Saturday, 23 November 2013


In a week of notable anniversaries, yesterday marked the centenary of the birth of Benjamin Britten. This was written while the composer was still at school - a setting of the anonymous medieval lyric, A Hymn to the Virgin - sung here by the Choir of Westminster Cathedral, directed by David Hill

A Hymn to the Virgin

Of on that is so fayr and bright  
        Velut maris stella,  
Brighter than the day is light,  
        Parens et puella:  
Ic crie to the, thou see to me,          
Levedy, preye thi Sone for me,  
        Tam pia,  
That ic mote come to thee  

Al this world was for-lore   
        Eva peccatrice,  
Tyl our Lord was y-bore  
        De te genetrice.  
With ave it went away  
Thuster nyth and comz the day   
The welle springeth ut of the,  

Levedy, flour of alle thing,  
        Rose sine spina,   
Thu bere Jhesu, hevene king,  
        Gratia divina:  
Of alle thu ber'st the pris,  
Levedy, quene of paradys  
Mayde milde, moder es  

Friday, 22 November 2013

Save Llandaff Choir

The link below is to a petition which describes its aim as follows:
"Llandaff Cathedral plans to shut down its professional choir due to a budget deficit. The choir, which has appeared twice on the BBC’s Songs of Praise this year, would lose all its professional singers under the proposals. The last professional cathedral choir in Wales is under threat.
We want to help the Cathedral come up with an alternative plan that will help the Cathedral deal with its financial problems and secure the long term future of the choir...."
Save Llandaff Choir

It should be supported by all those - in Wales and beyond - who value the Anglican tradition and its musical patrimony.....

St Cecilia's Day anniversaries ...

Today marks the fiftieth anniversary of the assassination of U.S. President John F. Kennedy, a brutally senseless and tragic event, however flawed in many ways its victim may have been, which has scarred the psyche of the U.S.A. and perhaps the western world itself to this day - we are still searching in vain for the lost 'Camelot.'

On the same day, largely unnoticed by a world shocked by the news from Dallas, C.S. Lewis died at his home outside Oxford. Here at The Telegraph is a rather patronising report / comment piece about today's commemoration in Poets' Corner... He deserves better than the article's reference to him as a 'children's author and moralist', one might think ..

On the same day the novelist Aldous Huxley died in Los Angeles. An article here by Brendan O'Neill on the contemporary relevance of Brave New World.

The music on this St Cecilia's day is by Herbert Howells: a setting of Prudentius in the translation by Helen Waddell - Take Him, Earth, For Cherishing, composed in 1963 for the memorial service for JFK in Washington D.C. 

“It is hard to have patience with people who say, ‘There is no death’ or ‘Death doesn’t matter.’ There is death. And whatever is matters. And whatever happens has consequences, and it and they are irrevocable and irreversible. You might as well say that birth doesn’t matter......”
"......And the past is the past and that is what time means, and time itself is one more name for death, and Heaven itself is a state where 'the former things have passed away.'
Talk to me about the truth of religion and I'll listen gladly. Talk to me about the duty of religion and I'll listen submissively. But don't come talking to me about the consolations of religion or I shall suspect that you don't understand.
Unless, of course, you can literally believe all that stuff about family reunions 'on the further shore', pictured in entirely earthly terms. But that is all unscriptural, all out of bad hymns and lithographs. There's not a word of it in the Bible. And it rings false. We know it couldn't be like that. Reality never repeats..." 
C.S. Lewis: A Grief Observed

Thursday, 21 November 2013

More reaction to yesterday's vote

In the wake of yesterday's vote in the Church of England's General Synod, the improved, new-look Society website is here

A satirical take (although perhaps too close to the truth to be be truly satirical - are we now beyond satire in Anglicanism?) from Eccles and Bosco here

Some interesting further comment on Ancient Briton's post from yesterday here

Stella Maris here has it about right when he says unity has now been sacrificed. This should be noted by those in mitred fantasy land who think - or at least are prepared to state in public or in private  - that 'catholic' ecumenism is still on track ...

Thinking Anglicans now has the text of Prime Minister's Questions, and Dave's response to Sir Tony Baldry (he of Garrick Club tie fame...) 

Not directly related to all this but of interest nonetheless are Francis' Phillips' thoughts on the Radio Four broadcast of the Screwtape Letters this week to mark the fiftieth anniversary of the death of C.S. Lewis [at The Catholic Herald here]

Now far too passé for the insular Anglican 'modernisers' - a reflection by Fr Dwight Longenecker on nostalgia and desire in C.S. Lewis and T.S. Eliot: Looking for Another Country   at The Imaginative Conservative

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Yes to Women Bishops in the Church of England

A report from the secular media here, including a gratuitous and characteristically  vacuous comment from the Prime Minister, who is also, I understand, the leader of the Conservative Party.

This is the initial response from the Catholic Group in General Synod [here]:
"The Catholic Group welcomes the new atmosphere of trust and reconciliation, together with the clear recognition that our theological convictions will continue to be within the spectrum of Anglican teaching, and the commitment to provide appropriate bishops and priests for our parishes.We urge all involved to take steps to build up further the atmosphere of trust, which is why many of us have voted for the new legislative  process to continue."
Details and a few comments from TitusOneNine 

Ancient Briton comments here

Thinking Anglicans has a regularly updated page here

In Wales, too, I'm sure we are all eagerly looking forward to the "new atmosphere of trust and reconciliation."  It will, of course, be different this time...

We have been given a few little hints as to what the future will hold, so no further comment from me ...

Just one of those little hints about the future

"....Stop being weird and vote yes," says Canon Rosie Harper [here]


Tuesday, 12 November 2013

John Tavener R.I.P.

The death has been announced today of the composer Sir John Tavener.

'As One Who Has Slept,'  sung by Polyphony under the direction of Stephen Layton

As one who has slept,
The Lord has risen,
And rising He has saved us.

Gergiev & the double standards of the politically correct

Here at The Telegraph in a glaring example of  the double standards of the politically correct, the journalist Graeme Archer attacks the principal conductor of the London Symphony Orchestra, Valery Gergiev,  for being a supporter of Russian President Vladimir Putin and, most particularly, for sharing his (in the west, at least)  now somewhat counter-cultural views on the subject of homosexuality. 
Concert-goers have already heard - in a trademark invasion of the platform - from the ubiquitous  Peter Tatchell on the same subject.

But what are we being told here by the new arbiters of moral orthodoxy - that a lesser conductor would be preferable just so long as his political and social views were up to speed? What about musicians who are supporters, explicitly or implicitly,  of the Peoples' Republic of China - certainly no less illiberal by contemporary western standards than Mr Putin: should they be exposed to the same degree of criticism and pressure?

We are always being told - rightly, but ad nauseam - by the left about the enormous damage done to culture and the arts by McCarthyism in the 1950s in the U.S.A. and its equivalents elsewhere. The treatment meted out to the openly pro-Soviet Communist British composer Alan Bush in the same period is a case in point. Are they saying that that kind of bullying and exclusion is now acceptable when applied to  those on the political right or to the socially conservative? 
Perhaps it's high time just to concentrate on artistic excellence rather than trying to impose upon the arts the ever shifting standards of a post-Christian social elite.

Here are Gergiev and the L.S.O. in an astonishing live performance of Mahler's Ninth Symphony - after hearing this, I  really couldn't care less about the conductor's politics:

Monday, 11 November 2013

Losing a sense of what is appropriate - completely

At the risk of straying onto Ancient Briton's territory, the Diocese of Llandaff has had the following announcement on its website. It's interesting to note that the person who appears to be promoting the workshop (it's always a 'workshop') was one of the architects of the Governing Body's double-cross of the Church in Wales' loyal traditionalists  in September. 
If this kind of neo-pagan syncretism event * is an appropriate way for a Christian community to observe  'Remembrancetide,' (or any other 'tide' come to that) the future of the province is clearly in safe hands .....  

Circle Dancing for Remembrancetide


Saturday 9th November 2013
10.00am – 12.00pm
St Michael & All Angels, Gelligaer St,
Cardiff CF14 3JL
Another workshop to engage in the spirituality, the practice 
and the fun of circle dancing.
 Circle Dancing is one of the most ancient forms of shared dance. In a religious setting, it combines both corporate worship and individual prayer, in a way which is inclusive and participative, and easily accessible. In other settings, it has long been used for a variety of community purposes – for traditional family celebrations, or to affirm cultural or political belonging.
As Christians, we can use the rhythms of repeated simple steps to take us deeper into our sense of making a journey with Christ. The movement of a dance can remain with us, as a memory in our prayers, long after our session with other people has ended.
Music will be drawn from many traditional sources – including Israel, Greece and chants from Taizé.
 All-comers will be welcome at the workshop – especially those with two or more left feet!

More info from: the Ven Peggy Jackson (01446 750 053)

The only other comment one can make - in the midst of utter incredulity - is that despite the invitation to 'those with two or more left feet,'  most of those once commonly, if disparagingly, referred to as ' left-footers' would probably not find this kind of  'easily accessible' (to whom?) 'spirituality, practice and fun' very congenial - one hopes .... 

* In case anyone is wondering, no, I have nothing against dance - quite the reverse. The only problem I do have is that I have never witnessed 'liturgical' dance without thinking that both the authenticity and solemnity of Christian liturgy and the excellence and beauty of the medium of dance itself have somehow been dangerously compromised in their being brought together - in a way which is not true of other art forms.

Saturday, 9 November 2013

Remembrance and Holy Souls

November is the month of holy souls; tomorrow, in Britain, is Remembrance Sunday when we both call to mind the sacrifice of those who gave their lives in war and pray for them.

This is the Angus Dei from the Duruflé Requiem - sung here by the Choir of St. John's College Cambridge conducted by George Guest with Stephen Cleobury on the organ - .a very recent memory, too, of a superb liturgy at St Martin's in Roath, Cardiff, on Wednesday evening ......

Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi, dona eis requiem sempiternam.

Friday, 8 November 2013

And a follow up comment

It would seem that the main retrospective justification (if not the reason itself)  for the previously unimaginable change of direction of Anglican theology and ecclesiology over the last few decades has been a laudable and essential desire to communicate more effectively with the modern world. In fact, this justification is regularly trotted out by those who seek change whenever the burning 'issues of the day' are debated among us.
I have only one observation: it's not working. The current, theologically and ethically liberal, face of Anglicanism is no better - in fact, perhaps far less assured - in talking the language understood by the people (and I don't mean by that merely echoing the values and attitudes of the new elites - the 'chattering professional classes' on the media and elsewhere) than the traditional, 'outmoded' (so-called) proclamation of the faith on the ground where it is most effective...

I've even heard it said by those who should know better that it is the very opposition of traditionalists - catholic or evangelical - which has caused - and certainly exacerbated - the evident  and growing gulf of understanding and sympathy which exists between ourselves and, for want of a better term, 'the world' - hence, no doubt,  the gadarene rush to rid our western provinces of the awkward squad who will insist on asking those inconvenient questions about Anglican and Christian identity when we should, in the Prime Minister's now notorious phrase, simply shut up and 'get with the programme.' 
So, just dump the 'bigots' and we'll be fine - at least one unnecessary obstacle to better communication with modern society and culture will be removed. I look forward to seeing the promised queues outside our churches on Sundays - as, indeed,  I have since this process began.
My female friends tell me that putting one's one's foot down on the accelerator is a very male response to taking a wrong turning - perhaps our leaders should be told .....

But again, to return to the previous post: what price ecumenism when what will be proclaimed when the current agenda of wild experimentation has been completed will, if present trends continue, turn out to have a somewhat tenuous relationship with the Gospel as it has been believed? And what price communication without the means of conversion and transformation?

Thursday, 7 November 2013

Business as usual ...... Really?

It would seem that some Anglican bishops and others who are determined to (shall we say, to be charitable for a moment) 'modify' the Church's apostolic tradition as regards the sacred ministry are letting it be known that despite objections to these developments within the Anglican Communion from the Orthodox and Roman Catholic hierarchies, no one should be unduly concerned because the business of ecumenism continues much as before. It's hard to know who they are trying to fool more, themselves or those of their own flock who they seem to regard both to have no place in Anglicanism as it is becoming and, indeed, rather stupid to boot.

However, despite such dangerous myopia in high places it is very clear that both the great apostolic churches of East and West regard what we are now doing as placing intolerable strain upon such dialogue as is still taking place and, in addition, has had the result of downgrading the ecumenical process with the Anglican Communion to one which will be unlikely to result in full communion. There's the rub.
It would be hard, to take just one example,  for Metropolitan Hilarion Alfeyev to be more explicit in representing the views of the Russian Orthodox Church on these and related matters. But he clearly has not been explicit enough. 

It has always seemed curious to many of us that, while strutting on the world ecumenical stage, our own leaders seem concerned to eradicate from their own provinces those very traditions which are shared with our 'catholic' ecumenical partners, who should perhaps themselves take note of the modern Anglican propensity to be utterly impervious to criticism and stone deaf to any voices which dare to differ from those of western, 'liberal ' secularism......