Sunday, December 19, 2010

Mary Christmas, Keyboarders

How come Mary instead of Merry?
Because the most recent stop on this long and complicated journey to get to music fundamentals that every child should and can know came through Gregorian Chant Mass IX, traditionally the mass used to celebrate a feast dedicated to the Virgin Mary. In my early years in the Church, before everybody got so busy either misinterpreting or downright disobeying Vatican Two, while I did chant quite steadily, it was usually Mass VIII, that of the angels, at least the Kyrie of which was not in old mode D. This was good as far as it went, and infinitely better than all that slop written by second rate priests on fourth rate guitars, but it was by no means old mode D, which was created in the mind of the Eternal from way back, and might even lead to the conversion of Mark Knopfler and Eric Clapton, etc, once they realize how it cranks a Stratocaster into outer space, right up there with the angels, their boss of the feminine version, and the Face everybody both longs to see and is afraid just might show up. Grace builds on nature, as Saint Thomas was always saying, and there's nothing more natural than old mode D, especially on a git-fiddle. I haven't had time to sort it out on the 5-string yet, but we'll probably get there.
The funny thing was, Santa's little helper in all this discovery was something of an old enemy, that is, just one more publisher who wouldn't publish my novel, and was none too bright about it. But as Augustine says, the guy you let you down today just might be the guy with the helping hand tomorrow.
 Ignatius started off well, with us. In 1985, they published The Ratzinger Report,  a modest little volume that did many things for my piece of mind, but the principle effect of which was to reassure me that John Paul's theological alter ego was good at his job - running the Sacred Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith - and had few illusions about the idiot factor so rife in the Church. But when Ignatius couldn't grasp the obvious significance of Contemplatives I had to write them off with that old bromide that superintendents of  schools use to mercifully identify a none too effective teacher: "Works well under supervision."
 But then in 1997 they worked very well indeed, and certainly without any supervision of me, in an area for which I was most unqualified, when they brought out Adoremus, the parish hymnal that contains all sorts of chant - although no Latin Credos - all nicely laid out in a mere three parts, making life all that much easier for the beginner. The ancient melody, from the days of no accompaniment, no harmonies, in the treble stave, with fairly simple two voice arrangements in the bass. This ordering of the notes was not original with the publisher, as  I thought too gratefully at first, but was simply in line with the original practice, as was proved by photographs from old manuscripts in a book Marianne ordered, concerning the legendary Monsignor Richard Schuler.
Nonetheless, perhaps with the interfering aid of the Muse's finger, I found the two-voices not to my taste, and then came out of my agonies with the realization that I should create a predictable, musically logical, schedule of two voices, that would do for numbers practice - eventually solfage practice - in every key. It is, after all, the fingers, not the eyes, that make the actual sounds.
I have given this for guitar, in my mind at  least in old D mode with a dropped 6th string. Here it is for keyboard. I would recommend the initial run in C major. I write it for two octaves, with the single right hand finger, preferably 3, ranging from tonic to tonic. It comes first with the smaller intervals in the left hand, 3rds and 4ths, and then with the larger, 5ths and 6ths.

 1    2    3    4    5    6    7    1    2    3    4    5    6    7    1             middle   c         =  1

 3    5    5    6    1    1    2    3    5    5    6    1    1    2    1            e above small c    =  3       

 1    2    3    4    5    6    7    1    2    3    4    5    6    7    1            small c               =   1

 1    2    3    4    5    6    7    1    2    3    4    5    6    7    1            middle c            = 1

 3    5    5    6    1    1    2    3    5    5    6    1    1    2    3            e above small c     =  3

5     7    1    1    3    4    5    5    7    1    1    3    4    5    5            g below small c    =  5

The second schedule provides the richer sound, of course, because it creates real triads, not modified triads like the first schedule. But it is naturally harder to grasp, because the melody is hidden in the left hand. I`ve been quite close to it for years, but never so precisely as now, never so able to use it for initial reading studies, never so flooding my thoughts with images of a cathedral organ using real music theory to bring the congregation back to its senses, in the way that only chant can do.
If there are any gainsayers left out there they should be advised that the angel Gabriel was big around here last week. That`s the fellow on trumpet.
When you get good at alternating on these patterns, from the small to the large intervals and back again, you`re close to reading.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Mary Christmas, Rockers

I suspect this is going to be a long one, sort of a novella unto itself, and done in chunks, like morning around the Christmas tree, with one present after another to open. On that occasion, in my trinitarian household, we always have breakfast first, and make sure there's lots of coffee, and of course my coffee always get laced with brandy or single malt. It was the same when we were happily stocked with six children
Another familiar image to keep in mind is the school teacher's blackboard, with plenty of chalk, an eraser for the inevitable mistakes that seem to come when a newly discovered doctrine is being exposed for the first time, a good old fashioned pointer for whacking on the board to wake up the nodding heads, or to point out the essential stepping stones in the crossing of the troubled and confusing stream known as music theory.
The tree, in this case, is the old fashioned D Mode, the one they used for a couple of thousand years, possibly, before someone thought of adding the Bflat, the first of the accidentals. It went like this, for a simple octave only:

 D    E    F    G    A    B    C    D

That's right, no Bflat. This means that the second half-tone comes between the B and the C, or, in the all essential numbers that no publisher other than myself seems to know how to think about, 6 and 7.
So let's have all the numbers, for just an octave, for now.

  1    2    3    4     5     6     7     1   ( This one is also known as 8.)

Furthermore, to make the schema complete, and also to smack the crap out of the tradition of the theoretical foundations of the thinking of the Teutons and their offspring - English, Dutch, Scandahoovian, etc., let's bring up solfage.

Re    Me  Fa  So  Lah Te  Do   Re  (I give the lah an 'h' for future reference.)

Now, any really good music school will teach you all three of these names, but I'm not so sure that such music schools exist more than in theory. In my long life around music I'm the only teacher I know who has the common sense - a very favourite term of Thomas Aquinas - to start absolutely with numbers, especially in instrumental studies, and I've no history at all of leadership that has anything to do with music wheeling out the incredible dynamics of an individual or a group waltzing around with enormous effect with the syllables of solfage, when it comes to vocal instruction. It's as if Guido D'Arrezo never existed, and everyone's forgotten the story of how his fellow monks hated his guts and only the Pope of the day was able to see the light and shut their goddamn mouths, and thus put  the icing on the cake that was Gregorian, at least until the polyphonists created their own versions of chaos and confusion, and lost the body of the one really important choir, the people in the pews. Nothing ever really changes, right? Christ is forever having to put the Sanhedrin in its place.
This doesn't mean that I don't like great choral music. God forbid. Everyone knows that such a creation provides an enormous sense of the choirs of heaven, of there really existing such a community as the angels, especially for those who cannot read Saint Thomas on the same subject and only get the buzz through music. But what I really love is to hear an ordinary congregation, led by a good voice or two, getting all that  love, grace, salvation, and perhaps even a taste of perfection, out of the ordinary food of the mass, Gregorian Chant. Nothing else can bring the Holy Spirit so fully, so evident.
The following, by the way, works on anything, especially an organ keyboard, but what  I have in mind this morning, following the nifty practices of the last couple of days, is the guitar.

 1  1  2  3  5  5  6  1  1  2  3  5  5

 5  6  7  1  2  3  4  5  6  7  1  2  3

 1  1  5  1  5  1  1  1  1  5  1  5   1

Now, goddammit, and beating the shit out of the blackboard, get it in your imbecile head, that it is the MIDDLE line that leads the way, and that, on the guitar, is in the MIDDLE of the instrument. The 5, happily, is the fifth string, the A, open. And the 6, the 7, and the 1 continue on the same string. Only a fool, such as I was in my chords-only early days, jumps immediately to a higher string. The docile student will do well to work on just this scale, dividing it into its logical numeric parts: 5,6,7,1; 1,2,3;   3,4,5;   5,6,7,1;  1,2,3. This simple bit of common sense and humility, as opposed to the incredibly-idiotic-because-mentally-stultifying-whole-scale-method-of-interpretration, will make a Clapton or a Knopfler of the beginner more quickly than even Johann Sebastian Bach or Carlos Montoya could imagine.
In this schema, for the moment, one never even gets to the First string. Don't worry. It becomes useful, especially in the higher modes. Musicians always have to learn how to make the middle of the scales sound interesting. (Especially when they're singers.)

The upper line is, of course, the harmony. Just thirds, with the odd fourth. How simple, how neglected, like a lot of simple things. And I would recommend getting a good handle on just this basic double-stopping, as dear old Amy Ferguson called it, before too much ambition for the piece de resistance, that is, the adding of the bass line and therefore the real butt-kicker. Just as it took me so damn long to realize that the heart of the guitar was in the lower line as the melody, so I was sluggish to realize how to use dropped D.
This was to a very large degree the fault of the practical operation of the Roman Catholic Church and its insufferable neglect, amongst its modern bishops, to apply the norms of its own rules and advice, following Vatican Two, and the insistence, in the document on the liturgy, Sacrosanctum Concilium,
that Gregorian Chant be given the pride of place.
Had the various collections of bishops North America has had in the last decades ever got their act into gear, I might have caught on sooner. Singing garbage, or the second rate, teaches us nothing, surrenders no insights.
You will, of course, need three fingers. All music resolves in three notes. Thus it imitates theology, which always resolves in three  persons. Eat your heart out, all religions other than that which has been drawn up into the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
And yet , I must admit, it is the Virgin Mary who provided me with the insights on the D mode. Mass IX, from the good old XII century, when was born Saint Francis of Assisi, troubadour turned founder and stigmatic. 

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Ivan Turgenev

Many months ago I came home from yet another lesson in the real essentials of music - numbers, numbers, numbers - with Tim McDaniel, to find that I had received a virtual flurry of hits on my blog from Russia. In spite of the absolute necessity of spiritual perfection for getting into Heaven, the spiritual writer must always settle for relative anonymity, complete lack of notice in his own time, and never seek to expect the fame that comes to those who deliberately write for the attention of the world, sending up the traditional sops to the thinking of the earthbound, especially in the lamentable areas of gratuitious violence, sensuality, and the acquisition of wealth and power; and in religious  writing, the simple minded sentimentality of those who know nothing of interior suffering, and imagine that babbling about spirituality makes for devotion; so this snow storm of attention, relatively speaking, both flabbergasted and delighted me.
Like any true lover of literature, I have, of course, enormous respect for the Russian story tellers and playwrights, and value my considerable experience, all other things considered, of their genius. For one thing, hugely important to a soul like myself whose childhood relationship with nature, with the visible earth, was unquestionably a religious relationship, the Russian love of landscape, of the fields that grew their food, had always been incredibly evocative. When I taught grade six geography, it was almost like reading the Bible to have explained to me how milleniums of birch leaves had created so many feet of top soil, and when a young friend gave me Gogol's "Dead Souls" to read I was not unaware of the humour of odd way of reckoning personal wealth among land owners, but I found the descriptions of the estates even more interesting, a most acute reminder of my own time among the fields and farms of Canada, that other great expanse of territory, so much of it virtually empty. So the fact that I could be read in Russia, thanks to the wizardry of Blogger and the Net, is such a return to some very happy and purposeful days of the past.
Keep in mind also that my widowed Nana's second husband was Russian by birth, orphaned in England, and that where I live in the Kootenays makes it impossible not to be cheek by jowl with the Russian accent of the Doukhobors, who have been here in quantity since the very early 1900s. They too are great lovers of what you grow cabbages in, and all the Anglos around here have learned their recipes for borsch.
I wonder if these Russian readers have hung in there, shifting over to Google Reader. In daily life, in the quite constant encounters with new acquaintances, I invariably strike fire as an artist, a listener, a man committed to the universal presence of a basic human interest in the spiritual life, but the good ship of open exchange and conversation also quite constantly hits a reef at some point after the inescapable fact - in my life - of Catholicism crops up. That most useful phrase of Thomas Aquinas - obediential potential - seems to be a factor of individual human growth very few souls can recognize, for one reason or another, and the ignominy of relating sincerely to someone who actually believes in the need for a Pope and a carefully structured, dogmatic, Church, looms with frightening inconvenience to a variety of deeply cherished personal preferences.
Russians, of course, like everybody else, have deeply cherished personal preferences. Mostly to a man, they stick to their schismatic predicament, even if it threatens to drive them crazy, or to vodka, as the statistics show it does to an alarming extent. One can, of course, with impeccable justice, lay much of the blame on the general depression of the land of the bear created by the evil genius of Josef Stalin, and the mentally clogging filth of atheistic communism. Talk about galley slaves mired in their own excrement.
But the Russians also knew their good and useful talents of great calibre, Turgenev by no means the least. For the perceptive writer, there are magnificent weapons in his arsenal.  One might consider them amongst the most effective in the unique Russian weaponry, a gifted sensitivity for dealing with a selection of the enemies of life even longer than he imagined, and perhaps more universal.
That the Czar and his minions should have put him under house arrest indicates the sickness of the anti-Western mentality in Russia he was trying to overcome, and forecasts the need of the revolution, and that Turgenev should have chronicled so well the death rattles of his society provides a wonderful index of folly in all sociological entities. His ghost rages through so many factors and elements in modern Catholicism, where leadership behaves so slavishly imitative of his tiresome government officials.
What a price we pay for illiteracy, especially in leadership.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

King Ralph

Yes, I'm very fond of John Goodman. A big actor, in body, and a very big actor in talent. He dances well, too, and I take a particular pleasure in watching big people show a dancer's skill. I've seen a number of his films but I'll save space and unwonted distraction by mentioning only the one, King Ralph, because it provides the perfect image for a complaint. Not about John, you understand, but about the thinking - or lack of it - behind music writing software. In case anyone hasn't seen the movie, just let me say that the salient point is that ordinary American Joe J.G., a musician anxious to cut a record and find fame and fortune, turns out to be a very distant relation to the British Royal Family and thus succeeds to the throne of England when everyone else gets electrocuted standing on metal bleachers in the damp for a group photo. Right, it's a comedy. It's a very entertaining plot, with also a beautiful actress, and when a more likely heir - Peter O'Toole - admits his connection to the crown, Goodman happily bows out in return for his own recording studio, back in L.A.
All this from me because MT has been scouting the Net for a programme by which I can share my latest scale discoveries, both in single note and added voices, with interested students. That is, interested students already familiar with ordinary staves, and who haven't been coached on my fundamental use of the numbers. The numbers people have got themselves a trio of humdingers, studies I'm almost proud of, were it not that I have to shake my head over how long it took to find something so obvious. Is that how Einstein felt when he finally came up with E=MC2?
There are a lot of programmes,  but they are totally oriented to would-be composers, most of them addicted to noise. This may be all right in its place, but where is the room for teaching? Is it that  difficult to the technical whiz kids to add the chops for fingering notation? One of first schemes MT found I sat to, and happily typed in an old-fashioned D mode octave, very much pleased with how much neater the computer printed than I can. But where was the device for letting me put down fingering as neatly and quickly as the notes of the scale? Do these designers have no idea of the history of wars over fingering? It's almost as outrageous as the controversies over voice training.
How can so much money, so much science, simply drop the ball where pedagogy is so necessary?
Does the Great White West really want to keep itself in the Third World as far as basic music understanding is at stake?

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Forty-four Years Ago

I think it was on our last return from Kaslo, as we drove through that part of the lake shore where Marianne grew up, that her late mother's spirit - it is All Saint's Day, early in the morning, that I write - said to me, "Aren't you glad that I insisted that she go to Saint Joseph's?"
It was a very sweet moment, and because Father Matthieu had become well accustomed to the ordinary level of the household conversations, being an attentive child of Francis of Assisi, I was able to share it immediately. This has rarely been easy with Canadian priests, never been easy with our diocesan priests, especially the home grown ones, but it has become a given with Matthieu and our Capuchin bishop. No wonder my "first priest" was Padre Pio, and my second saint's biography - after Cardinal Newman's Apologia - was Jorgensen's story of the stigmatic. Marianne laughed, of course, because in the summer after grade six she had made up her mind that she was not going to submit to a martinet, especially one so fanatical about grammar. I heard about this decision, to my surprise, when I stopped in at the garage one afternoon in the latter days of my cooking duties at the diocesan summer camp. Marianne had been cutting the grass on the front lawn as I wheeled in, and I simply asked her as a matter of course about seeing her in the fall.
At the time, the word from Heaven  was simply a nice moment, as I said, something to chuckle over in the course of an hour's drive in the evening, now dark as we were nearing Nelson. Like any lunkhead of an earth-dweller, I had no idea of what the Almighty Muse and his little friend from Valmadrera, northern Italy, had in mind.
It was not until the autumn of 1966, the early weeks of my last year in the classroom, that Providence finally began to explain one of the major reasons I had been inspired, right at the beginning of knowing Shawn, to think of settling in Nelson, and why it had been so worth it to endure the slings and arrows of a totally unsuspected fortune, that of being so disappointed in the university. It was in that fateful autumn that I discovered, through a writing assignment, that MT had the very valuable talents of a story teller. (This was Providence beginning to explain; the rest of the revelation did not come until a few weeks after Christmas, when I gave another assignment in original work, this one in religion class.)
You could not really blame the twelve-year old for her reluctance. To her and the rest of that huge grade six class, I had been merely the demanding old grammarian who roared through the door three afternoons a week to splatter the blackboard with such annoying terms as nouns, verbs, conjunctions, subordinate clauses and so on, and also had the infernal cheek to insist, not at all timidly or in a soft and gentle voice, that these things were the stuff of ordinary human life. Hardly the way to win the academic heart of a poetic young lady. In my own classroom I also drilled the grammar until they reeled, but at least there were all the other subjects, and a great deal of music and art and literature. Apparently the grade sevens had not shared the history of their good fortune with the grade sixes, or else Marianne, living miles out of town, had not been around to hear the stories.
But, as I said, Mercedes Tremblay, diminutive little person though she was, put her foot down, and the daughter returned for her final year at Saint Joe's. A good six or seven of her female classmates, on the other hand, moved on to the junior high, leaving me with ten girls and twenty boys, one of whom became a star in the NHL, and two others heroes of the eventual war in the Balkans. They were no more loved or disciplined than the others, but all teachers spend a little time now and then wondering where their charges will end up.
She did manage to sit as far away from her teacher as possible, electing a seat in the farthest corner, day after day quietly doing all her work very well, leaving me with no complaints about her attitude or behaviour and therefore that much more time to spend with the harder wills and slower minds. And living out of town, she did not volunteer with the rest of the girls, who showed up in spades on a Saturday afternoon after I had asked for help with the vegetable preparation for a mighty stew Shawn and I cooked up for a parent-teacher get together.
But not long after, I laid on an assignment in creative writing, insisting that it be more or less authentic, with names changed to protect the innocent or guilty, and the quiet, albeit orderly and productive mouse from the back corner roared with a voice that  utterly shook the teacher. I wanted short stories, and I wanted them to be more fact than fiction. Everybody had a life worth looking at with a judicial eye, even adolescents, and in my second year of teaching in Terrace, before we came to Nelson, my grade eights had proved this in spades, each raconteur reading aloud to the class during art class. We'd all had an enormous amount of fun telling the truth. Part of the trick was to tell the kids they should write dialogue if it came up, something I  can't remember thinking of when I was faced with the burden of a school room sketch.
For reasons I can't remember, I did not ask for the first stories to be read out, but simply took them in to be marked. A lot my boys played organized hockey, so I received all sorts of Foster Hewitt and Danny Gallivan, and of very respectable length. My future warriors wrote hugely of tank battles. But it was MT who came up with some humourous realism, so craftily done, so utterly beyond anything I could have written at the same age, even if my spelling had always been more consistently better than hers has ever been, that I was simply amazed as well as very much pleased, because she had so justified my pedagogical intuitions. It  had helped the tale no little, mind you, that I myself made an excellent protagonist, being the camp cook pretty much responsible for setting the tone of good order and discipline, but at my best, I was still only a foil for the four girls as lively and quick as any heroines of that age I had ever read about, and this story was actually true, as well as artlessly told, right to the last sentence. I kept waiting for the initial sparkle to fade, finding it difficult to believe that a child could sustain such a robust unfolding of the imaginative memory, but the tale rolled on, quite effortlessly, to a fitting conclusion. A real beginning, a real middle, a real end, without any of the common resort of importing incidents and characters actually outside, and often well outside, the actual history of the author. I think especially of Mark Twain and L.M. Montgomery. It also helped that the setting was the diocesan summer camp for children, located on a lake with a fine beach and all the paraphernalia that goes with a well established facility. I had quite loved my first summer in camp kitchen, and was delighted to have it brought back so well.
Was this simply phenomenal luck, a one shot that she would never be able to repeat, or had a mere classroom teacher stumbled across a genuine writer of significant stories, one whose name was destined to go down in history, and therefore, possibly, much more of a responsibility for his own knowledge of the trade than would be your ordinary student? I did in fact, later, spend a certain amount of time talking with her about writing more fiction, but nothing conclusive in that genre really worked, no doubt because what did begin to come out, some weeks after Christmas, was the series of letters between us that led to Marianne's becoming a contemplative, and eventually, the bane of wicked or sluggish clergy and religious and an advisor to Popes. All of this, of course, was of much more use to God than an anecdote about four young girls in conflict - I forget who won - with a camp cook.
And so, for years, we left it at that. Then, in 1978, six full years after entering the domestic monastery, she was moved to write a short story about a high school football match and its aftermath. She wrote it quickly, shrugged, and put it away in a folder with some letters, and it never turned up again until three weeks ago when Father Matthieu, for reasons unknown to me, asked to see some of the correspondence that had passed between Rome and ourselves. In the course of getting out the relevant folders, MT found the hand-written draft of the story.  She instantly recognized the life, the truth, and the way to put something up on her blog. The rewrite was done in a weekend, and though I am generally against rushing where creation is concerned, I found myself with the good old school teacher/editor's corrective pencil in hand by Sunday night, thoroughly enjoying myself, and the post went up not long after.
She insists she doesn't have another story in her, but then she talked that way about poetry for a long time. We shall see.

Friday, October 22, 2010

High Noon

Remember the great Jimmy Stewart? A lovely actor, almost in all his roles a figure of habitual kindness, a quality not at all constantly easy to effect. The old Westerns from time to time essayed the quality of profound kindness in the gunslinger, the angel of death, thus making him a figure of God.
"Every man owes God a death, and he who pays this year is quit for the next."
This is bold stuff, of course, like most of Shakespeare, but fairly small potatoes when compared to the greater realities of the greater soldiery of the spiritual life, in which every man - or woman, as we must mention in the omnipresent silliness of an age when it is so hard to find a woman who can actually think in symbols - must know that to spiritually die today is by no means to avoid the same thing again tomorrow. Actually, it was a woman who said this, Saint Jane Francis de Chantal, spiritual daughter of Francis de Sales and founder of an order of nuns, the spirit of whom is very hard to find in so many of today's "ladies of the veil", all so eager to destroy the Church as it used to be known.
But we now have a test case, a turning point. Do the nuns begin to come to their senses, and drop their moronic "inclusiveness", actually effeminacy, or do they, like Charlemagne's troublesome Saxons, get backed into some symbolic river, there either to accept baptism or to be drowned? The Saxons, of course, were soldiers, male to the last, and thus having common sense, saw the light. I'm not sure these truculent babes can do the same.
Yep, I had an encounter this morning, right under the vault of our lovely cathedral, following Father Matthieu's last daily mass in our diocese for at least a month, and it had all the earmarks of a classic exorcism. Oh, no, not the kind of a poor possessed soul that has no free will, no control of its faculties, but the other kind, the more important one that  comes from diseased minds defying common sense theology and getting away with it, year after year, decade after decade, until they run into a real theologian, a real prophet, a real vessel of the Seventh Mansion, thus, a real exorcist.
Has the Church ever known so many Jezebels, all running around in civilian clothes and mouthing certain selected phrases from both Scripture and the modern imbeciles who clothe themselves as social scientists? I think not. It's quite a unique phenomenon. An urban myth, a plague all of its own singularity.
And this encounter, because God is immensely fond of anniversaries, happened on the anniversary of John Paul II's elevation to the Papacy. As I used to thump on him, being his spiritual director for an interesting ten years, he must have enjoyed the spectacle of my thumping on the very class of religious sister that gave him  heart burn. Happy anniversary, JP.
The difference between being a gunslinger and an exorcist, mind you, is that while the gunslinger, at least according to the novels and the films, walks away blowing the smoke from his gun barrel, the poor old exorcist spends the ensuing hours utterly overwhelmed with some of the purgatory his client is either facing into or has,  by the exorcist's efforts, avoided.
The crucifix can never go away, nor can the ordeals of passive prayer, of the dark night, from the contemplative.
And neither can the images of the Gospel. Remember Christ, and His whip in the temple? We might yet have such a thing. John Paul said there could be violence erupt out of fiddling with the liturgy, which includes the words of the Mass, many of which have been corrupted by the feminist whoring of the nuns.
In our parish, however, there has been considerable seduction and corruption of the laity, so any broohaha  could be voluminous. I got a hint of this at a recent evening, albeit daily, mass.
But with Father Matthieu off to Rome for a month, we will not be showing up at daily mass. They can putter along without the contemplatives, while the contemplatives return to the cathedral after a five week engagement in Kaslo, for the weekend mass, and take it from there.
Get used to it people, the new translation of the mass is coming, and as the Church never tires of insisting, the liturgy is the ultimate public teacher.
It wasn't actually high noon, being about 9:10 a.m., but certainly the guns were blazing. And I had no idea the incident would take place when I began this post! The Muse is most interesting.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Boxing Has Its Hour

At the moment, everything is going so well that it almost seems contumacious to bring up the bad patches of the past. For one thing, five trips to Kaslo, three of them in the blazing sunshine of autumn, along one of North America's widely acknowledged premier motor cycle routes, have been an unforgettable gift, yet all in the service of getting the Mass said as it needs to be, on the weekend, in even the most remote corners of the earth. Kaslo is not really that remote, but set amongst our minor Himalayas as it is, it often gives that impression, and contemplative that I am I have to trouble meditating on such a resemblance. After all, its surrounding mountains have to be seen to be understood, and twenty miles to the south, and across the lake, there also stands Swami Sivinanda Radha's gift to the Kootenays and the universe, the Yasodhara Ashram. In this context, the Almighty tends to come on like Joe Louis, had Joe's lethal gloves been loaded with spiritual intimations.
I think of Joe, of course, because the reason we have gone to Kaslo for five lovely late Saturday afternoon masses is because it is an opportunity to spend time with a Capuchin priest born, raised, and theologically instructed, in the Congo. Father Matthieu Gombo Yange is therefore black, at a time when, thanks to various forces, not the least of which is a pretty well universal admittance of the fact that the people who were once the preferential option for slaves have become one of the very, very, obvious preferential options for artistic and spiritual excellence. Here in North America we are all very well aware of the physical genius of black athletes, and the artistic genius of black actors and musicians. Matthieu probably could have been either of these, or maybe both. Every time we give each other a hug, I feel the muscles in his shoulders, and he has told us he has played Balthazar at Christmas pageants. I also remember the summer of 1956, when I realized I could figure out the chords to the songs on the Harry Belafonte record in the fraternity house I was living in while I worked as a reporter for the Vancouver Sun. But Matthieu was keen on the Franciscan priesthood from his boyhood, and we are all the more blessed because of his choice.
Matthieu has been around for over three months this year, all in our cathedral parish as well as the adjunct missions, because the regular pastor was on sick leave, in need of a heart operation. Father returns to Rome in a week to do the final work on his doctoral dissertation, and then returns in time for Advent in Trail, where once again and even more so his skill in Italian will be appreciated.
I realize, of course, for rather a number of decades, all over the world, blacks as well as other hues of the human rainbow have been proving that they are just as capable of filling the highest office open to the sons of men; so why am I so appreciative of what is so merely ordinary to so many others, and has been for some time?
Because the Kootenays are very much paleface, and Nelson is the palest of all, with never even a population of permanent native Indians of its own, and having lost its resident First Nations neighbours to a Jesuit reserve in the state of Washington in the 19th century. Least of all has it known emigrants from Africa, as that modest number who did come by way of the southern states to British Columbia settled on the south coast.
But it was only in general that I was not long a resident of Nelson, an immigrant myself, that I decided that one of the things wrong with the place was that it contained neither enough Jews or Blacks to consider itself any sort of a truly cosmopolitan culture. Now, we have a lot more sons of Moses than we used to, God bless us, and a small handful of the darkest race God gave out to fill the human palette, but I never imagined that my observations on the sociological mix of the locale, obviously overheard in Heaven, would land us the presence of a priest, and especially not a priest with the natural and spiritual abilities to be the first black minister general of the Capuchins, or even better, the first black Pope.
Matthieu will thank me for none of this, of course. For one thing, his cousin, Jean Bertan, his provincial back in the Congo, will begin worrying about his ego. This is always the responsibility of superiors and spiritual directors, naturally. But I happen to hate, despise, loathe, condemn, consign to the Devil, all forms of racism, so I naturally like to take advantage of any and all opportunities to give it a thrashing any time and place the opportunity arises. And then there is the fact that if Matthieu gets too big for his boots, even if he is thirty years younger than I am, they can always send him back to deal with the upper levels of the mansions. He has done a little work on John of the Cross, and until proven wrong, I am willing to assume that the Capuchins still know how to teach ascetic and mystical theology. I can talk the phenomena of mysticism with Father M. more easily than I have been able to with any Canadian priest except his bishop, also, as my readers know, a Capuchin.
And now we are ready to deal with that  horrific example of another kind of Franciscan, the Atonement father that Emmett Doyle took on as the president of Nelson's little Catholic university, the womanizing Aquinas Thomas. Only when we see the good, do we fully, clearly, understand the iniquity of the bad. The deadly hand of Providence, even if it seems to take forever, eventually shows up in its steel gauntlet.
Steel is a good image. It would seem to be essential to the gauntlet that is closing in on more priests from than lamentable era.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Side Two

I suppose that there was a certain amount of symbolism, about this prophet business; I mean, in the simple fact that when Shawn and I arrived at the stage set up in the middle of the north side of the gym-auditorium in Maryhall, that even though Eva Blondell had been singing for the students many months before we had - as we in fact had not yet sung for them at all -  she insisted that I had to take up the responsibilities of master of ceremonies, simply because I was the oldest of the performers. Then she must have handed me a list, because I wound up knowing the names of all the other guests, even though I had never met any of them before, although by the time the evening was over, I certainly knew we had landed in the midst of a formidable array of ability, and no small lesson in how much I still needed to learn about music, yet without any hint whatsoever of how long it would be, and how far past the clean up of the clerical abuser problem, before I could get on with the conclusions of the research. (How sweet it is, now, finally, to know what the sum and what the parts thereof, and especially to see these as originally designed by the Father of numbers. And fingers.)
So there I stood behind the microphone, a little surprised, but having been a teacher, singer, and actor on and off over the previous half-dozen years, not uncomfortable. I probably thought it would have been nice to have had some warning, so I could better prepare, but in the retrospect of the decades since that night, and given that if there is any role which works its best in inverse proportion for the amount of time granted for a scripted rehearsal of the human variety, it is the prophet's. Artlessness in the ordinary sense is of the essence, for it is really the prophet's Muse's input that will get the job done, not some mere human exercise, no matter how crafty. We had prepared our set list with care, of course, pondering our first college audience, and taping it to the shoulder of my guitar, my dear old Harmony Jumbo, in they event of the mind being numbed in the face of a such a full house.
Our set was probably four or five numbers, but I can now only recall two. I was going to swank out on a number learned only within the past year, Ewan McColl's epic Shoals of Herring, which he had written for a BBC documentary on the herring fleet, and which I had been mightily inspired to learn from the Clancy Brothers equally epic recording. And I must confess that with such a well resonating guitar, Shawn's backup, and a full-court press on my lungs and diaphragm from the Muse, I did indeed swank. I really could see the North Sea and the gleaming nets, and I had no intention of letting down the fleet. There are times when I think that work songs are completely in a class by themselves, and those four or five minutes were one of those times. (That song has a lot of verses.)
The astute reader can easily see why Shoals had made the list. But how come Silver Dagger? And where had we learned it? Google research tells me that Joan Baez had cut it by 1960, and Peter, Paul, and Mary by 1963, and yet my personal recollections suggest a genuine Appalachian voice as our instructor. Jean Ritchie? John Jacob Niles? But at any rate we both found the words and the music irresistible and Shawn had the song in the palm of her hand. I loved the poetry and the dark drama appealed to the actor in me. Shawn, meanwhile, had a certain personal relationship with the story, in that her mother, although not for the same reasons, and never actually taking up a knife, had not initially been pleased with her daughter's choice of a husband. (Violet had nicely relented by the time she was a grandmother of one, and I had plainly fallen in love with any classroom in a Catholic school.)
It was, of course, Shawn's song to lead, as the lyrics come from the mouth of a female. I don't think I made any mistakes on the chords, and she probably had most, if not all, the words to herself. She didn't really need any help to put the song across, and I was by no means the instinctive genius on bass harmonies with her that she was with alto on my presentations.
In retrospect, this was one of the most significant moments in the history of Nelson, and possibly, if you believe in the power of prayer, in the modern history of the Roman Catholic Church. There she was, the local girl, who had honed so many of her talents in Nelson, come back to start dealing, even if unwittingly, with the modern scourge of the Church. She was, after all, a mother, and years later it was she the police would call when they were looking for information on Father Monaghan's assaults on young girls, and it would be her husband who, initially designated as a spiritual director for John Paul II, went on to rain relevant information on priestly abuse on the roof of Saint Peter's. Moreover, there was already a subtle confrontation happening between our house and the diseased will of the Reverend Aquinas Thomas, S.A. Once we were both cast in the university production of Othello, we had invited an older student to move into our little spare bedroom and nanny the rug rats when we were away at the numerous rehearsals. It was university procedure that Clarice had to explain her reasons for moving off campus to the president. He gave her permission but also took it upon himself to advise here that there was "something wrong" with our marriage. This may have been because the first time Shawn ever laid eyes on him, in our very first weeks on the hill, at some minor function or another, she got the feeling, as she told me, that she couldn't trust him, and he probably got the message. He was by no means stupid, in the natural sense.
Neither of us had at the moment any consciousness of the weight of it all, of course. Like any detective starting out  on a case, we were woefully empty of the pertinent information, just as ignorant, according to a recent statement of the current Pope, as the Vatican. But this does not interfere in any way with the omniscient view of the Almighty and his angels, and they were having a field day of note taking, which now, with no little show of extraordinary activity, they share with your humble scribe.
As I had been designated MC, I suspect our set was fairly well along in the programme, if not the end bit. Certainly if one was setting up a film script, that is how it would be scheduled, because the next striking image was not an aural one, but a visual, that of the face of the college president, the priest, standing with  a group of his teachers. The hootenanny was over, and there was an intermission while the band set up to play for the dance. The professors were talking, he was looking profoundly thoughtful as I walked by, and I could only think that I had been the cause, although I could not then connect the dots. The contemplative life, even when it involves quite radical activity, so often takes decades to explain how all the incidents fit together. And how different our thoughts! I was thinking about all the wonderful folk singers I was meeting in spite of such a disappointing faculty, while he had been made to recollect his sins against chastity, no light burden for anyone, but especially for a priest, a man of particularly solemn vows.
In hindsight, it is easy enough to see, which is why God made novelists and historians, so on rainy Sunday afternoons, like this one, we read to acquire the wisdom for the next nasty patch that the universe serves up as it unfolds.
"The play's the thing, wherein we catch the conscience of the king."
Likewise a good folk song.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

As John Paul Said

In the process of getting up my new chops with John Henry Newman's Lead, Kindly Light, I have discovered an amazing coincidence. I wouldn't go so far at this point to call this concatenation of labels the kind of association which Aristotle insists is a sign of genius, but I do find it too utterly delightful to be ignored, to go unstated. This is the fact that the tune for Newman's soul searching words - better, his God searching words - is called Sandon.
Newman, although he was a violinist as well as a theologian, did not himself write the melody. This was done, along with the arrangement, by one Charles Henry Purday. Did they joke with each other about having the same middle name? Purday was virtually a precise contemporary, and, for the moment, I have no idea where he got the name for his lovely little tune. But I do know that Sandon is also a ghost town, once a thriving mining camp, half-way along the Kaslo - New Denver highway, and I have even been there a number of times. The first occasion was in 1969, in August, when my friend and fellow folk musician Eric Johnson drove us through on our way up the Forestry road that led to the summit of Idaho Peak, at that time of the year,  a multi-acred park of wild flowers, continually made famous around the world by post cards.
This was not simply a ramble through our magnificent outback, or yet a  look into a location of the mining industry that had opened up the West Kootenay to rest of the world, but some quite necessary R and R marking the winding down of a period of very demanding social and spiritual work I had been put to after leaving the classroom. I think Eric knew I had been mightily under the gun, and that a day in the hills would be a most healthy antidote. But it was also a bit of a celebration, as we had been able by that time to find our next place to live, our third  in Nelson, and as those quarters were to feature a great deal of work in music, in recording as well as performance, the celebration was in the way of being in advance of those events. Eric was in fact a big part of all that music that was to come, just as he had been a big part of my surprising education as to the larger truth of the reasons I had been so inspired to come to Nelson, after my shocking realizations over the true state of the leadership in the diocese. Certain clergy were not worth knowing, except for the sake of doing God's will by trying to save their souls whereas Eric and a number his fellow indigenous musicians certainly were excellent company, instructive to my decidedly amateur self as well as consoling. Folk music was not only entertaining and a swift way to make new and satisfying friends, but it also offered more truth and integrity than a number of performances in local pulpits.
It also offered a threat and a warning to one of the major ring leaders of the Catholic leadership cabal of those days, even without my realizing it at the time. God and His providence are always at least a little bit incomprehensible in the hour of the events He provokes and promotes.

Don't sing love songs, you'll wake my mother,
She's sleeping here, right by my side,
In her right hand is a silver dagger,
She's vowed that I'll not be your bride.

My Daddy is a handsome devil,
He's got a chain that's five miles long,
From every link there's a heart that dangles,
Of another girl he's loved and wronged.

The autumn of 1964 I recall as full of the best of an Indian summer in the Kootenays, with an initial few weeks of the simple joys of the academic life to be found on any campus, mingled with the the intellectual pleasures of a Catholic campus at least theoretically connected with the wisdom of the Scriptures and the great and incomparable Fathers and Doctors of the Church. Briefly, especially with all the precise and lovely practical connections with settling back into her old home town that had worked out for Shawn and me, I thought I had come to an earthly paradise, where all our talents would be able to flourish according to all those demands set by Christ in the Gospels. We were fast making friends among the students, as well as connecting - reconnecting in Shawn's case - with her old friends, and we were both cast in a Shakespeare play. The experiences of Terrace's opportunities in culture were rolling forward, and it seemed only a matter of time until more of my original insights from the Holy Spirit came to fruition.
And yet the Holy Spirit, intervening in his usual fashion, had begun as well as inviting me to note the glories of the autumn landscape and the startling energy of the local culture, to think of the awesome strictures of the prophets of the Bible, and had begun to point out in no uncertain terms that whatever earlier flirtations I had experienced with the idea of being a prophet had  now become serious indeed. For one thing, the senior instructor in theology, Father Gilbert Kershaw, a retired Scripture professor, master of an unthinkable number of languages, from England and in our corner of the universe via his relationship with a brother, and engineer at Cominco in Trail, had one afternoon looked at most meaningfully while he discoursed  on Jeremiah; and on other occasions, especially on Sunday afternoons at home, in our house two blocks up the hill from the Cathedral, I was much moved to digest Ezekiel, especially in the passages wherein God told him he would be punished if he failed to warn the sinner. This was by no means the first time I had put long hours into studied the Book of Books, and I had earlier sometimes mused over the idea of the prophet's role, but never as I can recall at the same time as being told it was about to become something of an actual job.
I can't say that I rejoiced in the prospect. For one thing - and this is the most important - real prophets never do, because it's a miserable life, or more accurately, a segment of life. Prophecy, unlike mysticism, is not a habit. Thank heaven. If it were, the prophet would be habitually miserable, like a parent who could do nothing else with his children except punish them, or a priest who could never see anything in his parish but constant mortal sin. Fortunately it comes and goes, at God's will, and when the prophet is not in the prophetical mood, which is most of the time, not  only is life much more pleasant, but he can hardly believe he ever had what it took to take on any section of mankind for its wretched defiance of one or more of the Almighty's common sense directions.
It was especially on Sunday afternoons that I seemed drawn to the prophetical section, read them all, but was especially struck by God's warning to Ezekiel about going down with the sinner that he failed to warn.
"This means you," was unavoidable. Yet there was no accompanying specific image of address, nor would there be for months to come, in fact a full year. Nonetheless, I read, I pondered, and I watched the days unfold.
I had got to know Eric very early on in my short-lived career on the campus. He was part of a duo, who sang very well together, and they were headliners at a big banquet given to honour the formal opening of Maryhall, the combination gym, cafeteria, and as it was to turn out, concert hall and arena of the voice of rebuke, even though that would be unknown at the time to the rebukers. Eric and a young lady named Eva Blondell, from Vancouver Island, rendered up a ripping version of  the old Gospel-Folk standard, When the Stars Begin to Fall. Actually, that too was something of a prophetical warning, because Eric especially held a place in the register of those who, as singers in the folk tradition, those who play just as meaningful a role as the court jester, send out messages to the people in power, either in Church or State. And Eva had a voice that cut, as the critics say, to the heart of the issue. It was a magnificant performance, and as a musician I had no alternative but to make acquaintance as swiftly as possible, if only because this performance seemed to be solid evidence of the reality of the things to come I had experienced in my brief career on the new television station in Terrace.
The acquaintance was struck, there was much discussion about the talents in the area and the delight Shawn and I could expect from joining forces with it, and quite swiftly the idea of a grand Hootenanny was conceived. Eric was also the drummer in a campus band called "The Gents", and a very sound plot decreed that the local folk singers would throw a concert to be followed by a dance featuring the band.
That's probably quite enough for one bedtime story. Tune in next week, the Muse permitting. Or maybe tomorrow, the same authorities applying.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

The End of the Drought

So the Pope is about to go to Great Britain to beatify John Henry Newman, and the Holy Ghost has unlocked my wrists - so I can write after weeks of journalist's silence - and this morning at Mass he took his hands off my throat so I could at least sing Stephen Somerville's Gloria. (The rest of the music was from a book of singular wretchedness.) Somerville's piece is not great, and certainly not Gregorian, but it's light years away from that monstrosity of David Haas', brought years ago to Nelson by a former bishop.
All of this in the wake of two Saturdays of masses at  the north end of the lake, up in Sacred Heart church in Kaslo, a little town of stunning views of the Purcell Mountains and all sorts of wonderful events in my own personal history of the Kootenays, yet lacking its own resident pastor. It is thus served from Nelson, by a priest who must drive 40 miles each way. We are mightily blessed this summer with the presence of Father Matthieu Gombo Yange - not only ofm cap, but also, now, with a doctorate from the Lateran - for an entire three months. (Our regular pastor is undergoing quite extensive heart surgery.) Growing up in the western Congo - his people the Ngbaka, who left the southern Sudan in the 19th century to escape the slave traders - he is not used to our mountain roads, and especially to the bluffs at Coffee Creek, and likes company, especially company, like MT, who can share the driving responsibilities.Well, actually, he is getting better at the bluffs, but we all appreciate the opportunity to talk real theology, and share a small picnic-on-the-move on the way back.
Also, as we have discovered, the little choir in Sacred Heart likes to sing to the good old hymns, so Mass in Kaslo is something to look forward to, not an ordeal to be endured and sworn at. They are a sweet little group to sing with, and actually a bit of school for myself, for I had trouble the first week with some of the high notes, and was thus sent back to the drawing board to discover, or rather rediscover, the special qualities of the OO vowel. Given how it has to be placed in the very top centre of the hard palate to get resonance, it has a unique pedagogical function all its own. The Lord of the keyboard hasn't cared too much about my singing skills for a long time, all in the programme of getting the chops with the ivories, but now that I'm getting more and more free from the accumulated idiocies of the publishers and conservatories, and more fully understanding the force of the ancient formula - all knowledge comes through the senses - He lets the welkin under my skull from time to time actually ring.
Given the usual precision of western art and science, it becomes more and more amazing how incredibly stupid the study of fingering has become since the days when the traditional three fingers were traded in for five. That there should be wars over the obvious, once you get down to method, is ridiculous, and to hear even of concert pianists boasting that they do not use "orthodox" fingering makes one think of the men in white coats and clip boards, who actually might be a very good thing for music education.
Newman has a place in all this, because once upon a time he wrote a rather nice hymn, "Lead, Kindly Light", which I have referred to earlier, although I was only able to do so not because I had actually sung the piece, but had read of it in some note or other on England's most famous convert. I found it in the Adoremus hymnal a few days ago and, as with the choir in Kaslo and singing, quickly learned that it gave me some very nice opportunities to expand my understanding, this time of fingering. There is a frequent employment of a fifth in the left hand, for example, which is much the best served by using the thumb with the index, something I had never really explored before. This coincided nicely with the insights I have picked up from the summer's work with the Moonlight Sonata, leading to some very nice drills in sixths and fifths in either hand. A little organizing and you get a very lovely drill in four part harmony, as a local writer of some substance discovered the other day when she dropped by to deliver some copies of her latest to my wife.
"That sounds pretty," she said to Marianne when she answered the door.
"Just Ken's scale studies,"  said MT.
I should add that these fifths and sixths are made entirely with the index and little finger, thus providing a good study in the stretching that C.P.E Bach insists should begin as soon as possible. A lot of my anxieties have come in past years in not clearly understanding how the stretching can be graded in over the developing years from childhood up and at the same time provide clear instruction in the grasp of the numbers and the solfage. The anxieties have passed.
Back to work with Tim McDaniel yesterday, and I was delighted to see that he now has a five octave keyboard. He is thus the first student to tuck into the four notes at a time, over a two-octave spread, programme, and he not only ate it up, but loved the sound. The teacher was also pleased to see that he is soundly locked into feeling his way entirely by the numbers.
And, as the explorer keeps finding out, there is an anomaly or two in all this. While the fifths and sixths work infallibly with what I call fixed distance fingering as long as the patterns are completely uniform, that is, fifths only in the left, and sixths only in the right, as soon as the pianist applies a routine to ensure just major, or just minor, scales, for the best sound he suddenly needs a fourth when setting up the harmony for the third note of the scale. Thus, five - one in the left, with five - three in the right. Tim hasn't had this one yet, but he'll love it when we get to it. Teaching an engineer is a study in intelligent design, of the mind as well as of creation.
Will the British be as docile, so open to the higher science, that Benedict is about to bring them?
And then there was last week's  music lesson with Father Matthieu, on the rectory piano. Being raised in the former Belgian Congo, where the imported language is French, he has a grasp of solfage, which gives him a leg up on the Prussian mentality of the letters, and as I trashed the brown book - which I had in tow - and explained the massive printing options of its successors, I would seemed to have received the blessing of the always very practical as well as spiritual Franciscan mind set.
There is something enormously powerful in that two-octave drill, although I've only slightly begun to tap into it, and am far from having it capture all the modes and keys. But the day is coming.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

The Final Read

Like any man who wants to get anything done, I have my routines, largely Benedictine in nature. I'm almost canonical in the way I keep the hours of the day - and night - and this routine is only disturbed or set aside for the most important reasons. It has to be pretty clear that it is God who inspiring me to alter the human rule. From midnight to noon, for instance, is reserved for theology, meditation, and music research, as far as the mind is concerned, and lighter mental stuff for after lunch, which also means more often than not for after the nap which replaces the sleep lost in the very early risings. The evening is taken up with dishes, a dvd, a little more music practice, the bath, and the last readings of the day, that is, evening prayer in the divine office and something additional, in the last several months, a children's story. Recently, I finished the Arthur Ransome list from a to z and then for the first time in my life, took on Noel Streatfeild.
The set time for reading the Nelson Daily News, an afternoon paper in its last years, was before supper, although as our delivery boy for the past three or four years has been a very active all seasons athlete, his games sometimes put the News off until just after supper. He is a great kid and I'll miss him. I had assumed his little brother would take over when he moved on, as was the case with the Vancouver Province route that passed from me to my younger brother. The little guy has occasionally been relief man, if Dylan's games were out of town.
But for the last week of NDN, as it's summer holiday time, I didn't see either of the lads. An older man took their place and his schedule varied over the last five days. Once or twice before lunch, another time so late I did not find the paper until the next morning.
On the final day, Friday, I only found it on the top step - not the mail box where Dylan always put it - after the evening entertainment was over and the household had begun winding itself toward sleep.
But there was not simply the final edition of something that had been part of my life since 1964, there was also a mood. A spiritual mood. Something from You Know Who. I was actually pleased that the paper had shown up when it did and went off to the cell so I could leaf through it by myself.
For one thing, it was the last chance at seeing if the editor had decided to print what would be my last letter to the News, after more than forty years of writing in it, to it, or just plain appearing because of a play or other cultural activity. I had rendered a few words toward the prospect of rousing community interest in a successor. But the letter did not show up. Thus my letters-to-the-editor career ended as it had begun. In the spring of 1965, still utterly bemused by the leadership of the diocese and the university, I had taken pen to paper, waited for many days, then trotted down to the editor himself and retrieved it. I also forgot about it for years, until 1988 as a matter of fact, when I a reporter for the Province that I was backgrounding on the predatory Father Monaghan told me I had "known all along and done nothing about it!" In a few days the memory of the letter came back to me and I told the reporter about it. 
In the towns we lived in after Vancouver - Alert Bay, Ocean Falls, Terrace - there was no such thing as a daily newspaper. The first two communities were simply too small, and while Terrace was similar in population, this had happened only recently, and there had never been an impetus for a daily journal. I rarely read the weekly and I think I only remember it because it possessed on its staff a very fine amateur actress who I was on stage with in the Chalk Garden. I can recall being mildly surprised that the Terrace press should be so modest, UBC, with a not too much larger population, could boast a tri-weekly.
When I arrived in Nelson I became aware of the existence of a daily immediately, and knew it would be a significant part of my time here, that it would record to some degree the presence of prophecy and theology in the Kootenays, although I did not foresee then that so much of the presence would have to do with the arts. Nor did I foresee that an even greater coverage, I think, would be given to my beloved, through all her own work with the museum, and her weekly column. Her column, on heritage, was collected by some of the readers, and the advertising person told Shawn it helped sell ad space. It may also have made some readers feel more comfortable about her husband.
But because she worked at the museum after 1983, and because the museum was the place where they kept the old NDN's, bound in green or gray bindings, some months to a volume. I could easily walk in and turn over the pages dealing with earlier times. Not too often, mind you, for I could too easily get involved with the old days, which were the provenance of other writers, and try to think up stories about them, whereas my legitimate area was more current, and definitely more theological than anything in those pages. But once, just before I had occasion to write to the Vatican, I found on the table where the curator was indexing back issues, a pair of volumes decades apart. I browsed in both, and found that God was out to make a point about purgatory.
I took them in chronological order, and found the older edition, from before the First World War, full of the names of people who, as far as I could spiritually intuit, were in heaven and did not need praying for. But the more modern issues, from the 30s and 40s, were a different story. Ouch. As I basically like the human race, this made me grateful that I was a contemplative, and could help the poor blighters move along. And, of course it also made me grateful for the power of the Mass, which is even more effective.I am not suggesting, of course, that every name in the paper was that of a soul still locked up in spiritual purgation. There may in fact have been only one soul that was still in that situation, or perhaps the relevant symbol was merely the time factor, universally indicated. God had said to me previously: "Nelson is nothing but symbolic." Therefore everything in Nelson, like anything mentioned in Scripture, has to be taken with a grain of interpretation.
Thus it made sense, I suppose, that my final reading of the News should be a distillation of the spiritual history of the area and a wonderfully sweet and consoling realization of all the grace and mercy God and his angels had conferred on it for the last baker's dozen of a century.
Nelson Daily News, and all its staff and readers over the decades, rest in peace.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

The Houston Rocket

A poet friend of mine told me some years ago, quite a while before I had anything to do with the Internet, that the CIA and other intelligence agencies simply loved the expanding technology because it made their work so easy. No more pounding the streets, wire-tapping, information pay-outs, and so on, simply because the growing habit of universal communication via computer enabled them to eavesdrop without ever leaving the office. And I think I've even had a little experience of technological surveillance myself, in spite of having nothing to do with anything such people would be interested in. I once used the word "San Francisco" in a telegram to Rome, and had a sense of being shadowed for an instant for doing so. I searched around for clues and learned that city is the headquarters of the American Sixth Army. Enough said.
So now, tapping in the working title of the hoped-for revival of a daily paper in Nelson, I have to stick my tongue in my cheek and wonder who will be searching my script for intentions threatening to the space and defense processes of my neighbour to the south.
Sorry, guys, to put you to work, but Nelson has historical rights to this name, dating from a time when that big bustling centre in Texas was little more than a market town, perhaps just getting into the oil business.
John Houston, originally from Ontario, was the first mayor of Nelson, and founded the Miner, the original ancestor of the Nelson Daily News. He was a feisty character, moving here and there with his portable printing press over the course of his adult life, starting up a hydro electric plant in Nelson and fighting with the Canadian Pacific Railway in Prince Rupert.I have no idea what a printing press cost in those days.
Certainly the only one I've ever been intimate with - and I knew it very well - was the hot lead machines at College Printers, on Tenth Avenue in Point Grey, where The Ubyssey found its way into print three times a week, could hardly be moved about at whim by a publisher busy shaking the dust off his sandals in political frustration, or heading off to fields of greener opportunities. In the heady days of the opening of West, it seems, a newspaper publisher moved as easily as a reporter, so I don't think his press was very expensive.
Now, the computer - much cheaper than a press - has both recreated and reversed the process. The publisher of a blog has a freedom to operate at will without moving at all, and in fact his information flies about the world at the click of a mouse.
This gives me opportunities and an audience John Houston could never have dreamed of. Yet, to be honest, to pay our dues to those who went before, it would seem to be wretched behaviour not to honour his original input, his ability to do the best with what he had, and perhaps above all, in this case, his distaste for bullies like the CPR in Prince Rupert. Moreover, there is also the incontrovertible fact that the journalist tradition he began in Nelson has served the community well for over a century, and with a little nudging here and there, has been of great use to the development of art and culture in the recent era.
But, given the number of writers in the area, was it ever really literate enough? I know as a certain fact that it was not, but then that is a problem of newspapers generally. I have been in a unique position to research this issue and have found all papers guilty, world wide, including, believe it or not, L'Osservatore Romano. The magazines have also drawn a significant blank. And, now through the Net, they are all undergoing a certain chastisement, although not all as severely, for the moment at least, as the Daily News.
Journalism, it has been said, is history on the run. That is a very valid title, and it is valid because journalism has its own Muse. I experienced it constantly when I  was a staffer on the Ubyssey, and it was also there in the offices of the Vancouver Sun, although the Sun somehow lacked some of the intellectual and poetic elements that actually dominated, I would say, the college paper. Working newspapermen are generally a little too fond of their worldly wisdom, like a good number of their advertisers.
In Nelson, as in most places, I would have to say this was rarely not a problem.
Will it be taken care of by any new Phoenix, or Rocket, that rises from the ashes?
Which takes me back to the topic sentence which has yet to see the light of day. Dan Nicholson, of the Valley Voice, tells me that a Web press costs only $150,000. In this town, beer money. What it could produce would be worth an enormously greater amount, especially in terms other than monetary.
But only if it conceived its role as being something other than a provider of information, and only if its publisher could see that genuine intelligence, even wisdom, was a better bottom line than a balance sheet. I respect the balance sheet, and always have, but I've never thought it an object worthy of worship. 

Saturday, July 10, 2010


Of what is an incredibly beautiful paint job in the front hall symbolic? When you are a contemplative, the littlest changes in life have a moderate significance, so the big changes have a huge one. I hear that there will be photographs going out about this striking new feature to the Silica Street premises, from the roving cameric eye of MT, and no blogger worthy of the name could ignore such an opportunity to swank out on his and others' skill with a paint brush. (And no small degree of adroitness at keeping his feet out of the roller tray. Old eyes with cataracts are a disaster looking for an opportunity.)
When we moved into our final Nelson house, the fifth, in 1975, we knew we were settled, and we knew we had landed ourselves into a property which had every advantage except a decor satisfactory to the critical norms of the middle class. Any doubts anyone might have had on this score were utterly swept away by my parents, who while they generously wished to help us buy a house and get settled, definitely did not think this one suitable. It simply looked too scruffy, both outside and in, and I could not disagree with such a critical opinion. From a strictly visual point of view it really was down at the heels according to the norms of better homes and gardens, and my mother, when she bravely came up on the bus in November of 1975, ostensibly to see her son play Matthew in the university theatre department production of Anne of Green Gables - sold-out audiences for fifteen performances - scurried around town with real estate agents in search of a house that, to her, seemed like an improvement. It took me a while to catch on to what she was up to, and I was delighted, of course, with her concern for our welfare, but I knew after two months in this house that it was exactly what we needed, no matter what it looked like on the surface.
At that time, I had never heard of Warren Buffet, but I certainly knew how to think like him, otherwise I would never have settled in Nelson. Find something worth investing in, even though it seems to lack the glamour of the moment in the eyes of the world, and get it up and running.In Nelson, things were up and running indeed in 75. They were lining up for Jaws at the Civic Theatre, and lining up for Anne of Green Gables at Saint Martin's Hall theatre space at the college. My mother was stunned by the performance, and convinced that though neither she nor her husband completely understood their oldest son, he was deserving of a modest degree of financial backing. Besides, he and his wife had provide them with a complete six-pack of lovely grandchildren, and they too were worth making secure amongst the tumult of the world and its vicissitudes.
So, when they came up in the summer, making their annual pilgrimage to the land of the contemplatives and their puzzling ways - on some days, it's impossible to believe that Luther and Calvin are not frying in Hell for their unspeakable perversions of Christ's impeccable creative instincts - out came the cheque for the down payment and off flew our worries, to a degree, over the future. A dump to some eyes, maybe, but a dump that worked. A roof, a yard - with trees - a place to eat, sleep, and bring home your friends, within walking or biking distance of everything that mattered: what more do you need, especially when your parents have absolutely no illusions about the privations in which millions and millions of the world's other children have to live? (Even in Canada, where so many of the poor little buggers are given nothing of the arts or religion.)
To me, the lack of cosmetic perfection was simply a reminder of these salient points of consideration. Yes, it is the world's ugliest entrance to a home, almost award winning in its third world aspects, and one day it will most certainly be straightened out, but for the moment it is a provocative symbol of all sorts of things, possibly a lot of which your utterly Thomistic and mystical father as no bloody sense of whatsoever. Suck it up, and enjoy the view of the West Arm. There are million dollar homes in the city of your father's birth that don't have a view like that.
And of course fixing up that hall, and all the other things that needed attention, would have cost money. No one in Nelson that I knew was giving paint away, and any money beyond rent, food, and clothing went for music and dance lessons and so forth. And equally significant, God was not giving me the grace to do what my very practical and tradesmanly skillful father would have done.
Mind you, the hall was not initially as scabrous as it later became. There was a sort-of wall board covering the v-joint, something or other over the broken plaster of the ceiling, a big closet for coats and boots, and hundreds of our books instantly went up along the east wall on a readily taken apart and put back together  bookcase built a couple of houses back by a live-in friend. It had been his room and board for a month. In other words, the hall functioned, just as the house and its location functioned.
Eventually, the big cupboard moved to the porch, where it remains, but without its sliding doors that were always coming off the track. This was possible once we'd moved the master bedroom from that spot. The cupboard had partially hidden a spot in the wall where there had once been a door, and now there became a door again, thus allowing a much better passage of air on hot summer nights as they cooled. In a flurry of inspiration that followed a major overhaul of the dining room, the v-joint was uncovered, with the intention of attention, but that was stalled.
In 1992, our oldest son's wife died, her double-lung heart transplant having kept her alive for just over a year.
Because the hall also served as the staircase to the second floor, in a hundred-year old house that was built in the days of the high ceilings, we told the families that when the hall was restored to its original grandeur we would use its lofty reaches to hang some of the painting collection, and name our little gallery after her.
Mind you, I did not foresee that as the hall was refurbished our local daily paper would be sent down the drain. The press gang currently owned by David Black has just bought out its western rival in smaller publications, Glacier, and its first decision was to close the papers that have been losing significant amounts of money. As my oldest had just started full time reporting with the Prince Rupert daily, I had an early tip as soon as she heard the insiders' news, but I found it a little hard to believe that Black and his boys could think they could wipe out a daily in as town as culturally active as Nelson. Or as wealthy. The money safely banked in this burgh could buy Black and his little empire out three or four times over.
I've already had the offer of investment in a Web press, whatever that is, and offered, through the pages of the last week of the current daily, have recommended that Mr. Black take another look at the community. I don't think his scouts brought home the real intelligence. Not a good beginning for someone in the reporting business.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Bread on the Waters

When I left my comfortable, leisurely, clerical post at the Nelson Land Registry Office in the last week of January, 1972, I had no idea that one of the tasks that lay ahead of me was the resolution of problems in music education. Part of my reason for leaving was indeed music: I was part of a production company that had recently put two dozen recorded folk music programmes on local radio, and with the new laws of the Canadian Radio and Television Committee coming into effect, requiring a substantial percentage of Canadian content in any broadcast north of the 49th, thought we were heading into our next step, some pretty serious record production. My part in this enterprise was to be that of a singer, rhythm guitarist,  possibly a composer, and most certainly a producer; but I was by no means a master as either a voice or instrumentalist coach, nor had it occurred to me that I would ever have to become such. And, much more important than all this, I had a novel to write, the fourth version of my earliest plot. It was time to leave the civil service and become a full time artist. I needed this for my own sake, and my artistic community needed me for its sake. Nelson and its surrounding area seemed to be exploding with creative intelligence on a professional scale, and I could see myself only as a negligent and cowardly bystander if I did not put every energy to supporting this bid for national and international attention.
And the Almighty certainly put his own peculiar stamp on the decision. In my last weeks in the office I suddenly began to experience stomach pains, the precise variety of which had previously been diagnosed by our family doctor as the prologue to an ulcer. This had been a full two years earlier, when the solution to the ulcer threat had been telling a teen-ager - not our own - that if she was not going to obey our rules she would have to leave.
 At that time we had filled up a number of extra corners in our third Nelson house with young people who seemed to need our roof and dinner table. My father picked up an ulcer from the mental stress of his job, when I was a university student, and I swore to myself that I would never get one. So the young lady had to go, and obviously so did the job. Or more accurately, what I really was leaving was the frustrations of not being able to use all the information and skills on behalf of promoting the arts and the artists I had become familiar with in almost a decade in Nelson.
I did in fact write the novel, all 800 manuscript pages, in five months, and for a little while it looked as if Jack McClelland might publish it. But he did not, and neither did anyone else. And the music production company divided into a pair of factions and co-operation and continued production became impossible. The novel took five months to write, instead of the three I had budgeted for, because I changed the plot from the previous version. I was able to borrow a month's living from the bank, for the fourth month, but the fifth and what was more and more appearing clearly as the subsequent months, had to be welfare.
To my surprise, my father thought it a good idea. He not only supported this approach, he suggested it, from his earthly level, thus agreeing with what God said at some point as I was pondering the next step. "Don't expect me to work miracles and cover the ceiling with gold coins. Get on Welfare. That's what it's there for."
My father had not mentioned gold coins, but only that he was not going to lend us a couple of thousand dollars, and we should do what so many others did, get it off the government. I had his blessing, as it were, to arrange my own version of a Canada Council grant.
The welfare situation, in fact, had already been provided for, on the personal basis, by a little social work that our household had already undertaken a few years earlier, being of assistance to the local office over two  young people, one a little boy, the other a teen-age girl. I was on good terms with the head of the office, even though up to that point, we had never met. We had done all our business over the phone, simply through the human voice. He had readily understood that I could not help but be useful to anyone in a need I or my household could fulfill, and appreciated the assistance to his line of work. I was not cross-examined as to my intentions with this surprise direction, nor given any tiresome lectures. The particular worker in fact had been a student at the university during my brief presence there, was a Catholic herself, and aware to some extent of the murky politics of the local Church and the college. And there was also the hope, no doubt livelier in myself than in anyone obliged to listen to my reasoning on the matter, that I would shortly be able to place the novel with a major publisher.
The finances of welfare support in those days were pretty thin. As the beady eye of Providence had it these were the last days of the long rule of W.A.C. Bennett's Social Credit government of BC. The dole was not generous. But it was better than defying the plain will of the Almighty, and away we went, not to look back for considerable time, basically until the organized society of the province recognized that the Nelson/Slocan area was a cultural force to be reckoned with. By September, Dave Barrett and the New Democrats became the government and everyone was told the welfare rates would become human. It was by no means the first time legislation had been improved in order to keep up with our significant choices.
And this just in, days after I started this post: I've had a twitch from a major film centre. Perhaps there is intelligent life on the planet after all.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Gearing Down

As that part of the Church Militant that can actually think is more and more beginning to realize, Vatican Two, that gathering of bishops and other supposed experts in the life of grace that was intended to breathe new life into the one, holy, etc., has been in so many areas honoured much more in the breach than in the observance. I used to think our diocese of Nelson was a unique leader in this hooliganism, as not only have I for decades avoided travel as much as possible, but I also lived in those decades beside the archdiocese of Vancouver, which under Martin Johnson and then James Carney well knew a hawk from a handsaw and were very much aware that new brooms were more likely to sweep in more dirt than they took out. I knew that our diocese was a disaster area, but thought of it as more unique than it was. As more and more evidence, thanks to the Net, rolls in, it seems quite safe to say that most of North America, if not the world, is a disaster area, in the sense that so few of hopes of Vatican Two have been realized, except, perhaps, for the collapse of Russian communism.
Most certainly, the simple command to conclude the great liturgical study  of previous decades and restore Gregorian Chant to its pride of place has been rarely obeyed, and every child raised in an orderly family knows the result of disobedience. Over this issue alone, God must be royally picked. And then there is the other side of the same coin, whereby bishops who do not make use of the called-for chant go on to further abuse of the truth by declaring that congregations who sing the modern garbage are "vibrant", "faith-filled", "united in their communal blessedness" and so forth. This they have been known to commit to print, moreover, for which there will be even greater penalties in purgatory, if not worse. "Thou shalt be held accountable for every idle word," and these have been some of the most idle words ever spoken. He who is the Truth, as well as the Way and the Life, can have no part of such lies against the ordinary standards of art, which are supposed to teach us about beauty, which is one of the five transcendentals, and even more important, one of the things God is most certainly. It's amazing how many Catholics think that Country and Ugly is virtuous, and the alarming thing is to find this attitude very often more virulent in clergy and religious than in the laity.
Yet, to be fair, where are the most significant sources of such misdirection and imbalance, such moronic misplacing of the energy and emphasis that is essential to real education? Can any of this be traced to the home of education standards, Rome itself?
Oh, my, yes.
When I first bought my copy of the complete Hanon - the "infamous Hanon" as Dr. Athina Fetyka of Florida has called it - riding on God's graces of long-term inspiration more than science, I assumed I had discovered the perfect answer to my frustrations over learning to read music for the keyboard. It most genuinely was a lovely blast of grace, filling me with the uttermost confidence in both my native faculties once instructed, and the God-given ability of men to sort out the most difficult problems of art and science simply by using their education to put their heads to honest work. Such a big book, and so full, seemingly, of true musical authority.
That's God for you. Talking all that stuff about a people of God to Abraham, or a child born of a Virgin to Isaiah, leaving those poor men so cranked up and full of confidence that they thought these things were to happen on the immediately following Wednesday.
I certainly had no idea that God was talking about something that would not happen to me for half-a-century, and certainly not because of  Hanon. And I even more certainly had no idea that I would quite quickly discover that Hanon was basically more harm than good, and in spite of that allowed to claim on his title page that he was quite the mover and shaker in the very Vatican itself.
All the above written in one burst on Friday, after Wednesday visit to the cathedral to try my new skills on the Allen Organ. (Not quite a pipe, but not so bad either, and anyway, in my books, the goal is a singing congregation.) I essayed a little reading, which in itself necessitated realizing that there is a drill for dealing with an initial third - in the left - which immediately changes to an octave. My thick skull suddenly understood the easy way, using two and four for the third and one and five for the octave. "On This Day the First of Days." Back at home, I kept working on this new insight, and somehow by Saturday evening, walking to Mass by myself, had expanded it to what has never before been plain to me, how to use all five fingers over an octave and-a-half in such a way as to not only have an extremely good time, but also to exercise the mental faculties in the fashion the original creator of music obviously had in mind for the sake of actually understanding theory.
The Great McDaniel tried it out yesterday morning and loves it. This morning I sent the initial chart to my blogging youngest.
How long will it take the world to ask an intelligent question?
For the time being I'm not giving out any clues except to say that  Hanon's preface to his Sixty Exercises contains as much blatant error as it contains very useful insight, and once you know what I know, Hanon's intentions can be met. But not before. By no means, not before.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Saint Thomas' Prologue

It was many months ago, starting to feel confident that it was only a matter of time, not too much more time, before I was down to the bedrock elements of music instruction, that I told myself that there would be a definite milestone of such progress the day I took up to the study the first volume of Aquinas' Summa Theologica and tapped out his immortal prologue.
Now as Providence would have it, that moment in the unfolding of the history of culture has fallen on today, June 11, which happens to be the feast of the Sacred Heart this year, but ordinarily the celebration of Barnabas the Apostle. It is also the day in 1987 when I managed to write a full 20 pages of Contemplatives. That was my most quantitative day of all with that work, although still almost a year before I was done. June 11 was also the date in 1980 when, as I thought about publishing the fiction, the Lord said: "Make no decisions until September." I assumed He was talking about the autumn of 1980. It's more likely he was talking about this one. Infinity can always afford to take the longest possible view. In 1980, for one thing, I had no ideas whatsoever about the World Wide Web and its possibilities. So here goes.

"Because the Master of Catholic Truth ought not only to teach the proficient, but also to instruct beginners . . . we purpose in this book to treat of whatever belongs to the Christian Religion, is such a way as may tend to the instruction of beginners. We have considered that students in this Science have not seldom been hampered by what they have found written by other authors, partly on account of the multiplication of useless questions, articles, and arguments; partly also because those things that are needful for them to know are not taught according to the order of the subject matter, but according to as the plan of the book might require, or the occasion of the argument offer; partly, too, because frequent repetition brought weariness and confusion to the minds of the readers."

I would doubt that Thomas also had music texts in his mind when he penned these words, because music instruction texts were not prolific in his time, as far as I know. Learning music was pretty much by rote, and not only used numbers more logically, but had little of the massive complications produced after Thomas' time by the growth of polyphony. Also, the use of solfage had been flourishing for a couple of hundred years and no one had yet found reason to get rid of it, or pervert the sense of it.
But for a long time his words have rung in my head as the first thing to be said if ever I were able to put out a text on music instruction. The criticisms apply, in varying degrees, to every music text I have ever seen, and they apply even more critically in works aimed at children and other beginners.The utter collapse, in all Western vernaculars as far as I know, of the primacy of numbers in initial music education, has created more harm, frustration, discouragement, and a wrongful sense of the individual's own innate ability, than any other branch of learning.
Well, as a contemplative I know that instruction on the real possibilities of the prayer life is also pretty lousy, but we'll leave that for another time. This is one of those posts that comes out in sections, and this morning, a few days after the start of the the above, I trotted over to our local cathedral to have a good practice on the electric organ. It's not quite a pipe, but as an Allen it's pretty good, and anyway it's not really in the building to entertain the masses, it's there to provoke them to raise their voices in worship, and in the right hands it can most certainly do so.
My hands are not quite right, yet. I did some good stuff, a lot smarter than I used to be forty years ago when I mostly boogied on its predecessor, in those days in the gallery, with an octave/fifth cadence in the left hand, but I also found out that I need more work on thirds in the left, using fingers 2 and 4 more often than has been my wont. This simply doubled my reading chops. Technique, technique, but away from all that confusion and boredom and neglect Thomas would have found in today's texts of scales and studies. I merely started playing  a hymn in Catholic Book of Worship Two and applied the recent investigations to my difficulties. Something more to practise, of course, but we're getting close to the end. I'm reminded of the spring of 1988, when about four or five chapters before the end of Contemplatives I felt like the pressure to finish was over. Winding down is a good feeling. Yet I also have to ponder how come all these finishing touches are coming so fast, and with the price of feeling so stupid about not realizing for so long how obvious it all is.
Symbols, symbols, symbols. I have been recalling that it was back in the middle 90s that I said to the good lady who ran the restaurant in the Hume/Heritage/Hume Hotel in Nelson that so much of the time all I really knew in those days was that I lived on the symbols of symbols. I had so many ideas that rarely turned concrete in the ordinary worldly sense. I was by no means depressed, just surprised and amused. Or bemused. But so much of the time I had to think that I was waiting for some major external event.
God uses that term somewhat regularly these days: Event. Or events. Well, we're having the event of having two nuns, who have been around for years, and done everything they could to degrade the standard of liturgical music, finally get out of town. Whatever use they were in other areas, and that may have been considerable, they were nothing but harmful to the liturgy. Altar girls, inclusive language, the saccharine whining of music group after music group, all based on ignoring or disobeying what Vatican Two actually said.
The Church change is interesting, because the growth of interest in the music theories continues in the "real world", so much so that to get booted to the church by the Usual Suspects was something of a surprise, and I don't think it was only for the sake of learning more about left hand thirds.
Of course one follows signs of some sort or another. Yesterday Marianne picked up her latest purchase of a book related to the liturgy, Dr. Christopher Page's The Christian West and its Singers (The First Thousand Years). Yale University Press, New Haven and London. Smack dab on a first glance I found a most arresting statement about the importance of singers to the growth of this and that. It possibly even gave me a bit of a glance into what the Almighty has been plotting the last while. Would I have been able to proceed to the cathedral without it?
Well, I also have to admit that with a new guitar student I was able to sketch out some radical new charting methods, and with Tim McDaniel this week finally got to using the treble and bass staves in a way that actually made sense.
Dr. Page's book weighs five pounds, just about right for thumping on the heads of the purveyors for a lot of what we have to listen to these days.