Wednesday, January 30, 2013

A very Pisky hoolie

Choir at work
Originally uploaded by goforchris.
Other people have posted about last Saturday's lovely service in the Cathedral of The Isles on Cumbrae - not least Dean Swift (I love writing that!) whose day it was - or, more accurately, whose half-day it was: the Provost of the Other Cathedral was also being installed as a Canon, and all stops were duly pulled out for the occasion. So let's start with the image that cliché evokes: the organist for the day was Jonathan Cohen, remembered fondly by a certain age-range as the pianist in Playaway. He came from London specially to play for the Cathedral Choir, all of whom had also made a special effort to be there - from Edinburgh and Glasgow as well as  from Dunoon. We took with us another Dunoon alto who had never been in the cathedral before - she was well bowled over. As usual, we had to rehearse first - a scratch choir is an interesting beast, especially when there are no more than 3 voices to a part. The excitement of what is going on is amplified, if you like, by the frisson of wondering if we all know the notes well enough to come in as and when required, and if that person who claims not to have received the music in advance will lose his/her nerve at the crucial moment. So that, chums, is where my main photo comes from - that intense rehearsal when we not only deal with the music, but whether the new singer will find a red robe to fit without tripping her up - and would it be advisable to process in single file because of all the extra bodies in the nave?

Readers of this blog will know that my association with the cathedral goes back over 40 years, and that I have always sung there, and always in small groups. But there were people there to whom it was all new, and I found myself almost envying them the thrill of the experience, the whiff of incense, the sight of the candles and the gleaming brass, the pattern on the organ pipes from the sun through the windows. On the other hand, I had the thrill of singing Mr B's new anthem - a short setting of the Celtic Blessing "May the road rise to meet you" that had the hairs rising on the back of several necks.

I mentioned, jokingly, the Other Cathedral - the Cathedral of St John the Divine in Oban. Time was when I regarded Oban as a distant place where all the big diocesan happenings took place, but in recent years we have seen a distinct growth in the recognition of the special nature of the Cathedral of The Isles - not least because of the obvious delight felt by successive bishops in being there. A diocese operates most successfully when everyone in it feels tied in some way to everyone else, whether through personal ties made at Synod and meetings, or through the common links to the Bishop and his clergy. (I say "his" not out of sloppy traditionalism but simply because we have not yet appointed a woman to the post). And it will flourish the more when everyone feels welcome at both of the  cathedrals and in every church in Argyll and The Isles.

Our visiting alto's enthusiasm for what she had been a part of bubbled out all the way home through the rain and the rising gales. And what had made the biggest impression? Not +Idris' sermon, not +Kevin, not even the music she had so enjoyed singing - wonderful though each of these had been in their own distinctive ways. No. "Everyone was so friendly - and seemed so happy," she said.

And this is a mission tool that every charge can operate. Smile, children, smile ...

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