Wednesday 27 May 2009

Lumberjack Moments

I posted the Monty Python Lumberjack Song because I have a profound empathy with the Mounties of the chorus. Notice how they confidently enter into the cheerful spirit of the thing at the outset. They go along with the trivialities of the opening verse and are well into the second verse before it begins to dawn upon them that all is not quite as it should be. Nevertheless the rhythm continues apace and they are back into the innocuous refrain "He's a lumberjack and he's OK...." In the last verse, however, it is soon apparent that he is very definitely not OK and the chorus mutinies. That is the both the origin and the type of what I call a "lumberjack moment". It is that moment when all of a sudden it is clear that what is expected of one is actually rather silly- or worse.

I recall a particular "lumberjack moment" sometime in the late 1980s. I was at mass and we were singing a hymn, one I happen to like, "This is the image of our queen". I glanced at the words of text we were approaching, "In this thy own sweet month of May," and froze with embarrassment. Pray why? You will doubtless ask.



From that day to this I have scrutinised the texts of hymns with great care.

Monday 25 May 2009

And now for something

Completely different....(Alius cantus aptus)

Thursday 21 May 2009

They used the real altar!

It was wonderful to see the real altar being used for the mass of Archbishop Vincent Nichols' installation in Westminster Cathedral today. Actually almost everything else struck me as marvellous too. I could not help but ponder upon the poor Anglicans present when the Apostolic Letter of authority was read out. Look, chaps, this is what a real bishop gets! Beat that!
I thought that the BBC did a first rate job and even if there were a couple of points where I'd rather Huw Edwards had been quiet he was, over all, pretty well behaved. Actually once one has been accustomed to taking young children to mass the witterings of a BBC comentator are pretty mild stuff.
I was very impressed by the Archbishop's sermon. Elsewhere I've seen it described as "woolly" but it struck me as well-judged- as if he was setting things out in broad brushstrokes. Having listened to it live and then listened to the recording I thought it dense and deep and, indeed, skilful. At one point it looked as if he was leading into Pope Benedict's Regensburg theme- and then, lo and behold, he was quoting Pope John Paul II! Doubtless the time for battles lies ahead and perhaps sooner than might be thought. Already the perverts in the press are trying to distort his remarks on the scandal in the Irish church. Please God he will be able to stand up to them.

All in all, though, "Haec dies fecit Dominus", as the Cardinal said. A day to be glad and rejoice, then- and what marvellous music and what a superb choir!

Wednesday 20 May 2009

Alleluia Choo Choo!

It really does exist! I have listened to it on a couple of blogs now and- yes- I really do feel sick with embarrassment for its composer who, by all accounts, is a nice man. But what planet is he on?

The piece itself can only be described, in my opinion, as deeply shallow - a phrase, misattributed to Andy Warhol, which expresses the radical disjuncture between the elements of word and music. The tune is expressive not of reverent Christian praise but of mindless and inconsequential jollity.
I am reminded of a deeply disturbing experience I had a few years ago when listening to BBC Radio Three on a Wednesday afternoon.
In the Choral Evensong slot was to be Vespers or Evening Prayer from Clifton Cathedral which, on the face of it, was to be anticipated with pleasure. In the event I was both disappointed and perplexed since the music was in the jazz idiom. I once heard Jazz described as the only kind of music which the performers enjoy more than the audience. In no way could the music be said to be expressive of the text. Rather did it seem like a group of performers using the texts as excuses for musical improvisation- as much as if to imply that the texts themselves were of little interest- but hey! here's some fun music!

So it seems with the Choo Choo Alleluia. Actually another memory comes to mind. It is of those jolly little cassettes with jolly tunes to help young children learn their multiplication tables - although those I recall are somewhat better.

Anyone for Thomas the Tank Engine?

Tuesday 19 May 2009

This post comes courtesy of....

Here can be seen the restoration of my link with the outside world just over one week ago.

Sunday 17 May 2009

Duh Vinci Cod

Last week I watched "The Da Vinci Code" on television and realised that no one as yet has realised the potentially immense value of this film as a drug-free cure for insomnia. Admittedly, I did get through to the end of it but that was thanks to the nap I'd had immediately before the showing. The long winded explanations were tedious in the extreme. Indeed the appearances of the mad albino monk provided much longed-for light relief which, however, was regrettably short lived. I am inclined to the view that the box office success of the film was solely due to the hype and controversy surrounding the book and that, had the film preceded the publication of Brown's text, both would have sunk without trace.

Doubtless, there will be readers out there who disagree with my assessment and who remain convinced of the plot's brilliance. For these, and I must confess it is hard to dismiss the evidence of the hard cash it has produced, and indeed for anyone remotely curious, I suggest they
click here.

Thursday 14 May 2009

The Moral Abacus

One of the most absurdly named programmes on the radio is called "The Moral Maze". I say it is absurd because it seems to me that it is based upon a rather silly premise- that the Good or right thing to do in any given circumstance is only apprehended with difficulty. In my experience that is more like the opposite of reality. In truth the morally good or right course of action is pretty obvious. It is, however, doing it that is frequently difficult and sometimes difficult in the extreme. This thought returned to me earlier today when one of the disgraced members of parliament declared that he had "made an error of judgement" in claiming money to which he had not been entitled. Surely, I thought, that was not in itself an error such as one might make in adding up some figures- like an arithmetical mistake. A little more reflection, however, convinced me that, perhaps, he was being more honest than he meant to be. He had indeed miscalculated- the sum of how much he could get away with!

Some people seem surprised at the apparent wickedness of so many MPs manifested in the present money scandal. For my part I shouldn't expect a parliament that has done as much evil as the present one to include many decent people. We can hardly expect those unfaithful in great matters to be faithful in lesser ones.

Friday 8 May 2009

Phone Line Blues

Within a few minutes of that last post someone drove into a pole down the hill causing it to split in half and likewise breaking our telephone link. I have since spent a lot of time on my mobile speaking to nice Indian ladies who tell me things which subsequently prove to be untrue such as "the line will be restored by the end of Wednesday"- or Thursday- or Saturday. The latest promise, to date, is Monday but I hold not my breath. It's getting rather like a Jehovah's Witness End of the World.
Which is all a roundabout way of saying I'll be offline for a while.

Monday 4 May 2009

Clouds and trees

I had planned to write something on altars, antependiae etcetera this evening but fell asleep in front of the television. I surfaced more than once to see a programme about clouds. There were some very good explanatory bits and some tantalising references to Constable's cloud studies in the Tate. Interesting as much of it was the programme was over long with the result that it lapsed into geekishness. I found myself recalling a BBC 2 series from a few years ago "Meetings with remarkable trees". The title alone sufficed to raise a smile with its faint suggestion of trees having personalities. Nevertheless, as with Oscar Wilde's selfish giant, it has to be said that their conversation is limited. I did learn something from the cloud programme, however, and that is the word "crepuscular" relating to light radiating from between clouds.

Being something of a know-all on the subject, the presenter, not satisfied with praising Constable's cloud studies, had to rubbish the work of other artists. That is an easy trap to fall into. Years ago I had a low opinion of the treatment of trees in earlier paintings. I dismissed what looked like overgrown clumps of broccoli in early Italian paintings only to laugh at the recognition of their accuracy when I visited Italy and looked out from the train at the hillsides between Bologna and Florence.

That Constable was good at clouds and trees is admirable. That someone should speak on such subjects at length risks being boring but they are wonderfully harmless subjects.