistake it for a mature contribution to a balanced and wide-ranging debate. BXVI

Update. Who ticked the funny box? No-one's going to lunch 'til the miscreant owns up.

Very sorry

to hear that Fr Mildew has been threatened with legal action, both civil and church.

I had best not say more, suffice to say, I hope that the matter is brought to an immediate and satisfactory end for both parties and for Catholic readers of the press.

Prayers during the 40 Hours for you Father.

Sunday 17 October 2010

Quarant'ore 21st-23rd October

It was rather nice when, following the High Mass for the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary, Fr Tim said, 'and the next big thing is The Forty Hours.'

Last year it was hot on the heels of the St T of L relics. This saw me getting up at silly times and then eating huge breakfasts. Then I got a link from The Catholic Herald, making this blog look like the equivalent of a particularly gaudy statue you might see in Lourdes. Clearly I was born in the wrong age. I would have been fine in The Canterbury Tales. Anyway, I now have an association with Catholic devotions and feasting. Not sure that's an entirley a good thing, but this year I'm hoping to work in a whole pile of cycling into the proceedings.

Rosary Crusade

aka Rally, well you know what I mean.

Anyway, it was very good, of course. Can't beat a good procession with squillions of people and lots of singing ending up in one if not the most beautiful churches in London for Benediction.

Having nearly felled an unsuspecting priest (who took this photo which I've 'borrowed' off fb, *cough*,)when it slipped its perch on a buggy, I got to carry the banner above left for a bit. It was quite heavy and very tall, so I had to do battle to keep it perpendicular to the road when it got windy and not take out any fellow rosary prayees around me.

Anyway, we said the rosary and sang various Marian hymns on the way to the Oratory, via roads with embassies and v posh shops. I always find it somehow fantastical that people actually buy stuff in those shops, but this is Knightbridge/Belgravia and not Bluewater. Chanel, Gucci, Prada, they aren't real to me.

The Oratory was full in an every possible surface that could be sat on had a person on it kinda way. I sat on a kneeler in a side chapel, a positive luxury after Cofton Park!

After Benediction, a sermon and lots more hymns it was time to go. I had a chat with Dominic Mary, to whom I have never actually spoken in real life. Always good to put the sound of someone's voice to their blog and he of course knows lots of people in Blackfen, most of whom were there and some were even altar servers. Those guys certainly get around.

Then I was able to visit the new chapel to Blessed John Henry Newman and as a bonus bumped into he who the retired organist refers to as Cantataman. We like to think of him as a plainchant superhero. Gregorian propers, Litany of the Saints and Benediction and he could still sing more if asked, though he responds positively if offered a pint of Masterbrew in the club. This meant that I was able to check which Mass Ordinary it is next Thurs and Sat. IV as it goes.

Saturday 16 October 2010

Viva Venezuela

The Teresa Carreno Youth Orchestra were amazing and I am so glad we took some boys to hear them. An enormous orchestra, but cut down for softer passages and without doubling wind solos. Fantastic ensemble, the type you only get with a truly great professional orchestra and enormous energy for the entire performance. An instant standing ovation at the end and exceptionally for the RFH, where people start leaving the moment the applause begins, everyone stayed for the 30mins worth of cheering and encores. I'm still hearing it now. Always a good sign.

The tracksuit tops? We were in the front row of the choir stalls and I think six boys got one (inculding one I caught!), so off they went home in Venezuelan colours.

This a speech from the founder of El sistemo, the means by which 250 000 Venezuelan children receive music tuition, many of them from very poor backgrounds. One of there number is now music director of the LA Phil another a double bass player in the Berlin Phil (probably the best orchestra in the world.)

Could it work in the UK? Well there are schemes about the place, notably in Liverpool. Of course post war we had excellent music services, well supported county youth orchestras, county music awards for young musicians to attend conservatoire junior departments....lots of people from all sorts of backgrounds at music colleges and then into the music profession and then we had local managament of schools in the late 80s which meant that the delegated budgets to councils no longer had a sum to be spent only on music. So the people, the instruments, the culture of excellence of having to practise for years, working your way through different junior orchestras before you played for the county, got to go on tour, maybe play at a famous concert hall, all that got a lot more tricky. It means that 75% of students at the Royal Academy of Music are from the independent sector. It means playing expensive instruments like the bassoon, the horn is very tricky. Maybe you don't what those instruments are anyway.

So yes, it's all possible. Where there's a will there's a way.

Look at the Chileans. A bit of esperanza...

Wednesday 13 October 2010

Rosary Rally

on Sat.

Great craic, especially if you enjoyed being in the crowds for the Papal Visit.

Get near the front to avoid the scrummage into Brompton Oratory. I have seen people practically running into the place. Awfully unseemly. :-)

Teresa Carreno Youth Orcheatra

Off to the RFH with pupils to see them tomorrow night. I was a bit dubious, youth orch an' all, especially as they are doing Tchaik 5 which is a) one of my favourite symphonies and b) has that horn solo in the second mvt which I heard mid 80s at the Proms with Alan Civil, so have expectations, shall we say.

Had a google yesterday, found them in rehearsal doing Shostakovich 10 and was mightily impressed. They are amazing.

Seems that they have impressed the crits already.

Waking up and smelling the coffee

Thought I'd get some Mystic Monk coffee with Christmas coming etc as well as for personal use. Ordered it on Sunday, I think, and it arrived today. FedEx is quick. Goodness knows what next door thought was in the box.

Friday 8 October 2010


Wed 6th was the third anniversary of my Grandmother's death and yesterday, the 7th, was my cousin's fortieth, so I went to a bit of a do in a pub. I'd somehow never put the two events together.

My cousin is a couple of months older than me and on my second birthday was heard to cry, 'I want it to be Ha Ba Richard.' He also broke my birthday present from my parents which was a toy drum kit, that I'd apparently really wanted. Always was into music. No chance of a replacement. Since then I have had no desire ever to play the drums and in fact it's one of the few things I can't play at all. I'm even fairly bad at putting drum parts into a sequencer. He meanwhile went on to play kit in his school swing band.

Years of counselling hoo.

Summorum Pontificum

and its poisonous fruits.

Someone commenting on Fr Ray's blog made reference to these obvious ramifications.

Er, I must have missed something.

Either you've never had the opportunity to go to an EF Mass, or did as a child and maybe always went to Low Mass cos you were little and the High Mass was late in the morning and with fasting from midnight etc etc, so when you say a Missa Cantata is this or that it's not really based on your experience, but what was said to you c1970- the present

or you stumbled into an EF Mass one Sunday and thought, 'This is the real thing,' and have been irrevocably changed for the better.

or you write articles about it for a 'Catholic' publication without ever actually attending an EF Mass, thus rendering your opinion null and void.

Thursday 7 October 2010

Wednesday 6 October 2010

Culling flutes

In between demonstrating clash cymbals to Year 6 (it hurt me more than it hurt them...)and writing UCAS references was Second Orchestra. It has now grown to

Give that these are smallish people, not given to counting accurately playing across a wide platform and making a mighty din, my arm waving, foot stamping etc is not actually enough to keep the show on the road. If next week's sectional don't whip the thing into shape, I'm going to have to form a wind ensemble to contain the extra tootling people. Because one thing is fo sure come the Autumn Concert, I can't shout rehearsal figures out as the music goes by...

Monday 4 October 2010


Last night I got an email thanking for services rendered in the Cofton Park great trek to the the Midlands (oo it was onerous...not,) and attached is a link to the Vatican photgraphers' record.

Squillions of photos of smiling people.
On and on and on.
So many happy happy people.

(Photo from Mac. I was standing to her right when she took it.)

Still here

Mac's visitation for a cup of tea last night reminded me of several animal related stories.

When my little brother was five we did a world tour of Ireland staying with loads of my Mum's relatives and on a farm in Co Kerry, he fell in love with some kittens. So when we got home my parents got a cat. Years later when my Dad had gone on a work trip to Hong Kong, the cat got injured in a late night scrap and the puncture wound got infected. The cat was in a very bad way, unable to lift its head. My Mum spoke to my Dad on the phone, who though a softy, is brutally practical in a crisis, especially if the crisis is animal rather than people related. He told her that if the cat died she should put it in a bin bag outside and he would deal with it when he got back. I like my Dad, he never shirks the type of jobs you'd rather leave to a man. I decided that it would be so awful for my Mum if the cat did die that this was just not going to happen, so I got the cat to lick milk off my fingers and by morning the mega antibiotic jab had taken effect and he was able to drag himself around. He made a complete recovery and lived to be very old.

Then there's the tin of kitikat following the cat down the lawn, but that's another story.... and the squirrels verses the pump action water pistols. I feel the RSPCA making a visit...

Sunday 3 October 2010

Busy Busy

Snuck home between Mass and Vespers yesterday, after having had a burger you understand, to get stuff done, only to be phoned up by friend round the corner who was cooking up autumnal soup, on the look out for stray veg. Her opening line, 'I was thinking it's a while since we visited your allotment.' 'It's a while since I visited my allotment,' I replied. Anyway spurred on, the last of the toms are being turned into chutney as I speak and now it's time to clear the tomato plants and do some garden clearance.