I used to think the Guitar was a silly instrument. Then I heard this chap and realised it is a very sensible and beautiful instrument played by a lot of silly people. My sister pointed out when I sent her this clip that it is a jolly good thing he is married otherwise he wouldn’t be half so good. It sounds much better if you use headphones and you need to to watch the video while you listen because it’s even more impressive to see him play than just to hear it. I first heard this when I happened to be reading St Bede’s Ecclesiastical History of the English People and then listened to it rather a lot. Consequently, there is a bizarre association in my mind between Benga Beat and heroic seventh century English Christianity. Well, Mr Ryan is from Kent. (He wrote the piece as well).


In general, false and counterfeit purposes fall into three kinds. 1) to pray to be glorified in men’s eyes; 2) to pray to be vindicated in God’s eyes; 3) to pray to be justified in one’s own eyes.

Matta el-Maskine, Orthodox Prayer Life: the interior way (a present from a book fairy)

Best of British with the ole Lent thing, everyone.


Completely unconnected:

Huddled over the tinny little speakers of my laptop, I was not expecting to get the full effectof the excellent Westminster cathedral choir on Saturday morning. But I was utterly blown away by whatever it was that was sung at the very beginning of Saturday’s pontifical Mass, a vast, mad, sweeping setting of Tu Es Petrus that must have used and benefitted from the enormous space of the Cathedral and still led perfectly into a boring old plainchant introit.  Only after it was over did I electronically scuttle off in search of the Cathedral’s music list, and find it was by the friendly organist of St Columba’s Glasgow.

For me, in any case, this piece perfectly performed a very difficult task.

There is a fantastic range of textures. The choir and the band are used antiphonally,  preserving a clarity of sound that is lost when the two are mixed. Instrumental passages move from unison brass to vast gothick madness of brass and full organ (is that 32′ bombarde goodness I heard?) with bells and tam-tam: three such passages tie the piece together between three very different choral passges. “Tu es Petrus” reflects the opening fanfare in its glorious declamatory breadth, turning perfectly smoothly, on its second appearance,  into a Palestrina-esque moment at “aedificabo” which does indeed build. “et portes inferni … ” is a jagged unison line over (if my crappy computer speakers do not deceive me) a bass drum rumble”. “et tibi dabo” is a homophonic setting of a beautiful melodic treble line with the tiniest faintest Gaelic lilt – anyone who knows the St Anne Mass will recognise the little risign scotch snap figure – coming to rest, after all that, on a perfectly respectable cadence. The genius (or part of the genius)  of this last part is that the chant introit follows on entirely naturally and suitably. Having woken you up and chased any distractions from your mind, the motet brings you to the beginning of Mass.

I’ve listened to this about twenty times now, and it is only growing on me. Here is a link for your aural thrills. And for those who want to try this at home (and if you can seriously contemplate it, all I can say is – jammy gits), the rental parts are here.

I suppose an advantage Mahler had was that films had not yet been invented; his contemporary audiences  did not find themselves thinking of soundtrack uses as a way of describing parts of his symphonies.  The wonderful ginormousness  of the beginning of this motet would make it a fantastic sound track for some fantasy/sci-fi film.  It would probably make the film, in fact.

Only after it was over did I electronically scuttle off in search of the Cathedral’s music list

[Toft] went on describing things to himself … The Creature became bigger and bigger. It became so big that it almost didn’t need any family …


In the boxroom Toft told himself : the Creature curled up by the big pool behind Moominpappa’s tobacco bed and waited there. It was waiting until it would become so big and strong that it could never be disappointed, and until it cared about nothing but itself.

I just played chamber music for the first time in eleven years. Indeed, not counting bashing at electric boxes to accompany hymns, it’s the first time I’ve played in company at all for eleven years, and I am on a vertiginous, glorious, ecstatic high of pure joy.

I need to buy some lip stamina from Leutgeb, though, if she’s not using all of hers at the moment. Flflflflppplplfffll.


Life is good. Litanies. Motorbikes. Warm weather. The parish choir sang Vidi Aquam on Sunday, and Monsieur Le Organiste has just told me that he heard them practising the Missa de Angelis this evening. As he said, competition is healthy 🙂 (cf. here for an explanation – chant hasn’t featured in prominently in their repertoire in the past.) He’s also lent me a rocking recording of Alain’s organ works, so I am at once dancing around the sitting room (maybe I should get curtains :/ ) and weeping inside at the thought of the hours and hours and hours and months of practice it would take to be able to play even just as badly as I used to.

Aelianus – I’ve not forgotten. But I’m still struggling with this stupid Polglish account of the rationality of the operations by which we build classical metaphysics (snore).

George Thalben-Ball, Variations on a theme by Paganini, for Pedals

(bit of a cheat at the end there, hmmppphh.)



After Virtue (2nd ed, 1985), p52; David Copperfield (many eds), passim

What’s *not* supposed to happen when you mention to a friend that you have come to the sad conclusion that you resemble Dora Spenlow in all her negative aspects, is the friend saying “Yes, it had occurred to me before”.   😦

Edited: Cut that. Correction.


The Seraphic Scribe’s latest serial novel. Comic genius, imho.

“Jeepers,” said Sister Henrietta a third time. “Are you here?”

“Goodness gracious, no,” I said. “I don’t count. But there are plans afoot to paint my brother James once he and his wife finish their M.Divs. We wanted Freud, but when Freud saw Jamie, he said he’d already painted that face and was bored of it. He did Papa, as you see.”

“I thought he was dead.”

“Papa? Flourishing, I assure you. He was the grey-haired version of Grandpapa at breakfast.”

“Not Edward, Sigmund Freud.”

“I don’t follow you.”

“I must have misheard,” said the powder blue nun in a kindly voice, as if to a frightened child. “This portrait makes Edward look like his face is melting.”

“Well, Freud, you know,” I began, but Sister Henrietta turned on me the resolute look of a squirrel about to attack an acorn.

“Now, M.C., I want to talk to you about your future.”

“Do you, goodness. I thought your lot had given that sort of thing up, ha ha ha.”

“I don’t get you,” said the nun.

“Oh, er, eschatological joke. Sorry.”

“I’m not one for bathroom jokes,” said Sister Henrietta severely. “Especially not when one is considering one’s vocation.”

“Oh, er,” I said. “Vocation. Well, you see. I’ve got one.”

“Oh my child,” shouted Sister Henrietta, throwing up her hands. “I know it. I could sense it in you. As soon as you walked into the breakfast room, I said to myself, There’s our next novice.”

“No, no, no,” I said, alarmed. “No, dash it. I say, No. I mean, I have a vocation to the married life. Got a piece of paper to prove it. Also a wedding ring, as you see. And a husband, somewhere or other. London, probably. Or in the Shires, shooting things.”

All of it is here. (unfortunately the episodes are in reverse order, the first at the bottom).

Ready-to-read books are here (part one features your favourite ex-bloggers Aelianus and Boeciana): suitable for all audiences (ask Cath) but even funnier if you’re a Catholic.

This season’s new book is here. No news yet as to UK distributor 😦

[updated to add:] here’s what Novalis had to say about their trip to the Frankfurt  Book Fair:

And our 2010 prospects, notably Dorothy Cummings’ Seraphic Singles: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Single Life (which you’ll be hearing more about in the coming months, so stay tuned) was the talk of numerous publishers we met with.

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