Friday, 29 April 2011

I was glad

Yes, he does look like many of the old Bufton-Tuftons in today's Westminster Abbey congregation, without Elgar's sensitive eyes to offset the walrus moustache, but Charles Hubert Hastings Parry could do a good bit of pomp and circumstance. My colleague Jessica Duchen violently disagrees about the worth of 'I was glad', to which a far from unattractive Kate Middleclass processed up the Westminster Abbey aisle a couple of hours ago, but it gave me all the usual frissons, especially in the full-orchestral version. Alongside it, the new John Rutter and Paul Mealor pieces seemed respectively cloying and a tad dreary (and 'Blest Pair of Sirens' felt a bit like overkill, but good to hear that too just when the whole thing had got almost too boring to watch, which sadly applies to the Bish's sermon too).

The frissons date back to my chorister days: on every summer cathedral course - and I 'did' Worcester, Hereford, Gloucester, Exeter and Lincoln - the Choir of All Saints Banstead would tearfully serve up 'I was glad' as the anthem of the final evensong*. In 1977, in a service which also included one of the earliest performances of Walton's Silver Jubilee Mag and Nunc, we even got to sing the 'Vivat Reginas'. They're the only thing which gives the edge to this St Paul's Cathedral performance on what I belatedly realise is the Queen's Golden, not Silver Jubilee**. Alas, it comes in half way through the organ prelude, but hold on for the trumpeters and the spine-tingling bursts of acclaim.

So much for a Golden Jubilee which I don't even remember. Can you believe it, back in 1977 - and I am opening myself up to such derision here - I even kept a Silver Jubilee scrapbook. Now I find the royals, whether sweet, Shrekish, grotesque or bland, totally irrelevant. Not that I don't wish this pair their rightful share of happiness. Peter Tatchell is a bit more belligerent, but puts some of his points very well.

*writes choirmaster DAH: 'By the way, we didn't always do I was Glad on the cathedral courses. We used to alternate it with Zadok, another coronation war-horse! My main worry was to stop the choir bursting into tears before the final top B flat!' Fellow former chorene Mary Amorosino and I remember it was Zadok only once, but who can confirm?

**said Mary has also just pointed out that it couldn't possibly be the Silver Jubilee because Wills and Harry are in the front row. Careless of me.


Susan Scheid (Raining Acorns) said...

Well, now, revealing that you keep a Silver Jubilee scrapbook is indeed quite a confession to make. Yet with that delicious opening line, you are forgiven even that (not that you need to be!). I'm quite enjoying "I Was Glad" and will offer up a confession that I've gone right back to listen again to that "utterly execrable" piece. Your links, by the way, are terrific--thoroughly enjoyed Duchen's take and appreciated very much your bringing in Tatchell's reminder that not everyone who deserves to has the right to marry. A good thing to remember on this day. In fact, I like this post so much that I'm going to link it over at RA, where my colleague Carol-Ann has done her own take on the Wedding and then I'm going to send them both out in a tweet (heaven forfend)!

Roger Neill said...

It was the best bit by far. Sound and pictures. Otherwise for me the whole thing went on too long. (Bishop of London self-important.)

Will said...

The American media and a great many Americans went into full monarchist mode over the wedding. I had a great time watching the pageant of womens' hats from the sublime (Princess Michael who carried a daringly oversized hat magnificently) to the ridiculous (Princesses Beatrice and Eugenie, particularly the former). I (and everyone I know) thought The Dress was an incredibly elegant and perfect choice.

There are, of course, Americans who hold the whole monarchy thing in contempt, but a good deal more who look upon it fondly, particularly given the mess the dangerous buffoons who dominate our politics and government are making of things these days.

David said...

Kept, RA, kept. Yes, Roger, it was far too long. The weddings I used to sing at for 50p a throw lasted half an hour max. That way we could earn as much as £2.50 on a Saturday afternoon.

As for glamour, we thought only Senora Clegg carried her hat off with style. Here our hostess is excited that the man who made her bag made Camilla's. And I suppose we should be excited that we used to sing in the same opera group as the man who did the bouquets.

David Damant said...

I think one has to be a believer to judge the length of the service correctly, and also to judge the Bishop's address correctly

Howard Lane said...

Claire thought the Rutter was at the extreme end of his anodyne inclination but liked the Mealor more. As a staunch republican I was working hard in bucolic civil war Oxfordshire and missed the whole thing. But where was Sir Max? He's master of the Queen's music but presumably not of the Duke of whatever he now is.

David Damant said...

The argument for an hereditary royal family is very strong. It is based on the fact that this country is a republic, run by Parliament and the Cabinet, and by the PM who as head of government is separate from the head of state. [The USA is a monarchy, albeit an elected one]. This separation is full of virtue since it does not allow the political class to draw to itself the embodiment of the nation for political purposes; also it provides some guarantee that the government will not surreptitiously
bend the rules

The question is therefore what sort of person to have as a head of state. This should not be by election as that would politicise the office ( with the disadvantage above) and also lead to possible tensions between the two elected people. A retired politician would follow the German route - we might have had Alec Douglas Hume or Jim Callaghan ( not Mrs Thatcher or Mr Wilson) who would have been quite good on the German model. But they would certainly not have been anything like as effective as an hereditary king or queen at either keeping the political class at a distance or at representing the idea of the nation. I have also the view that the ability of a PM to talk regularly to the monarch provides an outlet for the PM which could not exist with a German style president ( I have heard that the Queen has said that she is often a sponge absorbing the words delivered by the PM )

Finally ( this note is my brief version) there is in humans a desire to identify with an icon, a leader etc, and it is very much safer that this identification is not with a politician. In addition there is a valid human appreciation of history and continuity, well presented in a hereditary monarch.

If the media create a soap opera out of the present Royal Family it is only to feed these desires. And after all, the vast media coverage and the brouhaha which so bores the more sophisticated could be switched off (if the population would allow that) making everything quieter, without affecting the virtues of the monarchy outlined above.

How our republic should be structured seems to me the matter for debate between those who support one side or the other. All the anti- monarchy or questioning articles I have read recently have concentrated only on how the royal family should handle the soap opera. No doubt a very practical point, but not the point that should be the essential one

Susan Scheid (Raining Acorns) said...

Ah, yes, "kept," of course. (I have since been reminded by friends who have a better sense of time than I that 35 years or so on would be a very long time indeed to continue to keep up a scrapbook, even for the most ardent of "jubbly" celebrators.)

David said...

DD - second treatise indisputable, though wasn't it shameful that Blair and Brown weren't invited out of what seems like Carlovian spite. It has at least yielded a wonderful Steve Bell cartoon in the Grauniad, B&B driven Masaccio-like out of paradise with the Syrian ambassador by a superlatively scowling Hague hanging on to the coattails of Saudi bigwig bearing missiles.

Re your first point, what I think we wanted from Bish Chartres was a little more honesty and humility, a little less self-satisfaction. And the Chaucer quotation went down like a lead balloon. Also, I repeat, wedding services should last about half an hour, like evensong - the perfect service (especially when spared the sermon).

David Damant said...

I certainly agree about the non-invitations to Messrs Blair and Brown. One gropes in vain for an explanation ( Wodehouse phrase). One would have thought that all living PMs should be invited to all events such as this. This should be part of the role of the State, as embodied in the monarchy, drawing all (respectable) political factions into the national family, a powerful and valuable role.

Maybe there is some factor we do not see. Other PMs have been added to the national family as Knights of the Garter ( Lady of the G in the case of Margaret T)- an honour in the Queen's personal gift ( though no doubt she takes advice). Most odd.

As for the Bishop, I cannot say that I know him well, but I have had several conversations with him, and I read him as very serious ( and therefore honest) about the Christian religion, and about the importance of marriage, and sure of his carefully chosen words rather than self satisfied. I agree that the Chaucer quote seemed rather forced in logic.

Laurent said...

I hope you are now keeping a Diamond Jubilee Scrapbook. I can understand why Tony Blair and Gordon Brown were not invited. In fact I am not surprised at all. Tony made a big mistake the day Diana died and he made some injudicious remarks. Am sure William bears a certain dislike for the man.
I love such weddings for all the pomp and beautiful uniforms and also for what it means to me on a more personal level. After all one day William and Catherine will be King and Queen of Canada.

Kirill said...

This was the rite so many watched
The handsome couple so well matched
With friends of Kate and William there
And gorgeous colour everywhere
The Bishop's sonorous address
The bride in lace superbly dressed
And so perhaps they never guessed
I liked her brother, James, the best.

with apologies to Horatio Brown

David said...

Laurent, certainly not. And was that so great a sin for exclusion from paradise? No, Charles was surely behind it. I don't suspect for a minute that Wills is a spiteful chap. His certifiable good nature does dispose one half in his favour.

Kirill, seconded (and thirded).

David Damant said...

As regards Tufton Buftons, one has to be careful. There's no art to find the mind's construction in the face.

General Plummer in the First World War was puffy faced and had a bushy moustache, and became the physical model for Colonel Blimp. But he is recognised as one of the best of the WW2 generals, despite the dreadful nature of the military problems that war presented.

David Damant said...

Does "Raining Acorns" realise that the coat of arms newly created for the Middletons features prominently three golden acorns?

David said...

Colonel Blimp! The greatest of the Powell-Pressburger films, albeit not the weirdest (am I the only one who has a loathing for The Red Shoes? WHY is it hailed as such a classic?)

I wonder how the presumably republican (as opposed to Republican, for I'm sure she's a Democrat) Susan feels about sharing acorns with the Middleclasses?