Monday, 23 March 2009

Music for Lent

On Sunday evening, I spoke at an event which was part of Marshalswick, St Albans, Churches Together Lent series exploring the arts.  My task was 'Lent through the eyes of musicians'. Initially I was excited by the prospect, but when I came to realise that, historically, instrumental music is forbidden in many church traditions during Lent, it became more of a challenge. Intentionally I didn't encroach on Holy Week as this would have presented the opposite challenge of being spoiled by choice.

So, instead of limiting myself strictly to music composed for Lent, I treated the evening a bit more imaginatively and considered music that I associate with Lent. That is, with the exception of one piece with which I began.

My play-list for the evening was:
Allegri, Miserere
Mozart, Marriage of Figaro
John Cage, 4'33"
Arvo Pärt, Festina Lente
Stravinsky, Kyrie from Mass for chorus and wind instruments
Bach, Kyrie from B minor Mass

With each of these pieces I made some theological connections, so with the Allegri, Miserere, I explored penitence, the Marriage of Figaro, forgiveness, John Cage, the desert, Arvo Pärt, less is more, and the Stravinsky and Bach, mercy.

I played the pieces either in their entirety or as substantial extracts, including the Cage, which consists of silence, or rather creates the space to listen to silence, which is found to be surprisingly noisy! And whether or not people appreciated the music, or my reflections, they certainly appreciated my Bose Sound dock, through which I play my iPod. Frequently I encounter skepticism that that this small device will deliver, and always it does, very loudly and with amazing sound quality!


Dean said...

Sounds like a really good way to connect people to rhythms of the church year. Some styles of music are so suited to Lent in that they can so easily resonate with our emotions and our deepest thoughts.

Craig Gardiner said...

Sounds a great example of theology through the arts a la Begbie et al.
For me Lent always touches at some point with Gorecki Symphony No 3. Beethoven Mass in C (open chords of the Kyrie and I'm away) and esp the Lacrimossa from Preisner's Requiem for my Friend. All that and on Saturday ... Van Morrison!

Craig Gardiner said...

Random mode on the ipod just gave me Bruch's Kol Nedrei and i had to add it to my Lenten musicn list.

Geoff Colmer said...

Thanks for your suggestions Craig - I've added them to my list. I don't know the Preisner, but was fascinated to discover that he wrote the music for the Three Colours trilogy, and The Double Life of Veronique, favourite films! Unfortunately Spotify doesn't have Requiem for my Friend, so I haven't heard it yet.