Saturday 30 July 2011

Reading the book in the place described

A while back I was reading Robert Hugh Benson's 'Come rack, come rope!' in the Starbucks next to St Paul's Cathedral. At that point in the book the characters were in the Cathedral lamenting how all the side altars and statues had been removed. Arguably, we are in an even worse state since the old catherdal burnt down.

We still have Amen Corner, Ave Maria Lane and Pater Noster Square named after the area where rosaries were made, so I have been told.

The other day I was reading Robert Hugh Benson's, 'Lord of the world,' in a cafe down the road from Westminster Cathedral when the book, you guessed it, described said cathedral.

It's like thinking of a piece of music and then turing on the radio and there it is.

Reading the riot act or staring into the middle distance

Fr Ray has a post about meeting things in the public square, so to speak.

Round these parts you don't see in the street what what he describes, though blogwise I do not have far to look to find the equivalent.

What does happen to me is that various conversations arise in which I have the three options faced by teachers in the classroom continually.

Everything that happens in a classroom you either:-

condemn - by glaring, pointing, walking towards, raising voice a bit (OK A LOT), giving lines to, detentions to, sending out of the room...
condone - by doing nothing
or encourage, by praising, smiling, giving time to.....

And yes, by condoning you can encourage too. It's potentially the lazy one. In a good school one pupil doing something does nor cause an avalanche, elsewhere the whole place can blow in 30 seconds, or less. It's taken me years not to come down like a house of bricks on one boy who is stacking the contents of his pencil case up into some interesting creation at the end of an exam, on the basis that 25 others will be copying him in seconds, because by and large they aren't going to be. It's like having teaching PTSD. During what my Mum terms, les annees noires, my worst imaginings were exceeded on so many occasions that I'm a little oversensitised.

But this wasn't about work, as such, because the classroom is fine and I have my script for things that I'm not going to have, off pat. Anything immoral, generally comes under, 'Don't make personal comments,' and thankfully not much along those lines occurs, so it never gets to the point where further action has to be taken.

It was about the other times, when I have to be around and a conversation takes a wrong turn and there we are, everyone else is laughing and I'm not, again.

An example. Someone got married and was describing the day. Someone asked after the best man and the bride said, 'Ask X, she knows all about him.' Peels of laughter. X was sitting right there and had clearly spent the night with the best man. I didn't laugh and then it appeared that I was being judgemental, or disapproving, or something bad. Actually, X had recently split up with her fiance and I was thinking how sad she must have been and how awful you must feel to end up (undoubtedly getting very drunk,) and then doing that at a wedding, or indeed at all and for it to be treated so lightly in public. My silence did not go unnoticed and X made a sheepish comment and I mumbled something, whist wishing to be anywhere else.

And so it goes on.

The general culture is not slipping away, what I encounter, is gone.

I was chatting to a guy in an orchestra a while back and he started talking about the scientologists and I was about to make a flippant comment about aliens and spaceships when he said that he'd been into one of their bookshops and got chatting to the people there. He was just at a bit of a loss, really.

And my final anecdote on the, not believing something and believing anything line of thinking, is about the coloured water advert by my local station. Different bottles in different colours called Neuro this and that. Sounds so scientific and plausible and the bottles are a pleasing shape. Have they been blind tested, I wonder? OK have now read a review of them (reading reviews of soft drinks... saddo...,) and they appear to contain a lot of caffeine, apart, presumably, from the one that's supposed to make you go to sleep. I have an interest in coloured water because finding something nice, without being cloyingly sweet, to drink when driving is one of life's many little battles. The bottles look nice. If they were glass my sister-in-law would be saving them up as table decorations.

Anyway, back to the threeway choice. Number 3 is discounted because this is a situation where something bad is being said. This just leaves 1 and 2 as options. I think, contrary to Michael Voris, that 2 does have an effect. People always notice when you do not agree with them, but if you say nothing they will not get why. In Britain out and out contradiction does not go down well. That said, I find that in certain circles, conversations are so nuanced that I don't really know what's going on at all. I need Neuroclear.

Unfortunately, by putting on my invisibility coat and pretending I'm not there, as the conversation goes on around me, Catholicism can retreat a little further from the possibl range of responses and it becomes a little bit more acceptable to depart from Catholic moral teaching. Or maybe X thought better of it. She did look pretty sheepish.

Wednesday 27 July 2011


A most productive day.

Went to Mass, bumped into Annie Elizabeth who took me back to her place to show me a good time with her quartet of smaller people.

I had a lovely time and was suitably tooled up with an improving book to read and lots of apples and blackberries. I shall start the former later and the latter have been turned into a couple of crumbles and a whole pile of jam.

Blessed Titus Brandsma

A handy biography here.

His final act?

He gave his rosary to the doctor who killed him in Dachau.

If you thought you just saw this on that blog, you did. Three blogs on one dashboard is one too many. Next you'll be reading what I'm singing on Sunday. They keep changing the order in which they appear...

Monday 25 July 2011

Happy Feast of St James

The thurible in action here.

Sunday 24 July 2011

MacMillan Mass Review

here on The Chant Cafe.

You sang it in a field in the Midlands - unless you are Scottish, in which case you rightfully got in first.

They mention the publisher thing. Well he is James MacMillan and he is published by B&H. Stravinsky et al are not free. 6 weeks though. The CMAA Journal travels much faster.

During the course of the review, Randolph Nichols mentions my least favourite melodo-harmonic car crash (not that I'm a fan of car crashes, you understand,)of any piece ever, the C# at the beginning of On Eagle's Wings.

He describes it thus

"Kyrie" is the simplest movement and uses the same harmonic and melodic material as the "Agnus Dei". Being the most immediately accessible of the Mass movements, it would seem wise to introduce these two movements first. The opening harmony (a sustained A minor chord underlying a melody line beginning on f-sharp) is reminiscent of the first chord of "On Eagles’ Wings" with it’s non-chord c-sharp resolving to the subdominant chord tone b. In this case, however, the f-sharp resolves a half-step upward and the singer has the advantage of hearing it introduced by the organ. Thus there should be none of the painful intonation offenses that so frequently plague that OEW c-sharp. At the final “Lord have mercy” there is an engaging harmonic turn that momentarily establishes the subdominant “a” as the tonic ending; the organ steps in, however, to reaffirm "e" as the true tonal center.

An F# over an A min chord does not bring OEW to mind to me because that C# has to be plucked from nowhere and forms a tritone with the root of the chord. It is deeply offensive. A pungent dissonance. The guy who taught me fugue-writing would torture anyone writing non-invertible counterpoint by playing the offending bar over and over for everyone to tut over. What would he make of such a crime?

It's a shame also that the terms of reference have to be crummy hymns we avoid playing, though it is funny to read it set down on The Chant Cafe. I would be totally disparaging if my A Level pupils started comparing their set works with crummy contemporary pop stuff, so why do that with James MacMillan? Incidentally, he is an A Level set work composer for OCR... along with Vivaldi and Berlioz, but I'm teaching different ones, alas.

The Colours of Day tetrachord.

The OEW C#.

Naming and shaming.

A day at St Cecilia's

I knew Clare would do the biz with the photos.


What is not visible in the photos is the expressions on the sisters faces whilst Martina and Jenny were giving us all a little concert, quite amazing. You had to be there. You know the sort of thing.

We are very fortunate indeed to spend and hour with Sister Bernadette and to sing with her.

Singing loudly, singing softly

Yesterday, I sang extremely quietly, trying to match exactly what I was listening to.

Today, I sang extremely loudly to provide a steer as to how it should go, whilst playing at the same time.

Quite how you get some of the former into the latter, I have some ideas about, but not a quick fix.


Thursday 21 July 2011

Poor Banished Children - finished it

It's good. I don't usually find myself sitting on stations pleased that there is a bit of a wait, or quite so slow to move my bag out of people's way - can't you see I'm reading? - but this was a goody. Certainly, more gory that my usual choices fictionwise, but definitely a goody.

Travelling again

to Brighton tomorrow and the IOW on Sat.

Tuesday 19 July 2011

Poor Banished Children

Started it (it's a novel,) yesterday and may well end up finishing it tonight.

It's good.

Fiorella, the author, has a new blog, That Singular Anomaly and should you not live somewhere where stumbling into a Catholic bookshop is a possibility, you can get all her books there.

Back to the book...

Chucking Stuff

If you like throwing things at or on people and want a reaction, there is no better place to do this than the Palace of Westminster.

Way back in the mists of time I went out with a guy who was a parliamentary research assistant and we often used to meet at his place of work. Folks who work at Westminster seem to like it so much that they just can't face leaving.

Anyway, ordinary folks, mere tax payers and the like, can get into central lobby, via airport style, pat down security and you get a sticker too. So there I was one time in one of the many eateries, MP spotting - John Prescott - pie and chips - that sort of thing, when it flashed up on the TVs, 'security alert, central lobby.' The TVs btw show what is going on in both houses. Bit like ceefax and about as interesting. A man had thrown what turned out to be flour in central lobby and shouted, 'You've all got anthrax.' Maybe he used capital letters and a few !!!, I don't know, I wasn't there. It was around the time when people were posting stuff in the US. He thought he'd deliver it in person.

Now my reaction to a security alert is to walk away, avoiding windows, crowds and the underground. If I was medically useful, I hope I'd react differently, but I'm not. Walking away was not an option because the entire parliamentary estate was locked down. The bloke I was with then displayed that indeed he did have the mental age of a 10 year old as he thought it would be great to take a look. My Dad displayed that he has the mental age of a grown man and within minutes had texted, 'RU OK?' or the like. Compare and contrast.

The flour man was carted off. We got out after about 45 mins and went to hear William Hague in Millbank, who was very interesting and I no longer hang out in the Palace of Westminster. My Dad is still my Dad.

Bevans Productions on St Richard Gwyn


I will have to get a copy for my Dad, since St Richard Gwyn is his confirmation name. (My Dad's a convert in case you are wondering how the Maths add up. )

Monday 18 July 2011

God's Chihuahua's

I saw them get off a train today in Charing Cross.

I know, I know, first she sees Husborne Crawley on the M1 and now this?

They were in a handbag, being carried by a man....

Those we have loved...

Tutty bye to this.

The one that went DEGG GF#EE EGF#F# Ef#ED, used to hypnotise me.

It's the Colours of Day tetrachord again.

I'm thinking a retrospective season during August.

Friday 15 July 2011

The Newman Consort


At this rate Blessed John Henry Newman will be edging St Cecilia out.

Beaker spotting

Imagine my delight as I sped through the road works on the M1 yesterday afternoon (not an activity that usually fills me with the delight- the lady in the butchers in Llangollen was very sympathetic when I said I had to leave Wales and return to London,)when I spotted a turn-off for Husborne Crawley.

Couldn't see any evidence of standing stones and the like, but I was driving.

I thought it was made up.

Oh, me of little faith.

Sunday 10 July 2011

Land of my father

off there after Mass, where there is no mobile reception, just trees, mountains, the sea etc.

Typically, back to my Dad's favourite topic of conversation, I have been briefed on the possibility of having to move to the middle lane to avoid traffic leaving the British Grand prix. I need 48 hours notice - mirror-signal etc

So for those of you who are really interested


A2-M25-M1-M6-M54-A5, turn left in Capel Curig past the Plas y Brennin Activity Centre, down the Nant Gwynant Pass, to Beddgelert, left over the bridge, turn left and there you are. 275 miles, taking in motorways, country A roads, mountain passes. A complete driving experience.

Saturday 9 July 2011

High Mass in Brighton

Back from the Mass for SS John Fisher and Thomas More, which was a great day.

Clare has photos here.

I like priest's First Blessings and it was great to meet Fr Sean Finnegan and Fr Richard Biggerstaff, to whom we didn't say good-bye properly. We went one way (the beach) and everyone else headed off in the other, just at the crucial moment.

Tuesday 5 July 2011

Next outing

Never done a rehearsal mixed between courses of a BBQ, til yesterday, it being 4th July. Quite a feast.

Next outing of the schola here.

Thanks to Tom Windsor for sorting out the music in his lovely clearly type-setting, with editorial notes.

Friday 1 July 2011