Stanwick Group of Churches

July 2020 Letter

During lockdown many people have turned to music for solace, for comfort, to express deep feelings, to remember happier times and to feel a connection with loved ones past and present.

A piece I have gone back to over and over during this period has been the gorgeous second movement (adagio cantabile) of Beethoven’s Sonata No 8 in C minor (Pathetique). During my teenage years I would play this deeply emotive piece over and over as I nursed each heartbreak or needed a break from the stress of revision and exams. I only wish I’d kept up my piano playing, if nothing else, for a time such as this.

Still on the subject of Beethoven (who celebrates his 250th birthday this year!), did you know that back in 2009, Beaker from the Muppets recorded a multi-tracked version of ‘Ode to Joy’, starring himself singing and playing the violin and timpani on six different screens? You can find a link to this video on Classic fm’s website  www.classicfm.com/composers/beethoven/beaker-ode-to-joy/ . Little did Beaker know that musicians across the globe would be following his example in a pandemic lockdown a decade later!

Here in the Stanwick benefice we’ve been treated to some truly brilliant and uplifting solo and multi-tracked performances via social media, from Sophie’s stunning VE day concert in Aldbrough, through to the many musical delights on ‘Melsonby Weekly’, my own favourite being Michael, Grace, Tanya and Shaun’s beautiful and spine-tingling version of ‘We’ll meet again’.

I found myself holding back the tears as I watched the Melsonby Weekly VE Day edition, and I was also deeply moved by Radio 4 Desert Island Disks’ lockdown music special last broadcast on Friday 5th June. In particular I was struck by Professor Jason Warren’s story. Prof Warren is a consultant professor of neurology who usually works mainly with outpatients but during the Covid 19 crisis volunteered to go on front line. He was in the middle of a block of night shifts, alone in a darkened office at 3am, doing some admin work when he started spotify. Edvard Grieg’s lyric pieces played out and he was overtaken by the music, and in particular, the cradle song called  ‘Heimweh’ meaning ‘homesickness’. It struck him how we are all homesick for the world where we saw each other face to face, where we touched. The cradle song is a very unassuming piece of music - tiny, delicate - but it was very insistent. It was ‘like a window or a call from a world which is beyond Covid.’ Those times will come again, and ‘after tears and fears and PPE …….there’s love, and love will be waiting.’

I like the thought that music can call from a world beyond. I’ve often thought that it can somehow unite us with the eternal, lifting the soul to the music of heaven. I find it  interesting that the choral composer John Tavener experienced a sense that he was writing the music of heaven as he composed his ethereal choral music (you may remember his ‘Song for Athene’ sung at Princess Diana’s funeral: ‘Alleluia. May flights of angels sing thee to thy rest’).

During the pandemic our Diocesan Bishop, Bishop Nick Baines, has been writing to clergy regularly. In a letter we received this week he spoke of the eternal touching the temporal as he reminded us of the Communion of Saints who surround us. We do not go alone. We are even surrounded ‘in the decisions we make together as we feel ourselves stumbling into the uncertain future.’

As we move on through the stages of easing the lockdown, as we possibly face more uncertainties and challenges, may I encourage you to sing, or pick up an instrument, or sit down at the piano and play, however rusty you are, or to just make time to listen to a special track. As you make music, may you be reminded of the loved ones who have inspired you and who cheer you on from a different place and time. And, as I write on the day of Dame Vera Lynn’s passing I just wonder if somewhere up there, or all around us, the angels and whole company of heaven are now also singing ‘We’ll meet again’.  

God bless,


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