Monday, 26 March 2018


Talking of music, as we weren't, Palm Sunday at Swanvale Halt usually concludes in a performance by our augmented choir of some piece of sacred music. The members have, in the main, known each other for years and this event is wired into their calendar. If things go well, we have about fifty souls in church, half in the choir and half the audience, and there's a cold buffet afterwards. 

This year the music was John Stainer's cantata The Crucifixion. It's not as bad as one of the other standbys, JH Maunder's genuinely awful Olivet to Calvary, but to me it's still really quite dull Victorian fare, a stodgy pudding of a piece that includes about ten seconds of genuinely interesting music scattered through its twenty movements and thankfully concludes with what we now know as the hymn 'All for Jesus' for the whole congregation to sing. At least everyone knows that. At least I know it, is what I probably mean. Stainer intended The Crucifixion to be sung by average church choirs, which is probably why it doesn't contain anything that remarkable. 

On occasions like this, when questioned what I thought about the performance, I always say something along the lines that it went very well and avoid facing the unpalatable truth that most of the time I'm fighting to stay alert. This time, several choir members spontaneously mentioned how moving they find the whole experience and how affecting singing the piece is. I always introduce it as 'an act of devotion' despite the black-and-white choir livery, dickie-bows and concert format, but this brought it home to me that for the people who perform it, at least, it very much is that. That makes me feel a little kinder. 

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