Mea Maxima Culpa!

There is a saying, amongst performers that is, namely: 'What goes on tour, stays on tour.’

The meaning fleshes out, practically speaking, as, “Orchestral musicians and choral singers who are away from home with their work, can sleep with their colleagues in cheap hotel rooms with impunity: there will be no personal relational repercussions to any infidelity.” It’s a version of what the staff and boys at my prep school called, “the eleventh commandment”; Thou shalt not get caught.

This Number 11 was a commandment I was very keen on obeying at school: multiple expulsions would have come my way, no doubt, had I been less vigilant. How proud my parents could be of me that, verily, “I never got caught” for a full 5 years of teenage adolescence school going. Keeping a hand grenade for instance in the Rigauds locker room, a stones throw (literally) from the Houses of Parliament, probably would have been a health and safety no-no, even in 1986 - oh, all right, it was defused, but it would have warranted a bit of explanation no doubt.

Still, on the matter of explanation, the “WGOTSOT” motto bantered at Le Pub, 250 miles from Dorking, might well also warrant a close examination on the “Dies Irae, Dies Illa.'‘ Speaking of cosmic cognitive dissonance, perhaps there might be a brace of eyebrows raised by the one true Judge of all, should there be such an acronym slogan emblazoned on the cotton of the t-shirts of that (for instance) “Puddleby-on-the-Marsh Sinfonia, roving Mozart Requiem series, in (20 churches) across Europe.” I would guarantee - with a heap of all my winnings - that a punt that something similar had happened somewhere along the way might make a pretty cent - if you could get better than 12-7. Is that really rocking the boat?

What am I saying?

People sing stuff, and a lot of the time they have no idea what they are saying.

(And that’s not good, ‘cause it’s a lie, and telling the truth matters.)

I’ve done that myself as a non-Catholic (singing important but not-understood words), years ago, multiple times. Less so now, but still occasionally, as the situation (eg sight reading in Latin) demands. Ask your choral director, “what do the words mean?” at your peril. You may not receive an answer: there will likely not be time to go into it in any case.

Christian music suffers conscious and unconscious cognitive dissonance from both schoolboy and professional sources. Radio 4 was broadcasting the reflections of the comedian who plays the eponymous anti-hero in ‘Old Harry’s Game’ this last week: much guffawing ensued from the studio audience at the assonance alternative that he claimed was the go-to gag at his childhood church choir, to the hymn with the line “breathe through the heat of our desires/thy coolness and thy…” (join the dots to get the joke).

Cognitive dissonance = Beautiful words to beautiful tune re-routed via schoolboy verbal flatulence. Been there done that. But it’s no good.

Words matter. Not in the post-modern, relativistic, power exchange way though. But because there is an attendant transcendent reality. Because if you say something you should mean it. Whether it’s saying you’re terrified of the day of judgement or ‘I love you’. WGTHSIH. Which is something you can’t say of purgatory.

So - I write casually, “there is a trascendent reality”. Is there? How do I know? What’s the proof?

Well, put it this way, if there wasn’t, “Harry’s” choir director would have winked at the bottom-of-the=barrel joke that his merry songsters were routinely cracking up to. Again: what am I saying?

Beauty matters. Beauty is truth. Excellence matters. The truth is (Bill and Ted notwithstanding) excellent.

If you seek equality of outcome then greyness will be your reward. Grey is only the colour of hope where the world around it is in almost complete shadow. But if grey is all that there is, then its monotony will suffocate all life. The Saints did not aim for a place in Dante’s second book.

The reason some words are banned from the feast is because the feast is just that: a feast. There is a context where certain things have no place to be present. A feast is a place where fruit and flowering can be celebrated and enjoyed: there is joy, happiness, and the like. It is a giving away that produces more fruit. Fruitlessness, self-seeking, aggrandised onanism have no place. According to the Torah, God sets before us death and life and bids us choose life.

If art is divorced from beautytruth, and shacked up in a triangle with fashion and sensationalism instead, then it doesn’t matter if you substitute the word ‘fart’ into a Christian hymn: you might make a name for yourself in the process even. IMHO, it’s sort of what Francis Bacon made his life and career about. Singing the Mozart Requiem whilst secretly thinking indecent thoughts about the Alto soloist is along the same lines. I think this is something of what Jordan Peterson meant by his lecture on “Who dares say he believes in God?” There’s a lot bound up in confessing that. We’re work in progress so long as we’re working to progress. And progressing is really important.

And so too is trying so to do.

There is a hint there of the reason that the early Christians called themselves followers of ‘The Way’. There is a place we are called to journey to, travelling “hopefully” in this life militant. Continuing to take your marriage vows seriously, even if you happen to be singing with 30 mates in a European Cathedral that night, is part of the deal.

If you don’t think that WGOTSOT is shorthand for a day trip to hell, may I invite you to check if you have the return half of your ticket? And your valid railcard?

“Rex tremendae majestatis”…

“Mea maxima culpa!”

With the Lord, a thousand years is like a day, and a day is like a thousand years. And the ticket inspector may be along before you get back to St Pancras.

Mea Culpa!

Apologies for the long absence from this blog - it’s been a hectic several weeks since Easter. The Walsingers contributed to the music at Ascension Day at the Parish Church and we seem to have transitioned to doing regular worship music with the Junior Choir. The Junior Choir also participated at H.W.’s Variety Show last Sunday at Walsingham Parish Hall - great fun and many thanks to M-P.R and Z.R. for all their help both leading and bolstering the ranks. Special thanks to Anna A. and Paddy A. for all their help with the guitar and drums at rehearsal and in performance.

With Harmer family work plans and summer holiday schedule I’ve decided to take a mini-break with Walsingers till mid-July. Date of next rehearsal possibly 16th July but TBC. Watch this website!

Meanwhile, the field our house looks onto in Hindringham has gone from muddy mess to neatly ploughed to sprouting green to lush growth. Peas apparently (according to the neighbours). And when it’s harvested the crop will be in the freezer within a couple of hours. Its been wonderful to follow the seasons around from November to now and see the procession of nature through the journey of the year. Poppies in the hedgerows have been a joy recently - we have them growing in our driveway also and I was mystified till recently as what they could be before they flowered, never having seen them grow up close. Have been mindful of WWI seeing the red blots where the car has carnaged through them periodically. The analogy is grim but they fall and rise so swiftly.

If you have a moment, do google Is my team ploughing - a song by Butterworth, text from a Housman poem. Not explicitly WWI related but written and composed a bit earlier than 1914. Chilling. And very, very beautiful.

It's almost Holy Week

Many thanks to the 25 of you who were there at rehearsal yesterday. Well done: sounding good.

For those who may be able to join us, the Walsingers Junior choir will be singing during communion at the 930am Mass on Tuesday 16th April at the Church of the Annunciation, Friday Market, Walsingham. Rehearsal beforehand at 9am in the church.

The senior choir will be singing at the Mass of the Lord’s Supper, Maundy Thursday 18th April, meeting at 6pm for a quick rehearsal with a 630pm start time.

Choir members: do please have a look at the recordings of the parts for Panis Angelicus, found on this website under ‘recordings’. ATB parts are there: sopranos - please google a recording of the piece and listen there on youtube or similar.

Many thanks to all of you for all your help with the music in this our first term.

“April is the cruellest month, breeding lilacs out of the dead land”…

So wrote TS Eliot.

Here in Norfolk, we get grape hyacinths and daffodils.

Feast of the Annunciation + one

A full church at the Shrine for Mass yesterday. Glorious sunshine this morning as Isidore and Miri and I strolled to Hindringham Hall for the morning dog walk. Spotted a new public footpath to explore some other day. Charlotte made Pheasant curry for the group lunch after Mass yesterday - this rural life! Ah me!

Walsingers back in action this afternoon. See you all later.

Blow the wind southerly

Many thanks to the 24 of you who turned up for Tuesday’s rehearsal in the two choirs. I’ve enjoyed listening to our little recordings and will, as promised, put up a recording of the different voice parts of Panis Angelicus on this website in due course. Hopefully - that is… I find there’s many a slip ‘twixt cup and lip when it comes to technology.

Thank you to our new attendees on Tuesday also, plus those who’ve contacted me from seeing the article about the choir in the Fakenham Sun.

Next rehearsal will be Tuesday 26th March - please note: there is no rehearsal on Tuesday 19th March. We’re doing what an old school friend used to refer to as the “relly run”, down to Kent.

Nothing like a visit to London as an advertisement for Norfolk life: Dr Johnson may have been a wise old bird, but I guarantee that Norfolk chickens lay better eggs than those found in the Tesco’s on the Brixton Road.

We’re enjoying the drive-by stalls around Thursford and Walsingham currently. Wonderfully fresh veg at a fraction of the supermarket price. Homemade marmalade from Sylvia in Thursford with our own home-baked bread… Chicken Delight at Stockwell Tube just don’t compare, even if the opening hours are convenient.

A pox on this work thing that has blown me southerly for a few days… country road: take me home!

Freya seems to have been and gone!

Back to rehearsal tomorrow afternoon for our two choirs. 4:15pm-5:15pm ish for 11yrs to adult.

A very windy night here in North Norfolk as Storm Freya howled around the windows and wandered round house through the night. Sunshine and blue sky this morning, although chillier than last week. Miri our Jack Russell has been keeping up her church attendance. So far no barks, but she’s very fond of “Guide me o thou great redeemer” and has a tendency of singing along to that plus Lord of the Dance.

Freya is the only local who’s been doing any howling recently though, fortunately.

Thank you!

Many thanks to the 15 of you who turned up today - 5 in the juniors and 10 in the senior choir, including a few new members.

Good to have our rehearsal in the church today also - many thanks to W.F. for keeping things orderly. Hope T enjoyed the Jaffa Cakes!

2 days running our Jack Russell has had wanderlust - firstly in the woods at Wells and today in the fields of Hindringham. St Anthony came up trumps - thank you for praying Junior Choir. She’s looking very sorry for herself and being very quiet now, curled up on a sheepskin in the corner here at home. That dog! Grrr!

That owl's been sauntering around again

Well done the youngsters of the wcec group, many of whom are also part of the Walsingers choirs: a sterling effort last night at H.W.s excellent Variety Show, featuring some lovely performances. N.A. was most convincing as Cosette in Castle on a cloud. J.A. demonstrated an ungainlyly good comedy limp as Rumplestiltskin. Fortunately I managed to get into my car after the show - thank you D.W. - and A.A. for praying!

Owls are out a plenty at the moment, but the winter plumage seems unnecessary given the amazing sunshine we’re having today. 17 degrees currently here on 25th February in Hindringham. Hopefully the icebergs aren’t too warm a few hundred miles North… it feels strangely unseasonable here.

Walsingers rehearsal tomorrow, 3:15 and 4:15pm for junior and senior choirs respectively. See you there!