Tuesday, July 21, 2015
A visit to the metropolitical cathedral church of St. John the Divine
Apologies for that pompous heading but I rather enjoy ecclesiastical language. The church concerned is most often referred to by Brisbane people simply as "The cathedral". There is of course also a Catholic cathedral in Brisbane city but St. John's is undoubtedly the most magnificent.
A pity the preaching there was not also magnificent but it is anything but. The only themes that enthuse most Anglicans these days are homosexuality and global warming. They are post-Christians. The 39 articles would be Greek to most of them. It would be an amusing exercise to write a Church of England Bible. There would not be much in it. Virtually everything in the real Bible would be dismissed as silly stories.
Anyway, I went there for a concert. I go out to concerts rarely these days but a familiar band was in town: The Kammerphilharmonie Köln (Chamber Philharmonia Cologne). They seem to pop up in Brisbane every year and I have enjoyed many of their concerts. They are very good for putting on old favourites. And the great stone vault of St. John's gives brilliant sound. They filled the church.
Parking in the city always bugs me so I went early so I could park in the church grounds: A bit cheeky but I have always done that. So I had to leave home at 7pm for an 8pm performance. And in order to facilitate a 7pm departure, I made the dinner! It was very humble fare, however: Ham, cheese and tomato sandwiches. Anne was with me and we met her sister June outside the cathedral.
We started off with a lively performance of the whole of Vivaldi's Four Seasons. How the leading violinist produced that endless cascade of short notes escapes me. Practice makes perfect, I guess. A feature that I really liked was the inclusion of a double bass. It gave an extra depth and body to the sound which violins alone could never deliver. The part would originally have been written for a Viola da Gamba, which is represented these days mostly by a cello.
Another work on the program was a Mozart divertimento in F major for strings. I did not know it at all but it was good to hear. And we ended with Bach's suite no. 2 in B minor for flute and strings and basso continuo -- An old friend joyfully revisited.
We got an encore song, in the form of Ombra mai fu by Handel. It was sung with great passion by a very large lady. That always cracks me up as the song is in fact about a tree. Words translated below:
Tender and beautiful fronds
of my beloved plane tree,
let Fate smile upon you.
May thunder, lightning, and storms
never disturb your dear peace,
nor may you by blowing winds be profaned.
Never was a shade
of any plant
dearer and more lovely,
or more sweet.