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Saturday, 28 March 2009

Cathedral visit - Gerontius rehearsal

Making today special: Trevor and Charlie took me to Wells Cathedral this afternoon to listen to the final rehearsal for this evening's performance of The Dream of Gerontius by the Oratorio Society.

It was a good experience.

We used the disabled parking badge for the first time, and parked near the Sadler Street gate to the Close. Then a clear run in wheel-chair to the cathedral, to find them playing the magical opening bars of part two. After the strong rhythmic beat of part 1, set on earth, comes the illusion in the music of timelessness.

The boys had bought me a garden reclining chair, and set it up between two of the north pillars, with the wheel-chair as footrest and a pillow behind my head. I had the best seat in the house.

There were three young soloists, all with very good voices. Fortunately the conductor just went straight through the work with few stops, so it was next best thing to beĆ­ng at the performance. I used a camera to record parts, so perhaps I can share a bit of 'Praise to the Holiest' on line. I hope those involved won't mind.

The journey of Gerontius took him past the gates of hell, and the chorus of demons spat out their mockery and despair. Then came the first hints of the great hymn of praise. Cardinal Newman makes it clear in the full poem that everything in heaven is alive and spiritual, even the threshold of the gates of heaven, so it is the threshold that sings some of 'Praise to the Holiest'.

He says as he approaches the court of heaven,

My soul is in my hand; I have no fear.

Then he hears the prayers of priest and people around his bed on earth, and the prayers of the Great Angel of the Agony, who strengthened Christ in the garden of Olivet. He says
I go before my Judge

Then the whole orchestra marks the moment of judgement, and Gerontius pleads to be taken away and laid in Purgatory
Take me away,
That sooner I may rise, and go above,
And see Him in the truth of everlasting day.

In the final chorus Elgar weaves together themes from the whole oratorio and brings the work to an end with a phrase from 'Praise to the Holiest,' but not before the loving words of Gerontiuis' guardian angel:
Farewell, but not for ever! brother dear,
Be brave and patient on thy bed of sorrow;
Swiftly shall pass thy night of trial here,
And I will come and wake thee on the morrow.
Farewell! Farewell!

The journey home was easy, for me. Then a bit of a rest, and now we are going to do a wee bit of filming with my glove puppet Tiger, for a Latin lesson.

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