Tuesday, 14 February 2017

Musical journey

While the romantic world thinks of this as Valentine's day, the churches' calendar celebrates Sts Cyril and Methodius today. Two Greek brothers born in 9th century Salonica, educated in Constantinople, capital of the eastern Byzantine half of the empire. They became missionaries to the Slav tribes of the north eastern borderlands of the empire, learned to speak the language, invented the Glagolithic alphabet based on Greek letters, with extra characters, and produced the first written version of scripture and liturgical texts in Old Slavonic, still widely in use today in Eastern Orthodox Churches. They are regarded as cultural heroes to all who speak Russian and other Slav languages, religious affiliation notwithstanding. The written script is often described as Cyrillic after its inventor.

Methodius was for many years a Deacon but was made a Bishop in Hungary, and died in the Czeck Republic. Cyril was ordained priest. After a career as an imperial civil servant, probably the reason why his literary and scholarly gifts were put to good use, he returned to Rome at the end of his life. Reading part of his story in the Breviary office of the day this morning, I learned how he fell ill, and finally retired. He dressed in his priestly vestment and declared joyfully "I am no longer a servant of the emperor or of any man, but only of God Almighty.", and spent his last days exclusively in praise and worship. If a missionary doesn't get killed on duty, there can be no better way to leave this world, focusing on the one thing that is essential.

Not a romantic sort of Valentine's Day for me this year, but a trip to Kenilworth and overnight stay to look after Rhiannon, while Kath and Anto are away performing the Wriggledance show in Stamford, at the venue where we watched them perform their first show three years ago. How hard they've worked since then to get funding, create a new show and tour it around the country for twice the number of performances, especially in the present economic climate.

First, however, I had a bereavement visit to make out in Coryton, fortunately not far from the north Cardiff M4 interchange, so I was soon on my way up the motorway afterwards, listening to albums of CD recordings by jazz virtuoso pianist Oscar Peterson, from a box set of ten given me recently by my sister June. The second of the two that provided the sound track for my journey came as a surprise, as it featured an All Star band which did a world tour back in the sixties and seventies, accompanying Fred Astaire, singing songs by Irving Berlin, some of which were made famous from their use in his song and dance movies with Ginger Rogers and others.

Two thirds of the nearly two dozen songs on the album were songs I remembered well from my upbringing in a musical household with very eclectic taste, classics, jazz and the great American 20th century songbook. I knew at least half the words of lots of them, and could sing along with. They all conjured up happy memories of childhood and youth in a household never lacking in song.

I arrived Kenilworth just as the schools were coming out, and Rhiannon arrived just after I did. After supper and before setting out for Stamford, all were busy with engagements, so there wasn't much for me to do. At nine Kath and Anto set off, and had a clear run all the way for their hour and a half trip. They'll return in time for supper tomorrow, having done two afternoon performances. For once they'll be in a venue where I can imagine them in action.

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