Monday 31 October 2011

Saturday 29 October 2011

News item order

Yesterday the BBC did something very interesting in their R4 Hourly bulletins.

The items went like this

Constitutional changes  - first born children will become heirs to the throne.
Members of the royal family can marry Catholics without having to give up their place in the line of succession.
Catholic social worker employed in child protection work for the church convicted of child p**n offences.

Just in case anyone thought Catholics were OK kinda people.

I heard that about three times.

Friday 28 October 2011

Lists Lists Lists

The last three days represented my main opportunity to get stuff done before the Christmas holidays.

I duly complied my list and set to.

Extra jobs that got added included posting two small dressing-gowns back to my small friends who were staying earlier in the week.  One of the great things about having a family to stay is that when they decamp your house looks quite tidy, without you having to do anything, though it's much more fun with them than without.  One chair was entirely taken over by soft toys, then there was the trumpet (great for a blues jamming session), the books, the games and the food for packed lunches (don't visit London without them,) and the dressing-gowns.  My friend said not to worry about posting them back quickly, but I knew it was this afternoon or the Christmas holidays, so that's the afternoon.  Clearly everyone now taxes their car online, because the end of the month queues were not there.

This half-term is when I write the addresses onto most of my Christmas cards, because the week I like to post them is the last week of term and inexplicably, I'm a bit tired.  Something to do with multiple concerts and Carol Services, reports, dark mornings....  I bought quite a few cards in the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge last Jan.  Now that's getting ahead.

Before I forget, if you are visiting London and don't fancy spending a fortune, may I recommend the Museum of London, which is very interesting ( has some quite good Catholic bits, including that engraving of the Pope fanning the flames of the Great Fire - top stuff), free, not desperately crowded for half-term (if you want chaos, try The Natural History Museum) and you can eat your packed lunch in the school lunch bit which was very pleasant indeed, supplemented by a few bought coffees.  There are also some Roman walls near it. If you live in SE London and have travelcards you can get the Clipper to Greenwich for not very much money, certainly much less than any boat trip or go the other way if you live out west. Great for adults in need of a sit down. And if you are entertaining small people for whom red buses are exciting you can do stuff like go over London Bridge on the top deck for no extra cost, whilst singing, 'London Bridge is falling down.'

That protest near St Paul's?  Not terribly bothersome, but we did walk round the east end of the cathedral to avoid it and so we didn't have to answer any questions about the people in tents.

Not every job has been done yet. To force myself to make the Christmas cake, the fruit is soaking in brandy.  That will not wait til the Xmas holidays....

Wednesday 26 October 2011

Requiem Mass Introit

Clare has done all the hard work committing to paper what we were taught last Saturday.

I would add that what with the black vestments, a catafalque and unbleached candles, the emphasis Mode 6 places on fa and la; a major third came as a revelation.

I don't care if people in the past heard major thirds differently, I live now and I like major thirds.  What I'm looking at is horrifying enough, so music that is solid, simple and hopeful provides a welcome counterweight.

Tuesday 25 October 2011

A trip to the zoo

I have some friends staying with me at the moment who are doing London with their children.  Yesterday, on a beautiful, sunny day we walked through Regent's Park to the zoo. 

There are some very funny looking animals there people.  And some lovely pink anenames in the aquarium which would make like great brouches.

The gorillas sat with their backs to us and reminded me of...

Monday 24 October 2011

Dvorak - flavour of the month

I was reminded how I quite like Dvorak 9 when the Berlin Phil feed on facebook advertised the last mvt.

Here, with someone we like in the audience.

Friday 21 October 2011

Last Saturday, the video

The 3 Minute Mass - St Mary Magdalen Brighton from clare bowskill on Vimeo.

And so to bed.  The 07.01 train beckons.... 

Wednesday 19 October 2011

Oh dear

Over on planet leutgeb we have lots of experience of what Clare experienced yesterday.

We just don't talk about it. Usually.  Today, an exception.

 I once walked out of a meeting where I was publically castigated in front of visitors for the music I provided at school Masses.  Weird that doesn't happen to me where I work now.

But just to be clear, if you were to cast your mind across every single terrible Mass-setting and hymn written in the last 40 years, I have played and sung and taught every single one of them.

Every single one.

Every awful experience relating to liturgical music you can think of I have had.  Yes, even that one.  I've had a few extras added recently too.

Most brilliantly fortunately, I can now do something about it all.  So I am.  Because that is the only way to change things.

People have to get together and sing the proper stuff as far as they possibly can.  And people are and there is lots of stuff to help on the internet and people are getting together and it's changing.

That's why Clare and I and lots of other people get to church way before Mass starts to sort things out so you can sing Mass XI and Credo I and not something else.

Just when you thought the Clap Clap Gloria had been put away in a galaxy far far away...

Because liturgical music is not about fashion, it's about eternity.

Tuesday 18 October 2011


so I should really be looking for a decent Youtube rcording of the Beethoven Violin Concerto to replace the one the Sixth Form gave the thumbs down to this afternoon.  It didn't get off to a good start when there was so much reverb on the timps that it sounded like there were two notes instead of one. Disappointed.  May have to be Anne Sophie von Mutter looking like Wonder Woman.  Maybe sound only, this is a boys' school. What was she thinking?  Was she thinking?

Light relief.  My GCSE class liked this as an end of term treat.

Sunday 16 October 2011

What I was up to yesterday

down on the south coast.

I particularly enjoyed practising for vespers with two brothers from Farnborough, Br Anselm (yes, he is looking at an iPad,) and Br Michael, so thank you to them.  Can't beat the Benedictines if you want to chant psalms, they have been at it a while, after all.

Br Michael is from Slovakia and one of our schola is Czech and with a 'hello' from the visiting Polish priest, we had a moment of Slav connections.  We like to keep it international and our schola is Anglo-Welsh-Korean-American-Czech.

Great to see the Ordinariate in action too.

Next Sat it's back to St Cecilia's and, I hope, a timely session on the Requiem Mass.

The parish choir wacked thro' the Dies Irae this morning in our practice and so hopefully that will be on form for Nov 2nd.

Friday 14 October 2011

Why Music Teachers go mad

Very frequently when I say I am a Music teacher, once we've gone past the bit about which instrument do you teach -  I don't as such, but I do have to be able to tell sections of orchestras how to do things and know what is hard and why and audition people and mark stuff - they then tell me how their Music teacher burst into tears, couldn't control the class and then left.

Well this is my 19th year teaching, and I'm coping OK thanks.

Aside from the sheer bloody-mindedness necessary, the need to remain sensitive to music whilst listening to things that are wrong in every way possible and the need to be able to recognise greatness when you hear it and encourage it - some of my pupils really are that good, you just seem to spend your time making performances that could flounder work.

So the two ways you have to do music.

Teacher way
You know how it should go and you push it in the right direction, but do have to follow people if they cannot for any reason do it right.  This means adjusting all the time to someone ( or indeed an entire orchestra) who alters the tempo and phrasing of things for non-musical reasons (they can't do it right,) and therefore the changes are not predictable, logical or musical.  They are not consistent and it can be differently wrong every time.  The amount of wrongness can vary wildly between people and between performances by individuals.  This puts you on edge all the time to some degree and also requires a huge amount of concentration to avoid stuff being derailed.

Musician way
You spend all your concentration on getting it right and do not have to consider any sudden unforeseen unmusical incidents.  Where changes do occur, they make musical sense and intensify the musical experience in a good way.

Basically, Music teachers can get burnt out, because being permanently irratated at a fundemental and personal level by what you hear, whilst having to react continually to other people, always making it work for them, whilst they ignore you musically is hard.  It's by no means all bad - sometimes it's amazing if risky- and I love what I do, but it's done at some considerable cost.

A few years ago my good String Orchestra did an all Bach Recital.  We did the first movement of the Bach Double Violin Concert and in about bar 2 one viola player rushed a group of semiquavers, pulling the music slightly.  Every time something like that happens it's as if I have been stabbed with an epipen of addrenalin.  My heart rate goes up and I have to react to put the thing back on course, because a failure to intervene as a conductor will result in a problem.  Such a possibility happens in every bar of every piece I do, even if it is very rare for something to be quite that bad in a concert. I should also say that we did it the following year and to have the two brilliant soloists, one in each ear was I think one of the most pleasurable musical experiences of my life.  Gotta take the rough with the smooth.

The only time I get annoyed is when someone comes and tells me how I should have done it better, but then as they are never the musicans in the audience, I listen less and less.

Music Teachers; walking that tight rope in front of audiences of hundreds.

Thursday 13 October 2011


my HoD has been going quietly frantic trying to get some instrumental parts.  We have an annual big do involving us having to provide a quality morsel of music.  He got the choir parts easily enough and was told that the instrumental parts would take 3/4 weeks to come from America.  He lost patience yesterday and emailed the  composer. 

Result?  pdf of the parts arrived today.

A conductor's iPhone

I took a couple of boys on a trip today to hear a famous conductor-composer talking about his work.  Was mightliy pleased that he started life as a horn player, as have a few other conductors.

Anyway, during the course of the afternoon, he played the third movement of his violin concerto.  This commenced with him doing a pat down of all of his pockets til he found his iPhone and plugged it in.  Good piece.

Later on he played us a song he had written and after a big explanation of the poem, along came the song.

 Then there was a burst of Wagner as the phone part of his iPhone rang.

Wednesday 12 October 2011

Sightings of The Tablet

yup is still on sale in Westminster Cathedral.  I saw it today and Fr Z saw it yesterday.

I scan the front as I walk past each time... and can't say I am bothered by it at all, because it inhabits a different planet to the one I live in. 

The Tablet and Blackfen.  That article was so off the wall it's filed in my mind along with Pius XII was a Nazi.  After all we've all seen that photo taken during the Weimar Republic when he was the papal nuncio and who was it who drafted Mit brennender Sorge...? oh yeah. Why was it written in German again? (Yes I know Pius XI was the Pope when it was written.. we did the papacy in the 20thC for O level History because we had a proper Catholic teacher.)

I live in one where people do weird things like sing at Missa Cantatas before repairing to the hall for a nosh up and chat. 

Where people are getting ready for the 40 hours.

Where random people meet up in pubs after Mass and have a great night.

Where I pop round to people's houses and we spend the evening eating pizza and practising for Mass and Vespers next Saturday in Brighton. ( NB, not at the same time.  No greasy stains on my Triplex, thanks.)

Where friends pop down here when they can to sing and I pop over to their parishes to do the same.

Where we all pop down to the Isle of Wight to have 90 minutes listening to Sr Bernadette.

Where I give lifts to boys who show me the little presents they have bought for elderly people in nursing homes.

Where more people read blogs than read The Tablet.

Anyway, on the front it mentions an article by that canon lawyer who is very litigious on why the difficulties facing divorced and remarried people receiving Holy Communion are not insummountable.

I wonder what else is not insummountable?

My favourite violin piece

Whittered on a bit about this yesterday, but my laptop at home is on it's last legs and crashed.  A precis about accompanying this on a traumatic day -  I fainted and bashed my horn in ( v ill in the U6, not fun,)  whilst my friend the violinist's sister was nearly tranferred from KCH to a psychiatric unit after being put on the wrong doasge of her epilepsy drugs; she started hallucinating and then threw a glass Ribena bottle against a wall.  Her  parents sorted that one out and then rushed back to Sidcup via public transport, couldn't get a cab and missed the concert.

Great piece and we gave it a rather more intense performance than Perlman does here, though you can't beat one of the world's greatest violinists.

Why am I going on about it now?  One cute 11 year old played it in a concert yesterday and made a very good job of it too. 

If we are into favourite violin concertos, it's Brahms, Tchaikovsky, Beethoven, Sibelius, Bach a minor, Elgar, Mendelssohn, Bruch( hate the slow mvt) in that order.

Sunday 9 October 2011

Birthdays and Anniversaries

One of the things that I have in common with my cousin Richard is that our first names are the same as Grandma's parents and so it seemed poignant that we got on with her very well.  We were also born months apart; he today and me on Christmas Day.

On Christmas Day 1975, when I was five, after lunch, we all went to see Grandpa in hospital.  He had had a stroke and was sitting in a chair with a table in front of it wearing a hat from a cracker.  He couldn't speak - although he did say, Good morning, Father,' when the priest came to see him- and looked sad to me.  I also thought that he looked very undignified in what to me looked like an adult high chair and the party hat was totally out of keeping with the sombre atmosphere.  I had no idea how ill he was.  Being five, I bounced in and announced that it was my birthday and was sharply reprimanded that he knew.  He died on 29th December.

On Friday I went briefly to Richard's birthday drinkies and as it was the day after Grandma's anniversary, we were having a reminisce.  He was on a bus on the way home from the equivalent do when my Aunt phoned him.  Anyway, it turns out that he was indeed correct when he said that the official documents are wrong.  She died on 5th October.  I've just had lunch with my folks and checked.  Grandma died on a Friday night before midnight and when my Mother and Aunt went to the hospital on the Monday, the date had been recorded as the 6th.  They were in no state to argue, so said nothing.

Grandma 13th November 1916-5th October 2007.

And belated thanks to Fr Ray

So what seems like oodles of years ago - was my hair really that short?, but was probably only four, I went to a talk organised by Joanna Bogle and met someone called Clare, chatted, walked to the tube together and said good-bye.

The day of the Cardinal Hoyos Mass, Mac gave me a lift (and we saw the Papal Nuncio's car outside Westminster Cathedral, with one very cool number plate which I can't rememeber, but it was cool,) and we bumped into Fr Ray and had a coffee.  The cigarettes are nothing to do with me, btw.  Mac took a photo and put it on her blog and Clare, (who was by then running the Choir at St Mary Mags) saw it and recognised me.  I went to Brighton to sing the first time she did lots of music, like at the time three years ago when singing the Elgar Ave verum after Holy Communion seemed positively countercultural and then she persuaded me to go to Solesmes.

Whilst we were there, she had to phone up Fr Ray to check out if she could buy some of their Gregorian Missals which we could get at a very good discount.  He answered the phone, she started to speak and the monks started to ring the bell for vespers, which was ... loud.  'Oh so you are at Solesmes.'

The rest, as they say, is history. 
Back to Brighton next Sat. (Friday, actually.)

Back to Brighton

Next Saturday, our little schola are singing Mass and vespers for the ALL AGM at St Mary Mags and Mgr Andrew Burnham is giving a talk too Anglican Patrimony. Oh yes, very up to the minute on the Ordinariate. 

We have vesper practice tomorrow night, so now you know what I shall be doing on the train tomorrow morning, otherwise I would have gone to Fr Z's blognic.

This clashing thing has been a theme over the last few weeks.

Last Saturday was the Guild of Blessed Titus Brandsma do and the Blessed Sacrament Procession in London.

Yesterday we had an extra Missa Canata for a couple's Fiftieth Wedding Anniversay (congratulations) and it was the Rosary Crusade.

Next Saturday is the LMS Pilgrimage to Aylesford with THE MACHAUT MASS.  When did you ever think you'd hear that for real?  Start finding the M20 on Googlemaps immediately. And I'm, in Brighton.

Anyway, the fact that there is more than one thing that you could be at is definitely a good thing.

Oh yes and Sat 22nd Oct is the last Missa Cantata for The Forty Hours and we have one of our sessions with Sr Bernadette.

And so it goes on.

Saturday 8 October 2011

Being nuanced

How is this beneficial/helpful/good for people who have to make significant choices as to with whom they socialise and where they go out of an evening?

Maybe the people who allow and thereby actively encourage these things need to walk through certain parts of central London at night like I have to sometimes and get an idea of what it's really like.  And I'm mostly looking at the pavement

Being nuanced = allowing people to talk themselves around into doing things that are wrong.

Favourite Christmas Music


Friday 7 October 2011

Knock about fun

with other Music teachers yesterday on an INSET course. We've now switched entirely over to IGCSE, which amongst other things is a very small board for home entries, so they more or less know all the candidates, I think. Certainly, I've never had someone come up and give personal feed back for our candidates. Anyway, we also went through all the other current GCSE and A Level syllabuses in the breaks. Why is there a Vivaldi Bassoon Concerto on for AS this year? Well presumably because it allows them to ask you a question comparing woodwind writing in that and the Haydn, but as an example of Vivaldi, the baroque concerto, ritornello form or anything else I can think of, it's a bit pointless. I would have gone for Brandenburg 2 or 4 to do that, but I just teach the syllabus, I don't write it. Someone asked me if I had found our A Level Syllabus confusing in that half the set works changed last year and the other half didn't and um, no I did not do what she did and realise just before the Eatser holidays because I check that type of thing to an OCD level of checkiness and I think it is a big big mistake and I know teachers who have been sacked for that one. Admittedly, it did involve not finding out until the exam packet was opened minutes before the exam started. No tolerance would be shown where I work for such a mistake. A candidate could easily miss a university offer for that. The Chief Examiner was there and an authoritive lady in charge of multiple specs (syllabi) who seemed in the role of making sure it didn't all get out of hand. People can lay into INSET providers. I think she may have been a bit mystified as to exactly why everyone burst out laughing at various points in sample performances and compositions. It's not derision, it's more hysteria, because where Flossy's composition gets submitted in that form or that recording of a Mozart Piano Sonata where the candidate banged the last note of each phrase, someone has probably discarded a number of recordings far far worse. Shame they didn't play the brilliant candidates who exceed full marks... Off to check those set works again. For June 2012 examination...

Thursday 6 October 2011

Grandma RIP

Today is the 4th anniversary of Grandma's death. I used to go over and spend Sunday with her quite often and over the years it morphed into me taking her to Mass. She expressed opinions by putting them onto others and so it went, 'You like Latin, so let's go to the morning o'clock Mass at Church B, rather than the other one I normally get the bus to.' She would then exhibit a perfect knowledge of all the responses and the missa de angelus. Both my maternal Grandparents were essentially brought up in religious communities; my Grandmother with the FCJ's from the ages of 2-20 after her mother died of TB aged 27 leaving 5 children, and my Grandfather with the Christian Brothers at Prior Park College Bath - it's never been explained how the 2nd youngest child of 9 from a tiny cabin in rural Co Kerry ended up there (an English public school,) and then went to St Mary's Strawberry Hill, where he did an external degree from London University in 1930, taking a first, anyone else got a Grandfather who did that? - anyway their upbringing and deference to religious authority means that only very tiny expressions of opinion could give away what they really thought. That and my Grandfather's text book Red Letter Feasts for Catholic Schools, which shall we say is a bit low on chatty group work. More read the passage answer the closed questions in full sentences whilst looking at the black and white reproductions of pictures from the old masters, published by kind permission of The National Gallery London. It was published before Vatican II, so all his pie charts of the liturgical year went out of date.... for a while and are now right back in.

Monday 3 October 2011

Can't remember the last time

I was quite so obsessed with a piece of music. Yes still on the Dvorak Serenade. The second movement trio is my favourite.

Saturday 1 October 2011

Blessed Sacrament Procession in London

I would have gone to this, but you can't be in two places at once. I like processions.


Thank you for Richard, Linen on the Hedgerow for bringing us all cards with the Guild Prayer. Also, to Dylan, A Reluctant Sinner, for masterminding it. And to Fr Tim, for his talk, chairing the meeting and for the fact that we can have High Mass and Vespers in a regular church in the suburbs of London. Did I say the lunch was yummy? The lunch was yummy.

Bloggers to Blackfen

Photo by Mac. Great weather of course. You've seen the poster, so know the timetable. Can't beat High Mass and Vespers. A very pleasant day indeed. Lunch was yummy. The meeting was short - always a good thing in my book. Not often a meeting ends with the Chairman saying he'd better go because Vespers is about to start. Probably avoids all sorts in religious communities. Bong. Time for the next office. I thought everyone very calm, kind and cheery. Look forward to the next one. Did I post first, even having been to Tescos on the way home??

This looks really good.

A video in French on Gregorian chant via The Chant Cafe. Must watch it in full soon I love the Solesmes way of singing chant and most importantly what goes on behind it. So there. Sr Bernadette, the choir mistress at St Cecilia's Ryde is my heroine. That said, with so few people able to sing chant just now and with many people wanting to, I don't loose too much sleep over people who sing episemes longer than I would choose. Just don't mention the quilisma... :-)