Sunday, 18 July 2010

Private Passions and tender music

This morning I was visiting Vale Community Church's Sunday Brunch. This is an event which takes place twice a month and provides 'opportunities to make new friends and explore the Christian faith'. It's an exciting initiative for all ages and proving an effective way of being church.

On the way back I listened to Private Passions on Radio 3. Whenever I look ahead to the coming week on tv and radio, I always check out who Michael Berkeley's guest is, and this week it was a repeat of a programme with Nick Clegg.

Private Passions is a 'Desert Island Discs'-style programme, though much more substantial in terms of the music played and discussed. It has considerable depth without being stuffy or elitist and I would rate it as consistently very good and sometimes extraordinary. I could point you to pieces of music that I heard for the first time on this programme.

What I heard today was particularly interesting in the light of the position Nick Clegg now finds himself in. And this is a man who understands the arts, music in particular, and has a great love for them.

He spoke of the Mozart Laudate Dominum, sung by Kiri te Kanawa, as 'tender', and after listening to this Michael Berkeley commented that of the hundreds of guests on Private Passions, the weighting was towards music that elicits tears rather than joy. He then picked up on Nick Clegg's use of 'tenderness' and made a connection with 'the fragility of the human condition' and our sense of 'impermanence', which produces a longing and a yearning. This expresses for me something of my understanding of the essence of music.

In 'Chasing Frances', the book I posted on a week ago, Chase Falcon says, 'The object of all great art is beauty, and it makes us nostalgic for God.  Whether we consider ourselves people of faith or not, art arouses in us what Pope John Paul called a "universal desire for redemption".'  And 'Art or beauty is not the destination; it is a signpost pointing towards our desired destination.'

And CS Lewis, in The Weight of Glory, writes, 'The books of the music in which we thought the beauty was located will betray us if we trust to them; it was not in them, it only came through them, and what came through was a longing … For they are not the thing itself; they are only the scent of a flower we have not found, the echo of a tune we have not heard, news from a country we have never yet visited.'

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