Easter Sunday

For years, the first sound I heard on Easter Sunday was my mum’s greeting: “He is risen! He is risen indeed!” I expected it, I went along with it, I miss it now. Every Sunday of my youth until my mid-teens was filled with ritual, but Easter always stood out as special. My mum would spend a good part of the morning preparing whatever was roasting and timing it for after church around mid-day or one o’clock. I think Easter was usually lamb, but beef, turkey and ham might easily be substituted. There were always yummy round the roast potatoes, and not so yummy vegetables. My mum tended to boil vegetables until there were no vitamins left, unfortunately the taste of some of the grosser fare we had to endure was still there. If I didn’t eat: parsnip, brussels sprouts or asparagus at dinner there was no dessert and/or a trip to the “bad boys seat” (bottom stair) and the threat of “have it cold for breakfast!”. Don’t get me wrong, I love vegetables. No probs with asparagus or Brussels sprouts now (parsnip…not so much) but properly cooked.

Getting ready for church meant “Sunday clothes” a button down shirt and a real tie and a dress jacket and hair slicked down with water etc. Our family was “high Anglican” which meant almost Catholic (without the swinging incense). I went to Sunday School for about 40 minutes and then we’d enter the church after the presumably boring sermon and learn the rituals of the service. When I was around 9, I joined the Cathedral choir and my family switched churches from the local (St. Peter’s) one to the downtown (Christ Church Cathedral)one. Same service, better music. I loved singing in the choir. We wore a red robe and a white surplice and a pleated ruff… it was very regimented. On hot days we removed our pants…. we felt like such naughty rebels.

A younger me.

When my voice changed (it never really “broke” like some boys) my family re-located to a rural setting and the church thing became less ritualistic. The skiers church {St. Francis of the Birds) is made of logs and about a twentieth the size of the Cathedral. It is carpeted and there is no reverberation. Very cute place, and everybody knew everybody. The music was minimal and ordinary. The difference between a four manual pipe organ in a huge stone cavern and a cheesy electric living room organ in what was, essentially, a living room is vast. Likewise the difference between a 40 voice semi professional choir contrasted with untrained septuagenarian warblers… Without the magical rituals and the glorious music I lost interest and only attended for Easter and Christmas when the entire family was together.

I rarely go to church at all anymore. I can’t get past all of the shitty things done throughout history in the name of Jesus and my own personal humanistic belief. I am not looking to be converted or “saved”. I am not looking to join even though I was baptized and confirmed, and counted as “one of” I am not Anglican.

Today I woke up, and after not hearing “He is risen, He is risen indeed” I found myself feeling nostalgic and humming a hymn that is sung on Easter. “Christ the Lord Is Risen Today” (Wesley) which led me to another “Rejoice The Lord Is King”(deGroot) and a desire to hear them sung by a choir of men and boys.

I found a service at King’s College, Cambridge on YouTube and listened intently to a ritual that 50 years has not erased. My visceral reaction and the familiarity of the liturgy and the scripture are a part of my DNA.

I have known many Christians who walk the talk and are truly humble and repentant for their imperfections and steadfastly believe. They are fortunate to be so sure, and I love and admire and remember them fondly. I have no answers, I am not looking for God. I am a searcher on this planet. I see truth and beauty in nature and holiness in selflessness. I try to always choose love.

For me, This music holds beauty beyond the notes, beyond the message, beyond the mystic and the understandable. It is a conduit, a passageway into an almost forgotten time and an innocence irretrievable except in the cloud vapours in the swamp of my mind.

In The Bleak Mid Winter

I am not a big fan of secular Christmas music, but having been a chorister for years in an Anglican Cathedral choir I was exposed to very traditional music and was immersed in the most beautiful sound bath of the voices of men and boys in a huge reverberant space. Singing this music throughout Advent and on Christmas day was one of the greatest privileges of my life. I am grateful for the opportunity and the experience.

In The Bleak Mid Winter is by far my favourite Christmas Carol. It is not Jolly. In fact it is quite austere and lonely. These are feelings I often associate with Christmastime even though for the most part, my Christmases have also been joyous and loving events. I related thoroughly to the stories and ideals that I learned in Sunday School and Choir and Confirmation classes, and was appalled that the whole idea of Christmas had become so twisted and profane by the commercial and the profiteers. Obviously I was Linus.

There are two different treatments of the original poem by Christina Rossetti. I prefer the Darke version, others may prefer the Holst version. James Taylor sings his beautiful arrangement of the Holst, while I just recorded my arrangement of the Darke for voice and guitar. I hope that you enjoy it.

In the bleak mid-winter
Frosty wind made moan;
Earth stood hard as iron,
Water like a stone;
Snow had fallen, snow on snow,
Snow on snow,
In the bleak mid-winter
Long ago.

Our God, heaven cannot hold Him
Nor earth sustain,
Heaven and earth shall flee away
When He comes to reign:
In the bleak mid-winter
A stable-place sufficed
The Lord God Almighty —
Jesus Christ.

Enough for Him, whom Cherubim
Worship night and day,
A breastful of milk
And a mangerful of hay;
Enough for Him, whom Angels
Fall down before,
The ox and ass and camel
Which adore.

Angels and Archangels
May have gathered there,
Cherubim and seraphim
Thronged the air;
But only His Mother
In her maiden bliss
Worshipped the Beloved
With a kiss.

What can I give Him,
Poor as I am?
If I were a Shepherd
I would bring a lamb;
If I were a Wise Man
I would do my part,
Yet what I can I give Him,
Give my heart.

An explanation and a brief history of the Carol is written here:

https://www.classicfm.com/discover-music/occasions/christmas/in-the-bleak-midwinter-lyrics-song-carol-peaky/