*** DEBUG END ***

Diary: Glyn Paflin

31 May 2024


Nightingale sings

FELICIA HEMANS wrote of “The Better Land” that “Time doth not breathe on its fadeless bloom”; but, gulp, I see it is one year short of 20 since I was in the Savoy Chapel, then under the tender care of the late Fr (Bill) Scott, for the launch of a book of the same title, linked to a series of CD re-releases of recordings by celebrated “boy sopranos” of the early to mid-20th century.

Two of them, by then in their seventies — Derek Barsham and Denis White — sang. And then Peter Purves, of Blue Peter fame, told us all about his father’s fleeting treble-stave career, and the family myth that he had, in fact, replaced Ernest Lough in that famous old recording of “Hear My Prayer” by the Temple Church Choir.

It was all Stephen Beet’s baby; but what had become simply musical theory in 2005 is now practice again, he tells me.

Eric (left) and Marc Gentet

As part of Ireland’s National Heritage Week, an audience in St Patrick’s Cathedral, Dublin, will hear the 18-year-old French soprano Eric Gentet — dubbed “le rossignol” (the nightingale) — in a lunchtime recital on Wednesday 21 August. Eric will be accompanied on the piano by his brother Marc, who is 12.

Eric will sing solo soprano items from Handel’s Messiah, first performed by the choir of St Patrick’s in April 1742.

Eric is entering his second year of a Bachelor of Physical Science course, and studies lyric singing at the Paris Conservatoire. Marc studies for his Baccalauréat-1 at school and a Master’s degree (third year) at the Conservatoire.

“Eric sings in the same way as the boy sopranos of the past, who retained their angelic, controlled-vibrato singing voices long after the speaking voices had broken. This voice technique totally disappeared after the 1950s,” Mr Beet tells me.

Eric has been famous since, aged eight, he sang arias in nine languages on French television. The Lady chapel of St Patrick’s should hold no terrors for a soloist who, three years later, sang outdoors with a choir of 10,000 children to 40,000 spectators and millions more TV viewers.

“The voices of the old boy sopranos live through me, and I aim to keep and develop my soprano voice,” Eric says. “Now I have the ability and maturity to sing some of the great emotional operatic works originally written for boys, but now only performed by women.”

Free tickets will be available from the cathedral, or via: www.heritageweek.ie


Don’t all rush

DON’T imagine that All Things Bright and Beautifulgate is just about the recent animadversions in The Times (Quotes of the Week, 3 May; Press, 10 May).

Canon Andrew Dow, of Moreton-in-Marsh, in the Cotswolds, was already champing at the bit after a Mothering Sunday service during which the hymn was sung — including verse 5. “And so the congregation, with the odd smile being exchanged, dutifully celebrated ‘The rushes by the water, We gather every day’,” he wrote to us in March.*

“I’m not aware of any of the children in my neighbourhood, or adults either, harvesting the contents of our local, polluted river, and so I really think it’s high time to replace verse 5 with a young person’s more-21st-century outdoor pastime, for which to praise God.”

Canon Dow did, indeed, make me wonder at the time why Mrs Alexander was quite so keen on gathering rushes daily. I have a distant Norfolk thatching connection, and so an interest; but I had thought that Mrs A, wife of an Archbishop of Armagh, was too grand for that. Looking her up, however, I see a Norfolk link through her father. Perhaps the Broads explain everything.

Canon Dow offers his substitute for the oft-controverted verse “The rich man in his castle . . .”, not usually printed now, and then he moves on to youthful pastimes. Our readers may mark his effort, but I have resisted his proposal of a competition. We might end up with a purple-headed mountain of rubbish.

The single mums in one room,
The rich in rather more,
God’s heartbeat throbs for each one,
The lonely, sad, and poor.

Our sports teams win some matches,
Our streets are filled with cheer,
We’re honoured in the papers,
And triumph seems so near!

[*That’s what Hymns Ancient and Modern had. The English Hymnal had “To gather every day”.]


Taking the cake

Sarah CuffSarah CuffIT IS hard in this place to avoid the Groundhog Day of disputation over women priests and bishops and the provision for sensitive consciences. But there is, perhaps, one solution: to stuff everyone’s mouth with cake.

We had the London Plan, and this could, I think, be named the Blackburn Plan, as here is a cake to show you, shared by attendants at the special service in Blackburn Cathedral to mark the 30th anniversary of women priests in the C of E.

But it might equally well be the Grazyna Hilton Plan; for she was the genius behind this most impressive creation in the form of a bundle of the Church Times (such as used to get lost on railway platforms) reporting on Bristol’s big day in 1994.

On the CT cover, in full black and white, our chief reporter has a short colour piece about the first ordinations, by Bishop Barry Rogerson. But, not to forget the Northern Province, there is a note that Sheffield wasn’t far behind.

Glancing through that issue, my curiosity piqued, I see that there was an almighty row about a Madonna in Yorkshire; a profile of a fresh-faced DJ, Simon Mayo; a leader noting that three IRA mortar-bombs had failed to explode at Heathrow; and, on the back page, my review of an anti-nuclear oratorio that I don’t now remember going to hear. To read that, though, you would need an upside-down cake.

Browse Church and Charity jobs on the Church Times jobsite


Thu 20 Apr @ 16:08
The Archbishop of Canterbury has received the specially commissioned King James Bible that will be presented to Kin… https://t.co/u8LMnSFcfV

Welcome to the Church Times


To explore the Church Times website fully, please sign in or subscribe.

Non-subscribers can read four articles for free each month. (You will need to register.)