WHAT did the vicar say to the organist? Not the usual playing hymns too fast, too high, or deliberately scheduling the wrong tune: this was on an altogether different plane. As, indeed, were the interlocutors: the organist was the Titulaire des orgues of Notre-Dame de Paris, Olivier Latry, and the clergyman was the Revd Richard Coles.
Proms Encore (BBC2, Saturday) is a short magazine programme put together as a shameless puff for the BBC’s great summer music festival, aimed at people with little pre-existing commitment to classical music, and finding, in the most part, populist hooks to whet their interest.
This wasted a potentially fascinating exchange: Fr Coles and M. Latry could have had a really illuminating conversation about the intersection and cross-fertilisation of pop, traditional, and liturgical music. And the question? Fr Coles cheekily asked M. Latry to change the stops while he played (extremely well) the opening bars of Bach’s D-minor toccata. The actual recital that they were advertising took place on Sunday at 11 a.m. — brilliantly chosen as the time at which the entire audience for the concert would be otherwise engaged.
I found a surprising amount of religion in The Misadventures of Romesh Ranganathan (BBC2, Sunday). The genial comedian was exploring Mongolia, where the overthrow of communism has enabled a flourishing of nationalism (expressed in the colossal statue of Genghis Khan), and a range of faiths.
A female shaman attempted to heal his lazy eye, and he lay flat on his back in Buddhism’s supposed energy centre of the world to connect with the earth’s power. Deep in the desert of the world’s most sparsely-populated country, he attended a dance where young people living hundreds of miles apart are supposed to find romance. “How did you find out about your girlfriend?” he asked. Every member of your youth group will have guessed the universal answer: “Facebook.”
Exposing a barren land at the heart of our own nation, How To Break Into The Elite (BBC2, Monday of last week), revealed the gulf between our fond aspirations to level-playing-field meritocratic opportunity and the bitter reality. Amol Rajan, who made the breakthrough himself, showed what little chance young people from working-class backgrounds had, however brilliantly they achieve at university, of landing the kind of jobs which middle-class and professional offspring slid into naturally.
Case after case showed that employers were more interested in maintaining an unwritten code of manners, accent, and self-confidence than seeking out genuine talent. However hard they tried, Amaan, Elvis, and Dominique were consistently passed over. Each rejection was an indictment of privilege-ridden England. Did we manage any better in the Church, I wondered (snug in my middle-class security).