Free ebook and short film: “And who is my neighbour?”

If you have not yet read or bought your copy of Les Feuilles Mortes, you can get a taster of the collection in this free ebook, featuring some poems from Les Feuilles Mortes as well as some old poems and some brand new ones. You can also check out the short film I made toContinue reading “Free ebook and short film: “And who is my neighbour?””

Isaiah and the Seraph

I shame at mine unworthiness, yet fain would be at one with Thee: Thou art a joy in heaviness, a succour in necessity. (Sir William Leighton, 1614) Shame and joy move in polyphonic sway: the vision delights, augments, and yet diminishes the confidence. How can I, with unclean lips, hymn praises without minor chords? MustContinue reading “Isaiah and the Seraph”

Epiphany: Heartshine

“What can I give him, Poor as I am?” Christina Rossetti Today is one of the most important days in the old church calendar, but also one of the most widely forgotten: the feast of Epiphany. Today we remember the wise men visiting Jesus, but we also remember what this represents, that the Gospel hasContinue reading “Epiphany: Heartshine”

Christmas 12: “The rich and poor meet together”

On this night in Shakespeare’s day, there would have been wild revelry to celebrate the twelfth night of Christmas. He even named one of his plays this, a sign perhaps that it was to be performed on the twelfth night, but also a possible nod to the ways that Christmas switches around our ideas ofContinue reading “Christmas 12: “The rich and poor meet together””

Christmas 11: Upsidedown

One of the more curious lost phenomena of Christmas was the late Medieval custom of appointing a so-called “Lord of Misrule” (or, as called in Scotland, the “Abbot of Unreason”). This involved either a peasant or an unimportant figure in the church being appointed to oversee the Christmas revelries. A related or parallel custom involvedContinue reading “Christmas 11: Upsidedown”

Christmas 10: Sit at my right hand

“The LORD says to my Lord…” (Psalm 110:1). These are surely some of the more mysterious words to appear in the Bible. Who is the second Lord to whom the writer, King David, is referring? Who could even be understood to be David’s Lord apart from God, the LORD? David, after all, was king ofContinue reading “Christmas 10: Sit at my right hand”

Christmas 9: Join the dancing

On the ninth day of Christmas, apparently, someone’s true love once gave them nine ladies dancing. Impractical though this is as a Christmas present (not to mention hard to wrap), it suits today’s carol well: the majestic “In dulci jubilo”, set by the seventeenth-century German Lutheran composer Michael Praetorius. The story of the text, originallyContinue reading “Christmas 9: Join the dancing”

Christmas 8: Order my beginning

Another year begins, and today we have a special piece of music to see in the new year: Bach’s Cantata for New Year’s Day, Part IV of his spectacular Christmas Oratorio. This cantata takes as its theme the presentation of Jesus at the Temple, but as often happens with Bach the story is explored throughContinue reading “Christmas 8: Order my beginning”

Christmas 7: Rejoice in your new clothes

2017 is almost over, and today we have two choral pieces to conclude our year with, one early, one modern, both settings of one of the readings for the first Sunday after Christmas, Isaiah 61:10-62:4. The first is the delightfully joyous “Gaudens Gaudebo in Domino” by the 16th century German composer Philip Dulchius. The textContinue reading “Christmas 7: Rejoice in your new clothes”

Christmas 6: Nunc Dimittis

The story of Simeon has given the church one of its oldest hymns, called the “Nunc Dimittis”, after the first two Latin words of the song: “Now dismiss…” There have been many musical versions of Simeon’s song, but today’s poem takes as its inspiration a modern setting by the living Swiss composer Carl Rütti. Rütti’sContinue reading “Christmas 6: Nunc Dimittis”