Saturday, 26 December 2009

Greetings and a prayer

A 'Happy Second Day of Christmas'!

And a favourite prayer:
Almighty God,
who wonderfully created us in your own image
and yet more wonderfully restored us
through your Son Jesus Christ:
grant that, as he came to share our humanity,
so we may share the life of his divinity;
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

Sunday, 20 December 2009

Ten things tourists should know about Milton Keynes

If you are one of the countless people for whom the mention of Milton Keynes evokes a smirk, then read here about our great 'city'.

Mary - Godbearer - at Hopeful Imagination

Today I'm blogging at 'Hopeful Imagination'. Do pay a visit!

Thursday, 10 December 2009

Music that made you stand still in wonder

Maggi has tagged me with a music meme. The point is to write about moments when music just made you stand still in wonder, but not to write about your all-time-favourite music.

This is really hard, as there are lots of those moments! So, what do I choose?

The first time I heard the Ode to Joy from Beethoven's 9th Symphony made a huge impact and marked the beginning of a passion for music.  I was about seven years old and as a consequence asked for the LP for Christmas - sad child! I didn't know where the Ode to Joy came in the music - it's near the beginning of a long final movement - and so the family had to endure the whole symphony to make sure the wrong piece hadn't been purchased! Even now, when I hear the melody introduced in the subterranean depths of the string section, and then joined with a counter-melody played by the bassoon, it has the same effect.

The most recent moment is Mahler's 10th Symphony, the Finale. I blogged on this recently, and received a delightful comment. Since then I've been ambused again and again as I've listened to this sublime music.

On a Sunday, driving home from preaching at one of the CBA's 150 or so churches, I listen to Private Passions, a brilliant programme. It's a sort of Desert Island Discs, but with much more conversation around the music. There have been a number of occasions when music has had the 'stand still in wonder' effect, which is a bit disconcerting when you're driving!

One piece was Miles Davis, Time after Time, taken from 'Live Around The World'. The guest introducing this, spoke about how Miles takes the tune and breaks your heart in one way, and then in another, and yet another. And listening to it for the first time, it's just as he said. There's a wonderful moment when Miles plays without his signature Harmon mute and wallops a seriously high note, and the silence that follows makes you stop breathing.

There was a period in our lives when Cazz and I would listen to Late Junction on Radio 3 introduced by the gorgeous-voiced Verity Sharp. Right at the end of the programme, in the early hours of the morning, we heard a version of 'The Air That I Breathe' by The Hollies, played by the virtuoso violinist Victoria Mullova, accompanied by the jazz pianist Julian Joseph and the fantastic percussionist Paul Clarvis. We subsequently bought the CD, 'Through The Looking Glass'. What a great song!

We attended a concert at The Stables with the guitarist Martin Taylor in which he spoke of a recent tragedy in his own life. He played his own take of a tune that had become very special to him and wife, The Londonderry Air. It was one of those occasions when time took on another dimension.

I could talke about the slow movement of Mozart's Clarinet Concerto, Jan Gabarek, Officium, and others.

But finally, I recently came across a video clip on You Tube of a friend from years ago, Dermot Crehan. Dermot is a superb classical vioinist who also is a hugely respected Irish fiddler. He was the solo violinist on the soundtrack of 'Lord of the Rings', and on this clip performs 'Were You At The Rock?'. He's accompanied at one point by another friend, Andy Findon, playing Irish flute. It's a moment of understated wonder.

Tuesday, 1 December 2009

Stephen Hough on Advent

For the four Sundays in Advent, Stephen Hough, the concert pianist, is posting an Advent blog, taking four pieces he has recorded and connecting them 'to spiritual themes from this pre-Christmas season'. The first piece is Cesar Franck's Prelude, Chorale and Fugue which 'contains a profound musical journey from darkness to light'.

He interprets what's going on in the music through a theological lens, and it's good stuff. Go read and then listen on Spotify, although you'll have to settle for Murray Perahia, as Stephen's recording isn't included yet.