Friday, 24 December 2010

La Nativite du Seigneur

Edmund Aldhouse, Ripon Cathedral, Monday 20th December 2010
Organ recitals at Ripon Cathedral are always something to look forward to but Assistant Director of Music, Edmund Aldhouse treated us to a particularly memorable evening, last Monday, which certainly has to be up there in my top twenty best ways to prepare for Christmas. Edmund performed all nine movements from Oliver Messiaen's cycle on the birth of Christ, La Nativite du Seigneur. What I love about this work is that it doesn't simply set out to depict the story of Christmas; it is a truly profound meditation on the whole mystery of the incarnation by a devout and mature Catholic. It is a theological treatise in music. The music shows Messiaen's range of writing for the organ and powerfully blends his sources of inspiration drawn from Indian music, bird song and mystical catholicism. I found the two most Christic movements, The Word and God Among Us, almost unbearbly moving in their portrayal of God who created the universe coming among us, His presence with us today in the church, and the hope of ascension in which the descent of incarnation is reversed to become the ascent of Christ lifting all things to the Creator. Messiaen wrote, 'The eternal outpouring of the Word is impossible to express'. In The Word, he gives us an almost endless melody evoking 'the image of God's goodness' based on the Johannine Prologue and a much less known passage in the Wisdon of Solomon (chapter 7). Here, Wisdom is described as a pure emanation of the glory of the Almighty, a reflection of eternal light, a spotless mirror of the working of God; 'Although she is but one, she can do all things and while remaining in herself, she renews all things.' Music and foundational text intertwine to evoke a breath-taking, subtle and haunting image of the second person of the Trinity.

The texts which inspired the nine movements were wonderfully read by Loretta Williams and Simon Hoare and the perfomance was thoughtfully illuminated by images put together by Andrew Aspland. This will be the first of other multi-media events in which different art forms are employed together to help us access the theological depths of a work of art. Thank you to all involved, but especially to Edmund Aldhouse for adding something very special to this year's celebration of Christmas.

Something to look forward to:

Music for Good Friday
Friday 22nd April 2011, 7.30pm
Ripon Cathedral
Edmund Aldhouse
Marcel Dupre
Le Chemin de la Croix
The story of the Passion with organ music, readings and images.

PS. Can anyone tell me how to find an acute accent? I can find the grave at alt 0232 but not the accute!

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