Tuesday, August 26, 2008

My love for God and neighbour

Christopher Idle is an Anglican minister, hymn writer, and hymn book editor. He has some interesting things to say about trends in contemporary hymns in his blog for the British hymnbook Praise!
The other day I looked it up again: ‘True hymnwriters have not sought primarily to write hymns, but to know God’. No doubt Margaret Clarkson had in mind the Westminster Catechisms as well as Jeremiah 9 and John 17. Who is she? I must tell you next time. But that opening quote is this month’s text. Someone else said, ‘It’s much easier to write hymns than to love God.’ The next step: it’s easier to sing ‘I love you, Lord’, than to do it.

Recently I tried to survey what we actually sing about loving God. It is after all the most important command of all. Please excuse me if you have already come across my findings. Without reprinting it all here, it seems that from Isaac Watts and Charles Wesley up to about 1970, we expressed that love in terms of wistful longing, conscious failure, lukewarmness, half-heartedness, and the desire to love him more. (As you may have noticed if you subscribe to Evangelicals Now, monthly, or the quarterly Bulletin of the Hymn Society. Anyway, up to then it was ‘my love for him, so faint and poor’.)

Soon after 1970, everything changed. We were now all telling God how very much we did love him, to the accompaniment of suitable or unsuitable but certainly repeated music. We did not always say why, but we did, apparently. There are exceptions to this broad summary, but the main trend and the seventies turnaround are unmistakable.
I draw no conclusions here. But a friend challenged me to do something similar with the command that Jesus insisted on adding: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’ For two reasons, I haven’t yet succeeded.
One, it would be a needle-and-haystack job.
Two, that to pose the question is to know the answer. Even if we can trace the ‘Love of neighbour’ hymns through the indexes which your church’s hymn-book (music edition) will have, who among us could stand and sing with tremendous gusto or even Holy Spirit anointing, this new worship-song:
O how I love you, my dear, dear neighbour;
I just feel in my heart
the overflowing, ever-growing, never-going love that’s just for you!
You are so beautiful, you are quite wonderful, you’re simply adorable;
this love so free has just taken over me!

Have you come across that? Probably not because, to be fair, I have only just written it. It hasn’t even got any music yet, so come on, lads, give it a go. Which leads me to ask, If I can be so sure that I love God so much, why am I far too coy, reticent, humble or realistic to say I love my neighbour? Or my brother, sister or enemy? As we all know, anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen.’

Ah well. As some Anglicans get as far as muttering through gritted teeth most Sunday mornings: ‘The peace of the Lord be with you’.
Chris Idle

Friday, August 22, 2008

Well, not exactly the Dance of the Blessed Spirits

I forgot to say that the piece Ms Kolesova played was not exactly The Dance of the Blessed Spirits, but Sgambati's arrangement of a Melody from Orfeo, by Gluck.

Concert and after-concert

Last night we went to the Bathurst Memorial Entertainment Centre to hear Tatiana Kolesova perform a magnificent program of Chopin, Liszt, Tchaikovsky, Schubert, Haydn and Stravinsky.

Tatiana is 23 years of age and is the second-place winner in the 2008 Sydney International Piano Competition.

We especially loved the Pletnev version of Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker, the stupendous virtuosic movements from Petrouchka and the Haydn Sonata in G minor.

But the three encores were also wonderful. Tatiana played a piece that sounded like it was Gershwin, but was actually a Kapustin Intermezzo. (I hope ABC Classic FM keeps the track onsite, so you can hear it!)

She then played Chopin's Revolutionary Etude in C Minor spectacularly, and ended with a piece we were all pondering. My wife, as usual, came up with the goods. Joan said it was Gluck's Dance of the Blessed Spirits, but this didn't ring true to me, because I was thinking of the opening, and had forgotten the middle of the work.

So when we got home, I Youtubed the Gluck and made a wonderful discovery, which wasn't only that Joan was right again ... You know what they say
Two rules to help you save time
1. Your wife is correct
2. If in doubt, refer to rule 1.

In Youtubing the piece, we found two terrific performers: Dominique and Valerie Kim, aged 12 and 10. We spent the next hour sampling .the 68 videos they have put up at Youtube. After that we looked at some other child prodigies, but found none to match these two musicians.

If you go hunting, you will find a five year old performing a Mozart piano concerto movement with a small ensemble, someone who is about 10 or 12 playing Ravel's Jeux d'Eau and other stuff. But Dominique and Valerie can not only play the notes, but make music out of them, too.

They are not flawless, but they are wonderfully musical.

Neta Maughan's 70th

We attended a wonderful evening in Hunter's Hill [Sydney] on 9th August, 2008, which was a surprise party to celebrate Neta Maughan's 70th birthday. Neta has taught some amazing students over the past 40 years or so, even including us. [Not that we are amazing in any way.]

The concert featured sensational performances by Neta's daughter Tamara-Anna Cislowska, Simon Tedeschi, Reomi Mito, Kathryn Lambert and others and also featured a whimsical parody of Tea for Two by Stephen Healey, a friend of ours from our days at Newcastle Conservatorium, but whom we had not seen since. Thirty-four years ago.

What was special about Stephen's song was that it was all about Miss Maughan's weekly visits to Newcastle which most people at the celebration would not have known anything about. And when Stephen talked about students he remembered from back then, Joan got a mention.

It was fun talking with him during the mealbreak, and hearing him introduce Joan as "Joan Sims." She hadn't heard anyone do that in over 34 years! But I'm glad she shares my name and didn't stick with the old one.