Music Retreats

PRAYING WITH MUSIC: 2019 dates!

All music retreats are designed to enable participants, performer and listener alike, to explore the spiritual and emotional hearts of great choral works.  They are not singing or performing weekends – rather, they involve a series of talks on the works, as well as listening to the individual movements in order, and time of space for reflection on each talk – they are essentially prayer pilgrimages involving great music.   The aim is joy, relaxation, and learning.

2019:

Douai Abbey: Triduum Retreat (18th -21st April)

St. Katherine’s church, Savernake: Quiet Day for the Pewsey Benefice, 11th May.

Ammerdown Centre: “The Laughter of Mercy”: 5 day retreat on Mozart’s Marriage of Figaro (26th-31st May).

Douai Abbey: “The Laughter of Mercy” on Mozart’s Marriage of Figaro (26th – 28th June)

Launde Abbey: Advent Retreat on Handel’s Messiah Part 1 (6th-8th December)

Services Summary

Euan has developed strong partnerships with a variety of fellow professionals, delivering highest quality training, librettos and retreats to colleagues on time, while being able to deliver a responsive service to different client needs.

Euan believes that his service delivery should put client requirements at the centre of his planning, whenever developments are required.

Latest News

Euan Tait news you will find of interest. See below the very latest.

Euan Tait Training

Trainer

Between 1995-9, having worked in horticultural and craft projects with learning disabled clients, I developed a small work project for L’Arche Bognor Regis as their Workshop Leader, including meeting the specific needs of retired clients and opening a small shop in a high street location, selling cards by our talented designers, candles and rugs woven by clients.

In 2001, excited by the possibilities of employment for clients with learning disabilities, I became an Employment Co-ordinator/Job Coach for Connect in Swindon, working with mainly young adult clients to develop effective training programmes for them, seeking new work training opportunities with local employers and helping clients to develop their skills to such a standard that lasting employment would result. Then, in 2009, I was offered the post of Skills Factory Coordinator in Enterprise Works, Swindon, a social firm in the same building as Connect. This involved working with local schools and colleges and designing, and delivering work training projects to young clients with Asperger’s, autism and learning disabilities.

In 2010 -11, I helped deliver employment skills training to groups from Jobcentreplus as part of Energy2’s new employment training initiative in Swindon. I also took part in launching the Safe Place scheme in Swindon (2011). This is a scheme designed to enable people with learning disabilities to access the community safely by having safe shops and business in the community as safe places in the event of emergency. It meant going out to across the town to introduce the scheme and enable businesses, some of whom were very sceptical at first, to implement it. See our radio interview, and the Safe Place scheme across Swindon, for the successful results!!

I have continued to deliver training as Ammerdown’s Interfaith and Training Officer (2011-13), working with staff, customers, and outside agencies as part of Ammerdown’s community work.  I have developed and delivered new courses at Ammerdown which have received very positive responses.

Testimonials

“The song writing was awesome…it was fun writing the lyrics…I enjoyed the song writing…I didn’t know about Emmett Till before.”  Sidcot School Philosophy and ethics students on my Song Lyric writing course, April 2013.

“Your stimulus material was of a high standard, matching the importance of the content. ”  Charlotte E.S. House, Teacher, Sidcot School, Somerset, April 2013.

Song Lyric Writing courses, 2012:   “I have heard nothing but very positive comments from staff and students about the retreat day at Ammerdown and about your song workshops. It hit all our buttons, as they say – the spiritual content was strong and appropriate for the age group, there was a significant dimension of cultural history and the kind of work we do on tolerance, and the music dimension was of course perfect for our specialist interest in performing arts. I hope the students brought a good attitude to all the workshops, but from my point of view it worked very well. Thanks for all your hard work. I would also add that I thought your manner with the students was excellent. Very kind and encouraging, with good pace and use of resources – I think you have a natural flair for teaching! Best wishes Raymond”
Raymond Friel MA(Hons) NPQH | Executive Headteacher , St Gregory’s Catholic College

“She went on to add that if it weren’t for the training & mentoring she received at Energy2, she would never have gone ahead with this course and was most grateful for Euan’s support in helping her regain her lost confidence. Well done Euan!”
Jennifer Dsouza Administrator, Energy2

“A big thank you to all of you at Ammerdown for making my trial volunteering weekend such an enjoyable experience. Euan is a brilliant trainer, a real professional.”
Jenny Daniels, trainee volunteer, Ammerdown.

“Good afternoon Euan, I would like to thank you for your support in designing and delivering the Ready Steady Job courses that we have been running over the past few months. The wide age range and mixed ability levels, including learning disabilities, have made the training groups a very positive challenge. I would like to compliment you on the ease with which you have been able to relate to each client and build rapport within the groups. You have demonstrated a genuine understanding of their needs, which have been strongly orientated towards practical and visual learning, and have applied appropriate learning techniques and materials, for example role play, imagery and group interviews. Consequently, the feedback so far from our clients has been excellent. Well done, Euan.
Best regards Elaine” Elaine Graham, Training Officer at Energy2work

“Hi Euan, I was at a meeting with Sally Grubb last night when she mentioned your work with her students. She said she had had feedback from one of her team about your direct and positive interaction with [student], particularly on one morning when no one had managed to engage with him apart from you. She also commented on your skill to see the positive in people and again [student’s] name was mentioned. I wanted to share this with you and your managers – well done you! Best regards Ann”
Ann King, Supported Employment Project Manager at Energy2, Swindon Borough Council

For Paul Spicer, and the Birmingham Bach Choir

For Paul Spicer, and the Birmingham Bach Choir, in thanksgiving for our own commemoration in 2014.

*ZONE ROUGE*
(for the centenary of the Armistice, 2018)

Places I won’t visit again, or you.
Places of the rainfall, still,
of men reacting to stumbling,
falling horses, of the slow choke
of all I couldn’t say to friends
lying far behind us, miles away.
Moving on, resting in the stub
of a church, my bleeding back
against the bellow of a fallen bell.
Not a word, nor the village
nor the church rebuilt, nor
the doctor’s car retrieved
from the wide-mouth main street,
but, rather, a forest among the poison
of the immoveable shells,
and birds stripped of names.

Latest News – Music Retreats

Good Friday 2016PRAYING WITH MUSIC: LATEST MUSIC RETREAT DATES

These retreats are explorations of the inner life of music, its spiritual and emotional forces, by a praying poet. While they are neither singing weekends nor do they involve in depth technical analysis, they welcome performers and non-performers alike into an experience of the works that aims to greatly enrich their imaginative response to the music and words – music as a constantly unfolding creative gift in each life. Recent participant comments – see Feedback tab.

2019: details to follow!

2018:

Ammerdown, 30th November – 2nd December 2018. *NOTE: REVISED DATE*
Unto us a child is born
Praying with Handel’s Messiah for Advent.

Euan returns to Ammerdown in 2018 to explore the joyful transformation of heart and spirit that the Messiah’s Part 1 Christmas music represents – as part of our Advent time of praying and preparation for Christmas. While the opening Symphony is both solemn prayer and a release of joyful energy that foreshadows the Christmas music, the opening numbers shows God reaching out to us afresh when we still long for redemption – touching those aspects of ourselves that are still struggling. The Christmas music sings of our new spiritual freedom, God calling to us always to rediscover His love and salvation as a new gift, almost as if received for the first time this year.

All retreats start on Friday evening and end with Sunday lunch.

Douai Abbey: Easter Retreat (29th March -1st April) Handel Messiah – mainly concentrating on Parts 2 and 3.
Easter Retreat 2018: Waiting and welcome
.
To walk with Jesus through love, sharing his way to the Cross; to wait for Jesus on the Easter Saturday, listening to the Holy Spirit stir in our hearts; to welcome the resurrected Christ on Easter Sunday with a “living, rushing water” joy. The new gift of each year’s Triduum is the freshness of its grace, in how we open our beings anew to the life of Christ. This year Douai offers a new way to experience this holy time: a pilgrimage through great music, Handel’s Messiah, prefaced by reflective talks to help us live this pilgrimage fully. The time will as ever be infused by the liturgies of the community in the great Abbey Church.  Participant feedback included: “Excellent speaker, with deep insights into the spiritual message of Easter…what a delight to have Euan run it…very interesting, highly knowledgeable…Euan guided us through the Easter story passionately (but gently), using Handel’s ‘Messiah’ as a conduit, and embroidered his own beautiful poetry…He led us beautifully into contact with God and ourselves…”Read more →

Choral Texts

Choral TextsCOMMISSIONS & PUBLICATIONS UPDATE

“This extraordinary work…made a huge impact on the large audience…who described it as ‘deeply moving’, ‘powerful’ and ‘inspiring.’” (Review of choral symphony ‘Unfinished Remembering’, gerontius.net Newsletter, November 2014)

Euan’s visibility as a librettist is increasing rapidly among choirs and conductors in the US, UK and Europe. “Anyone paying attention to the choral world right now knows that we have a new poet on the rise in Euan Tait.” Kurt Knecht, May 2016.

“An eloquent libretto by Euan Tait…” (Commonwealth Chorale, on ‘The Wound in the Water’, 2018).

Euan’s aim is to write texts that are a powerful catalyst for music, with strong choral architecture.  

Please use the contact form for commissions.

2019 premieres & performances:

Carson Cooman: major new work for autumn 2019.

Anselm McDonnell: “Tearing as it is Woven” performed by the Dublin Chamber Choir as part of the CMC choral sketches series.

Philip Gowland: new work on the anniversary of the Kindertransport, Gloucester Festival, St. Mary de Crypt, Gloucester, 15th June.

Philip Lancaster: premiere of “Canticle I: Miriam” in St. Paul’s Bristol, 9th of June, followed by a performance as part of the Gloucester Festival at St,. Mary de Crypt, 14th June.

Mine and Janet Oates‘ cantata Birdcries will be performed together with McGonigal and my Rhythm Herd at St. George the Martyr, Borough, London on 4th May; mine and Arnesen’s The Wound in the Water receives new performances in Spain, Belgium, and across the US in 2019.  Forthcoming work includes an opera with Dominic McGonigal, Burnt Image, work with Michael Cryne, and new works with Kim Andre Arnesen.

2018:

Carson Cooman: “Christmas of the Witnesses”   (The 109th Annual Christmas Carol Services, 9th and 11th December 2018, The Memorial Church, Harvard University Cambridge, MA, USA https://memorialchurch.harvard.edu/event/109th-annual-christmas-carol-service The 12/9 service is usually live broadcast on the local radio station  (WHRB.org).

Michael Bussewitz-Quarm: “Sing we oh song” for Pittsburgh.

Janet Oates: “Birdcries of S. Cecilia” (40 minute cantata for six soloists – fp. at the Philomel St. Cecilia’s Day Concert, Swiss Church, London, 24th November)

Dominic McGonigal: String Quartet no. 2 “Mathilde” (text for quartet with soprano, fp. Pro Musica Quartet with Chärlötte Brökër, Lumen, Tavistock Place, September 26th ).  ALSO “Rhythm Herd” for six soloists – fp. at the Philomel St. Cecilia’s Day Concert, Swiss Church, London, 24th November)

Janet Wheeler: “The Cries of Music” for choir (text for competition set piece – sung separately under six different conductors – for the inaugural London International Choral Conducing Competition, Duke’s Hall, Royal Academy of Music, 21st October)

Kim Andre Arnesen: “A Justice Call” (Sanctuary Chorus, Bellvue Presbyterian Church, WA, June 10th)

Chris Hutchings: “We Are One Voice” (Beaconsfield Festival of Choirs, 10th March)

2018 saw the release of three of Euan’s texts on the new and now bestselling Naxos CD of Kim Andre Arnesen’s work! (Catalogue No: 8.573788). The texts are ‘Flight Song’, ‘Child of Song’ and ‘Then gift I’ll leave you’.  The BBC Singers performed mine and McGonigal’s “Night Song” at Maida Vale Studios on 18th September.

2017:
Kim Andre Arensen:  ‘Song of the Soul’  (fp. Soustons, France by Quatuor Vocal Méliades and Ensemble Hope. (February 12th)

Kim Andre Arnesen: ‘Flight Song’ (TTBB version, fp by 450 men at VAN/Man Male choral summit at Chan Centre for Performing Arts in April).

Kim Andre Arnesen: ‘My Flame the Song’ (fp Edwards Masterworks Singers, Austin, Texas, and premiered in Oslo Cathedral, May 18th).

Kim Andre Arnesen: ‘Falling into mercy’ (fp. Oregon Bach Festival, by Strangeland Family Youth Choral Academy, cond Dr. Anton Armstrong, July 11th)

Kim Andre Arnesen: ‘Searching Love’ (Texas Choral Directors Association, fp. by Directors Chorus, cond. Dr. Lori Hetzel, July 22).

Dominic McGonigal: ‘Night Song’ (Founding concert of the new professional ensemble, Philomel, Brunel Museum Rotherhithe, London, 2/11/17, and March 2018)

2016:

Kim Andre Arnesen: ‘The Wound in the Water’ a 70 minute cantata for solo soprano, chorus, piano and strings, first performance as the opening concert of Trondheim’s Olavsfestdagene at Nidaros Cathedral, broadcast on national radio. The soloist was Elin Manahan Thomas, with the Grammy-award winning Conspirare choir, cond. Craig Hella Johnson.

Kim Andre Arnesen: ‘His Light in Us’ (fp. St. Olaf Choir and Dr. Anton Armstrong for the 2016 St. Olaf Christmas Festival).

2015:

Kim André Arnesen: The Christmas Alleluias, first performed by The Valley Chamber Chorale, Stillwater, Minnesota, conductor Carol Carver in December.

Paul Spicer: ‘All Saints’ Carol’ (fp. All Saints’ Northampton, UK, 20/12/15)

Timothy Tharaldson: ‘Spokes’ Youth Chorale of Central Minnesota in 2016.  In reaction to this work, Kurt Knecht of MusicSpoke wrote (May 25th 2016): “Anyone paying attention to the choral world right now knows that we have a new poet on the rise in Euan Tait. He’s been collaborating with several composers including a big premiere of settings of his work by Kim Arnesen. It’s for good reason. To my mind, Euan’s extremely lyric gift comes from a poet that you can tell was raised on a steady diet of…Wordsworth. In contrast to Wordsworth, however, I don’t find a vague sort of pantheism at the bottom of Tait’s poems. Instead, they betray a profound and rich spiritual life that make them exceptionally poignant. This very grounding is what keeps his poems from floating into sentimentality despite their lyric nature.” http://musicspoke.com/blog/score-week-iii-spokes-timothy-tharaldson/ 

Kim Andre Arnesen: ‘Child of Song’ (fp. VocalEssence Ensemble, cond. Philip Brunelle., 14/5/15, 40th anniversary celebration of The American Composers Forum, i.m. Stephen Paulus).

Kim Andre Arnesen: ‘Love’s Onward Journey’ (fp. Manhattan Girls Chorus, cond.Michelle Oesterle with admiration and gratitude, 20/5/15, NYC).

Kim Andre Arnesen:  ‘You asked me to speak’ (fp. Kokopelli Choirs, Canada, cond. Scott Leithead. Feb 2015).

2014:

Paul Spicer: ‘Unfinished Remembering.’ Choral symphony.  Fp 13/9/14 at symphony Hall, Birmingham, UK, withBirmingham Bach Choir, Orchestra of the Swan, soloists Johane Ansell (soprano), William Dazeley (baritone).   John Quinn: “Unfinished Remembering is a moving and compelling work. Euan Tait has written a libretto which offers a thought-provoking reflection...”

Paul Spicer: ‘A Shared Singing.’   Euan appeared twice on BBC Midlands Today,  including at a rehearsal of this new National song.

Kim Andre Arnesen: ‘Flight Song’ (fp. St. Olaf Choir and conductor Anton Armstrong).

Other Retreats

QUIET DAYS and OTHER RETREATS:

2018:
Writing to God retreats.

Diocese of Clifton Spiritual Directors’ Retreat (see FEEDBACK tab for exciting responses)
Prinknash Abbey, Gloucestershire, 14th April 2018.

also Douai Abbey, Berkshire 26th-28th October 2018.
The beauty of relating to God is that we are called to speak freely and with utter honesty to Jesus, to open our hearts fully, without fear. Our creative written responses open us up to this life-giving relationship. During this day (Prinknash) or weekend (Douai) we will be exploring how to write prayers, our own versions of psalms, short poems and journal entries: an exciting, creative journey that aims to greatly enrich our own work and vocational life. It is recommended that participants bring an exercise book or laptop, as they prefer.

Euan delivered a Advent Quiet Day for the south Wales Ordinariate groups (9th December 2017, Belmont Abbey), ‘Free and immortal” . exploring our vocations through Scripture, the poetry of Thomas Traherne as set by Finzi in Dies Natalis.

Euan delivered a Quiet Day for St. Nicholas, Fleckney, Leicestershire in April 2016, and continues to lead others. He has led all Quiet Days at Ammerdown in the past, and has led successive Quiet Days for Cursillo groups.

30th June 2017, Belmont Abbey: Celebrating Mass in school: A training day for Catholic teachers.
The training day aimed to enable Catholic educators to open up Catholic teaching on “Communion with the Lord,” “the Real Presence” and “Word Made Flesh” to students here in our Diocese, picking up on themes developed with REC/HRE/Chaplains in recent INSET days. It was designed to illustrate possible methods of helping our students to learn and pray about the key “narrative” of the Mass through 4 elements:
1. Short scripture readings, relevant to each section of the Mass (Kyrie, Gloria etc). 5 mins
2. A short reflection on the meaning of each section and on the piece of music about to be played. 15 mins
3. A playing of the musical setting of the relevant section of the Mass. 15 mins
4. Questions/discussions using key questions. 10 mins.
The aim is to give teachers a set of tools to enable students to develop their understanding and ownership of the meaning of the Mass.

Participants said: “Lots of lovely practical ideas for working with children….I found the day extremely beneficial to me personally. Euan has a beautiful and profound sense of the Eucharist and his love of God and of the liturgy oozes out of him; very infectious. He has focussed on a needful area, viz. helping all of us to internalise the ancient liturgy and so become actively engaged, heart and mind. He gave excellent suggestions on how to introduce and ‘scaffold’ these ideas with the children and the musical selections were great. I think his pupils are very blessed and I would like to see him take a lesson…I found the concept relevant to further attract the children in developing thee processes for themselves, especially in planning Mass. Very relaxing atmosphere. Thanks….Euan presented confidently, with great passion…make an interesting INSET for staff…Thank you for a great experience…fabulous course…a very inspirational day…giving lots of ideas and thoughts…”

Praying with Music: introductory blog for the Beethoven weekend at Ammerdown, 19th-21st July 2013

Praying with Music: introductory blog for the Beethoven weekend at Ammerdown, 19th-21st July 2013.

i.

Beethoven’s three great spiritual testaments, Missa Solemnis, Fidelio and the Choral Symphony, speak of the composer’s great struggles towards spiritual freedom, and so become for us an accompaniment to our own struggles towards freedom.  They have the power to en-courage: that is, because Beethoven explores our spiritual journey and inner struggles with such depth and power, by meditating deeply on these works we are given new energy and hope for our continuing journey, through the Holy Spirit, the Comforter, He who gives us courage and hope.

This is the point of these Praying with Music weekends:  so often music is no more than a background to our lives, listened to in passing as we rush from one appointment to another, just as our prayer life is sometimes only the briefest breath towards God before we rush off to something else.  Instead, this weekend aims to give us space to breathe in what God is longing to say to us through these works: this is time for God, praying through great music.

ii.

While the points raised about the three works are sometimes further illustrated by reference to other works, the focus remains on a journey undertaken with these three pillars of the Beethovenian heart and spirit, in order for participants to have a sense of a liberating and enriching journey and to be left with new insights into the journey ahead, inspired with new hope and courage by the music.    Friday evening and Saturday morning will concentrate on each movement of the Missa; Saturday late afternoon and evening on Fidelio (with an optional showing of a DVD performance after lunch); Sunday morning will begin with a short “pilgrimage service” particularly using the Choral Fantasy, while the weekend will end with the portrait of a human soul that is the Choral Symphony.

The timetable has evolved so that we will pray through three keys works, so that it won’t be a nebulous stroll using various short extracts but will consist of full movements proceeded by short scripture readings and meditations on the inner meanings of these movements, as well as introductory talks on the works as a whole.

iii.

I am a professional writer and an amateur musician: this means I write as one who has helped “create” the music in live performance (at one concert as a singer, at another as a double bass player in an orchestra).  At the same time, it means that I approach the music through the medium of the living, singing language of a praying poet.  It may seem contradictory to try and express the wordlessness of music through words, but the words I use are a listening, one way of listening; are my own singing emerging from the music, that I hope will set off your own singing, your own responses to this ecstatic, challenging music, so that you leave with a deepened and joyful sense of how God can reach into your own life through music.

iv.

You may wish to make your own preparations for the weekend through spending time with the music yourself in advance, and you will certainly wish to spend time preparing the heart through prayer, asking God through the Holy Spirit to reveal new and liberating insights through this music.  The weekend comes at a significant time during the Church’s Year, those weeks after Pentecost/Trinity which for me are about praying about our relationship with the Holy Spirit.  I always think of these weeks of Ordinary Time as extraordinary time, as a kind of extended preparation for Advent, which is the next significant change of ecclesial Season.

v.

One final point: remember that the wonderful journey Beethoven sets off in us does not end with the final session, that nothing will be final and complete by the time your depart Ammerdown; rather, it will be the beginning of a journey, and that God will sometimes only reveal what He wants to reveal much later, in His own time (God’s timing always comes from his deep knowledge of the unique needs of each individual). While I myself do not offer spiritual direction or counselling, you may wish to note down new insights as you discover them for later discussion outside Ammerdown, or write journal entries or begin your own Letter to Jesus during the weekend, where you can say frankly and without pretending, as if to an utterly trusted friend, what the music gives to your heart.  My prayer is that Beethoven’s gift blesses and enriches you.

EUAN TAIT, Chepstow, Monmouthshire, 4.7.13

Is the cry of pain answered?  A “Pentecost-tide” meditation

Readings for Sunday 9th June 2013: 1 Kg 17:17-end; Gal 1:11-end; Luke 7:11-17

The scriptures that speak to us are our inner songs; we carry them in our breathing and living, and they sometimes work silently within us and our struggles, and sometimes erupt in us with a loud roar.  They are not tame songs; the wildness of the Word is what gives the Bible its power for us, for God is involved with our lives, loves us and never stops speaking to us.  Tonight’s songs of God to our hearts open with a cry of pain and ends with a healing that may seem to worsen the pain because it doesn’t feel real.  After all, in real life tragedies such as the widows’ sons do not end with miracles, but with a long, long road of pain that the sufferer can only “manage” in order to go on living at all.  And what would a recently bereaved mother say, hearing these stories?  So what is happening?  Why is God giving us these stories that apparently have no relation to the reality of human pain and unutterable, unbearable loss? We know, from our friendship with God, that God does not give the insult of false hope and impossible miracles, so what is going on?

I think these stories are metaphors: in other words, through them, God is trying to tell us something about our spiritual self.  After all, we are living through the season after Pentecost, when we seek to deepen our relationship to the Holy Spirit which pours from the heart of God our creator and Jesus the pain-bearer.  The shock of hope these stories contain is not, for us encountering them tonight, about some fake-sounding miracles, but is rather a portrait of a spiritual state that can seem all too familiar to us: namely, when we fall into a soul sleep from which we don’t seem to be able to awake, when we become unresponsive, when we stop listening to God, whether because in our guilt and pain we give up prayer or whether because of life’s exciting YouTube distractions we cut the channels of our inner listening and relationship with God.

Tonight’s bringing together of readings shows us this – we have the story of Elijah and the widow’s son, and then, illustrating each Word yet more deeply, a reading from Galatians, when Paul speaks of just such soul sleep with powerful honesty – he tells us of his ignorance, that he was a person who, despite all his busy-ness, importance, self-righteousness and  passion, was deeply frozen and asleep, deeply unresponsive to the suffering Son of God, unresponsive to how God had newly introduced himself to humanity in the broken, bleeding body of Christ, held by His Mother Mary which such utter tenderness and grief.

What happens to Elijah’s host seems to show God talking to us in metaphors with great force.  I was particularly struck by how the angry cry of the widow, in the face of her tragedy, reminded me of the anguish and fury of the two demon-possessed men to Jesus in Matthew 8, who cry: “What do you want with us, Son of God. Have you come to torture us before the appointed time?”  There is such rage there, such rage.  In the same way, the widow shouts at Elijah: “What do you have against me, man of God? Did you come to remind me of my sin and kill my son?”  Such rage, such rage.  Her son has apparently fallen asleep – but in that strange symbiosis of love which exists between a mother and her child, it is her own soul that is lying there, out cold.  Her voice, filled with burning pain and guilt, screams out at God.  A personal disaster has opened up the unhealed wound in her own life, and we see the raw heart of her spiritual battles.

The holy man does not answer her with rebuke or with the cluckings of an injured male ego, but instead goes way beyond these very natural reactions into a self-forgetful identification with her – he allows himself to enter into her pain, to feel it in himself and to cry out to God on her behalf.  In taking this “unnecessary” risk on behalf of a probably very “unworthy” person (as say, people in the emergency services do every day), Elijah’s furious compassion is moving and real:  “Lord my God” he shouts “have you brought tragedy even on this widow I am staying with, by causing her son to die?”  Somehow, in the boy’s restoration, in Elijah’s risky act of love for them both, the spiritual life of the woman is resurrected.

Likewise, it is love, the force in us from God, the power in us of Her lioness life, and not of tame sentiment, that moves Jesus to bring life to a scene of bleak death.  A grim procession passes by, a family mourning a lost young life, an everyday reality.  One part of humanity’s great and apparently endless ocean of tears is being shed, and yet Jesus, evidently weeping inside himself, simply tells her “Don’t cry”, and restores the life of everyone there.  Perhaps there is an uncle or cousin among them who long ago gave up on the idea of him or herself as a possible child of God, perhaps having sinned and sinned again, knowingly and deliberately and in the face of repeated forgiveness by God, whom Jesus in and through this young man’s restoration, restores to the Kingdom.  Perhaps tonight’s lioness roar of the Word is doing the same for us in our situation, bleak as it may seem to us in our sleeping state which rejects even the remote possibility of love.   The fire of the Holy Spirit gently flares up within our beings as a fire, a reminder to us of the power with which we are loved.  God’s untameable gift of love awaits us here in this place: perhaps it is our broken, longing hearts, with their silent and apparently endless bleeding, that are at last ready to awake and able to receive it.  Amen.

Discovering an estranged music? Tikhon Khrennikov (1913-2007)

Discovering an estranged music?  Tikhon Khrennikov  (1913-2007)

What is this, the musician whose reputation is apparently captured in a Western box forever?  This?  …from another planet…the bizarre almost echo of the opening of his 3rd Piano Concerto…which leaks a painful cry from apparently simple music…what did this music come from?  Do the clashing facts of his professional life, and his attempts to justify his professional behaviour, the composer who knelt in Yelets cathedral,  mean that it cannot be “companion music” for us, music for our own journey, as Shostakovich’s mixture of satire, risk-taking anger and bone-grinding pain so clearly is?

I wouldn’t have gone out of my way to find Khrennikov’s music before the Internet, but since discovering his work casually, as it were, through it, I’ve found a powerful energy coming from it, and a wanting to come back to it again and again.  I can’t agree that it’s worthy of the understandably angry Western dismissals it received after his death (I recall obit comments such as “the waffle of a party functionary”).  I also wonder if such a closed attitude to Russia will do, now our voices seemed turned towards each other with such a howl of mutual bitterness?  If people were and are angry with him – who was and is angry, and why?  The banned composers of the late 1970s, whose voice Khrennikov apparently tried to turn off, like the water in a river?

I’m listening….what I find instead is the overheard mutter of a troubled wanderer, especially in the 3rd Piano Concerto, As for the life, I find any questions rebounding back on us, i.e. How much do we collude with the worst around us? How much are we led against ourselves, away from ourselves, by our own broken desires for power and recognition? What do we believe and why? How do we live it? Have any of us begun to answer such questions honestly and fairly?

An estranged music?  If so, will anyone want to find themselves a fellow pilgrim with it?  And if so, what does it say about them?  I’m listening now to the slow movement of the 2nd Violin concerto, and it’s singing over my head like a bird in a storm, outside the window, over into the eroding distance.  10/04/15