My main preoccupation in the middle of January has been to use up my vacation days before the end of January when I would lose them. Of course this puts additional pressure on to my workload and especially when there are so many unexpected funerals. One funeral required more diplomacy than would usually be expected and this process adds to the time!
During the same period the weather both deteriorated and improved. In one week we experienced below freezing as well as 80f. I even had to go out into the garden to wrap my hibiscus plants in blankets!
On 18 January I managed to complete my UK tax return. This is always a major achievement and feels like a weight is lifted once it is complete.
On Friday 19th it was good to be able to welcome some friends to my house. They had not visited since soon after my move in but found it more homely (despite the hole in the roof and missing flooring! During the evening we exchanged Christmas presents and discovered that sambuca is a dangerous drink.
I spent 22-26 January in St Louis with the Liturgical Composers Forum. I had attended last year and had enjoyed the company of these composers and their collective wisdom. This year, the 20th anniversary, was something of a celebration so they had invited several speakers to address us. John Foley, who had founded the forum, was there to give and receive reminiscences. Tom Booth gave an objective analysis of contemporary music. Michael Joncas contributed a well-considered analysis of the post Vatican 2 influences on church music and placed each of us in categories of influence. I was added to the St Thomas More Group strand. Damaris Thillet also gave an introductory overview of the bilingual experience.
During the first two evenings a considerable amount of whisky was imbibed and by Wednesday evening this had been exhausted but the supplies of wine seem everlasting! On Wednesday evening we adjourned to the Hilton Hotel for a banquet. This closed with a fine and moving tribute to John Foley. All present sang a selection of his classics from memory. This was proof, if any were needed, that music carries our faith!
On Thursday there were meetings regarding the organisation and preparations for the evening’s concert. The latter went so well that we finished ahead of time and were able to relax (without alcohol) before the concert itself. Over the evening meal I had the good fortune to become embroiled in a deep conversation with John Foley. This was always going to be one of those moments when you feel probed for what makes you tick. At one point in our discussion of what is more important, words or music, he asked me if my expressed opinion was just because I was chatting with him. Politely I had to remark that I had never attended any address he may have given and did not know what his thinking might be … but I did know my own mind!
We shared the concert with a local church choir who were just wonderful. I sang with the tenors who were placed on the back row. We were so eclipsed by the tallest couple of basses in front of us that we saw nothing of the conductor. At one point I turned to Scot Crandal next to me and asked him if he, like me, had realised that at some point in the concert the conductors had changed. we had both been blissfully unaware of this!
After the concert there was a reception and then we regrouped in another lounge to where the wine followed. We ended the night at 4am having put the world thoroughly to rights.
Getting up this morning was not an easy task and after a walk of the grounds with the remaining composers I retired to a lounge for some peace. My flight was not until 3.30pm and I had been offered a lift to the airport rather than arrive early on the last shuttle bus and have to hang around there.
Around midday what had been a sunny start to the day became overcast and more wintry. ‘Time to return to Tampa’, I mused.