Saturday 2 March included the confirmation of about 100 youth by our new supersized (7ft 5in) Bishop. The choir were fantastic and coped with the new stuff I threw at them including my setting of ‘As the deer thirsts’. There was a bit of a commotion when I started playing the Glory to God (in Lent). We had contacted the Bishop’s MC and specifically asked about the Glory to God and were told that as it was a ritual Mass this should be included. That’s what you get for asking the question!
In England my brother Chris and his wife were celebrating with their daughter Bethan. This would be her last weekend before departing on an exploration of Australia. She would spend much of the year away. Although technology allows a certain goodly amount of communication it is not the same as a flesh to flesh encounter. She’s a great woman and will light up the company wherever she goes.
I discovered that my previous post, the cathedral in Sheffield, now has the pipe organ back in place after a substantial restoration project funded by the Lottery for which I had made the initial application when I was in post. I recall Fr Incompetence informing me that the next stage of the application would be a fairly simple affair. Since he displayed such a depth of ignorance I handed it over to him to complete. Needless to say he was unable to do so and ended up having to engage all manner of personel to assist. I recall one meeting with him in which he insisted that the organ be removed before any building works started in the cathedral itself. He gave me three weeks to organise this although I doubted the need. It would have been a simple enough task to clad the instrument in protective covering but he was, as ever, insistent. So the instrument went into storage for several years (with all the additional storage costs) before work even started on the organ. I did not know then that the cathedral would be in such a dire financial mess that one of the principle means of coming close to making the loan repayments was to extend the term and to make my post redundant. But, as they say, every cloud has a silver lining. At least, that was the case for me! Not so for the cathedral community who still have to endure their ‘priest’. It appears to be almost impossible to find another priest to share the burden of ‘running’ the cathedral and the 3 other parishes he ‘serves’ and those that do find their way to assist do not seem to stay long!
On the positive side the National Lottery have ensured that there are sufficient funds to provide for a memorable opening event. Accordingly Olivier Latry from Notre Dame, Paris will grace the keys. This should be something of an education for the parish who will at last hear a real organist playing music from the standard repertoire rather than the Victorian fodder from the present incumbent.
During this first week of March I answered an advert about some sofas and a week later I was having two sofas, two winged back chairs and 5 occasional tables delivered to my house. They fit wonderfully and are what Americans describe as ‘high-end’. How fitting!
On Saturday March 10 The same people were holding a garage sale so I attended this for the last hour and picked up some more bargains including 3 solid oak shelving units which now stand in my double garage dividing the kayak gear from the washing machines etc.
On that Saturday evening I returned home after work and opened the mail. The first letter was from the Immigration people and confirmed that I had completed the requirements successfully for the Green Card and would receive the document within three weeks. The next letter enclosed the Green Card itself! It is a relief to finally have it having spent $1500 of my own money on the process which began in September 2016.
The other good news is that I was approached by the local Jesuit school to tutor its star music pupil in the organ. They had awarded him a scholarship to study with me. Unfortunately there is no organ yet in the recently built ‘chapel’ so for the meantime the student will come next door to St Lawrence for lessons and practice. Next week I will go to Jesuit to attend the award.
Apart from my usual work much of my time has been spent in preparing music for the Holy Week which this year will be a bilingual experience. Last year I had created a new choir called ONE VOICE, MANY CULTURES which was a combination of the English and Hispanic choirs. This group will meet again for the Triduum. We had a great rehearsal with the hispanic instrumental musicians and I am feeling more optimistic about it all now.
I am still no closer to having the post-Irma work on the house completed. The roof is now done and paid for but I await the work on the floor, ceiling and french doors.
At the end of January I had gone for a check up at the doctors and discovered that my blood pressure was very high … perhaps accounting for some temporary loss of sight issues. I had decided there and then to make some changes and having Lent follow 2 weeks later was also useful. Over the last 6 weeks I have lost 20lb. I now wish I had not thrown away those clothes I had never thought I’d manage to get into again! The weight does not seem to decrease much now. It’s as though I’ve found my level but it does feel good to have people comment!
I enjoyed doing the music for the Masses this weekend. The choir was on good form as were the cantors and the homilies were as interesting as ever. We had a visiting Nigerian priest for the Sunday evening Mass who was a real character. We chatted before Mass and discovered a mutual connection in Fr Alan MacLean in whose London parish he had worked for a while. It is a small world.
After Mass I was chatting with parishioners and the same priest when one lady mentioned that she was having an operation the net day. Immediately the priest asked for the oil of the sick and invited the 8 people present to share in the priestly ministry of healing. It was a beautiful unexpected end to a great day.
On my drive home I checked my phone to find that a friend, Emily, had posted a recording of her piano playing in a church in Devon. About 10 days ago she had started her walk from the southernmost point in England to the most northerly point of Scotland mainland. The deep snow, blizzards and driving rain made the church a brief resting point from the elements. ‘Her tiny hands must have been so frozen’ (operatic quote there!) as she played her Scott Joplin.
On Wednesday 21 March I went to hear ??? offer an evening of music and Lenten reflection. He was born with no arms as a result of thalidomide during his mother’s pregnancy but had succeeded in learning to play the guitar with his feet. His shot to fame when he played during the Papal visit of Pope John Paul II. The Pope famously leapt off the stage to embrace and kiss him. Unfortunately I did not feel a similar emotion and was rather relieved when it ended. Others however were in transports of delight. ‘Chacun a son gout’, I suppose.
The following evening we had choir practice, the second in preparation for Holy Week.
Friday was a day off but I started with a visit to Jesuit High School to attend the award of a scholarship to my student. I had the opportunity to gaze at the exterior of what will be their new ‘chapel’. They will also have a new organ installed soon, an instrument by Phoenix which I had been impressed by in England. The rest of the day I spent lazing by the pool and tidying my office.
Then on Saturday 24 March I held a combined rehearsal for the two bilingual celebrations of Holy Week. Unfortunately Hector had had an eye procedure and they ended up treating both eyes so he could see nothing at all. So when his choir members rang him to check the time he could not see his schedule and gave them a later time! Anyhow it all worked well. I returned to the office after the rehearsal and did a bit more work until the Vigil Mass. I was tired after this and had a restful night in.
I continued tired even after the first Mass of 4 the following morning. I had chosen some fine music for the cantors and choir and all did a grand job.
Over the last few days the weather has improved and this afternoon the temps were in the mid 80sF. I have a day off tomorrow so it will probably cloud over!