Sunday, June 28, 2015

Justin, Inclusive Capitalism and Psalm 23

Good Shepherd picture at the Catacomb of Priscilla
(Courtesy Wikipedia)
Enormously encouraging meeting of the Lambeth Partners in the Garden of Lambeth Palace on Thursday.  Justin as usual most inspiring on many fronts, including his recent visit to China as a guest of the Chinese Government.  The growth of Christianity there is tremendous, and the Minister of Religion seems genuinely pleased about it.

Spent Friday at the excellent Inclusive Capitalism conference - sadly unbloggable since it is Chatham House Rule but it is public that speakers included the Prince of Wales (by video), Justin Welby, Bill Clinton, Indra Nooyi (very impressive) and Adrian Orr the Deputy Chairman of the IFSWF. Really encouraging calls to action - responsible business leaders can make a difference. Justin has an excellent article related to this in the Telegraph.

My translation/adaptation of the Psalms continues - hard work but really rewarding. I got into my stride with Psalm 23 when I realised that I could cast them in explicitly poetic form. This has now worked forwards and backwards and I suspect that by the end they will all be like that in some way. Psalms 9 & 10 are an acrostic poem (as in the Hebrew) which also scans, 14, 15 and 21 are in iambic pentameters and from 23 onwards all so far are in blank verse of some form. See what you think:
The Lord’s my shepherd, nothing can I lack.
In pastures green he lets me take my rest
He leads me on beside quiet tranquil streams,
Refreshing to my soul. He guides me in
The right paths for his name’s sake. Should  I walk
Through a ravine that is as dark as death,
I’ll fear no evil: you are by my side;
your rod and shepherd’s staff, they comfort me.
You spread a table for me, while my foes.
Look on, and you anoint my head with oil;
And my cup overflows. Your goodness sure
and love will follow me for all my days,
and I will dwell in the LORD’s house - always.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

A Night of Beijing

Hulusheng close up
On Sun to the O2 for A Night of Beijing put on by the Chinese Embassy with the Chinese Radio (traditional) Chinese Orchestra and other friends from the UK and China.  It was great to hear traditional Chinese instruments played so well and to be part of such a warm occasion.

There were some outstanding solosits (Jiang Kemie on the Jinghu, Zhang Hongyan on the Pipa and Du Dapeng on the Guqin) and interesting East/West collaborations including with the Melanson Quartet playing Spring on the Silk Road  with Zhang Hongyang on the Pipa.  Judith Howarth and Ding Yi sang together in Nessun Dorma and The North Wind Blowing from the Wite-Haired Girl.

The most remarkable instrument was the Hú lu shēng or Blow Gourd Pipe which was played in the course of the Dancing in Moonlight piece based on the folk music of the Yi people (who practice a religion called Bimoism). Most instruments look fundamentally like other instruments but this was something pretty well completely different!

Curtain Call

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Janie Dee in The Seagull

Curtain call - sorry about terrible photo
Last night to a preview of the wonderful production of The Seagull with Janie Dee at the Open Air Theatre in Regent's Park.  It is truly outstanding and you should go to see it if you can. The text is an adaptation by Torben Betts which is really fresh and exciting, and the cast are all excellent!

The set has a giant mirror above it and a lake in which people can and do swim at the back. In addition to the incomparable Janie, Lisa Diveney as Masha, Sabrina Bartlett as Nina and Matthew Tennyson as Konstantin shine, with Danny Webb as the Doctor Eugene Dorn and Ian Redford as the retired State Counsellor Peter Sorin also providing lovely layered performances.

To get a feel for the text compare the openings:

MEDVIEDENKO. Why do you always wear mourning?
MASHA. I dress in black to match my life. I am unhappy.
MEDVIEDENKO. Why should you be unhappy? [Thinking it over] I don't understand it. You are healthy, and though your father is not rich, he has a good competency. My life is far harder than yours. I only have twenty-three roubles a month to live on, but I don't wear mourning. [They sit down].


MASHA: Alright then. Let's hear it! What's so wrong with black?
SIMON: I'm just  saying it's an unhappy colour...
MASHA: Well I am unhappy so...
SIMON: But you've nothing to be unhappy about.
MASHA: You've got that wrong so..
SIMON: You're healthy, your family's got cash. Look at me: I'm the unhappy one. I've got no money in the bank and, like teachers everywhere, I'm completely exploited. And I don't always go about as if someone's just died, do I?

Catch it if you can!  And take some time to explore the rose garden in the park first.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Wonderful Birtwhistle Double Bill: The Corridor and The Cure

To the Royal Opera House last night for an amazing double bill of Birtwhistle: The Corridor which is about 10 years old and The Cure which is brand new - this was the London première though I think it was done in Aldeburgh a few weeks earlier.

Both were outstanding and the two together were superb - I hope and expect they will become a staple for many years.

Mark Padmore and Elizabeth Atherton were the two brilliant singers, playing Orfeus and Eurydice in The Corridor and Jason, Aeson and Medea in The Cure. I wasn't able to congratulate them, but I did thank and congratulate Birtwhistle and shake him by the hand. I can't recommend these too strongly and there are a few more performances - get there if you can!

Birtwhistle with the conductor Geoffrey Paterson
One of the many reasons Birtwhistle is so good is that he collaborates with excellent poets as librettists: in this case David Harsent  who also did Gawain and The Minotaur. The Corridor first takes Orfeus' path leading Eurydice and then fatally looking back just as she is almost out in the light, and then has dialogues between the two reflecting on it. There is in effect a 3rd character which is when The Soprano is speaking to the audience, asking if they can really believe the story. The musicians are also very much on the stage and The Soprano interacts with them physically although they do not speak.  What would it really be like for someone to come back to life, drawn by the love of their husband? What would it be like to have to die a second time?

The Cure has a related theme. Medea makes 3 potions, from herbs, her spittle and her blood and administers them to Aeson by kisses. Aeson is also unsure whether he really wants to be returned to his youth and grow old a second time. Padmore doubles both Jason and Aeson and he was, as usual, superb.

With increasing public discussion of treatments to prolong life and reverse ageing and some scientists (or "scientists") offering the prospect of effective immortality these operas are very topical and should become a standard part of the repertoire.

I'm pleased to say that not only is Elizabeth Atherton an outstanding opera singer, but she was at Trinity Cambridge - so was Mary Bevan for that matter. Look out for Elizabeth - one to watch!

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Psalm 9

King David playing the Harp by Jan de Brey (Wikipedia)
Huge apologies for the lack of posting. I've been very busy and sailing on Sundays. I've also started a project to make poetic versions of the Psalms.

In most cases I'm using the NIV and NRSV as a starting point but trying to make them more sayable, drawing on the Prayer Book, the NJB, the AV and some commentaries.

However when they are Acrostic Poems I've been trying to translate them as such. The first Acrostic Poems in the Psalms are Psalms 9 and 10. Here is my version of Psalm 9 - see what you think.

 Psalm 9
Ah I will thank the LORD with my whole heart;
    All of your wonderful deeds will I tell.
Always I’m gladly exulting in you;
    Adoring your name I shall sing, O Most High.
Back turned my enemies, when they turned back,
    Before you they stumbled and perished indeed.
Because my just cause you have justly maintained;
    Bringing right judgement enthroned on your throne.
Destroyed are the wicked, the nations rebuked
    Deleting their names for ever and ever.
Dispelled into ruin the enemies gone;
    De-rooted their cities, their memory has perished.
Ever enthroned is the LORD, yes  forever,
    Established his throne is for judgment in truth.
Enduringly judging the world with his righteousness;
    Earth and its nations with equity judged.
For the oppressed ones the LORD is a stronghold,
    Fortress and stronghold in troublesome times.
For those who know your name will trust in you,
    Forsaking never, LORD, those who seek you.
Gladly sing praise to the LORD, who’s in Zion.
    Go and declare to the peoples his deeds.
Great blood-avenger, he’s mindful of them;
    God won’t forget the afflicted who cry.
Have pity LORD, I’m afflicted in hatred
      Haul me back even from the gates of death,
Heartily then shall I sing all your praises,
    Helped and rejoicing in Zion’s fair gates.
Into the pit they have made fall the nations;
    In their own hidden net has their foot now been caught.
It’s the LORD who has made himself known with his judgement;
    Insnared are the wicked ones in the own work.
Just turn to Sheol, O wicked, depart from here
    Jettison nations forgetful of God!
Kept in God’s mind are the woes of the needy
   Keeping alive all the hope of the poor
Keep mortals from winning, rise up, O LORD!
    Kneeling let nations be judged before you.
Kindle your fear in them, O gracious LORD;
    Keep nations knowing they’re just human beings.