Friday, 9 January 2015

52 Musical Moments / Two - The Shepherds' Farewell

I know that we left the festive season well behind on Twelfth Night but I couldn't help but include this gentle choral piece by Berlioz.

The Adoration of the Shepherds - Unknown Italian Artist circa 1630s, The National Gallery London
The Shepherds' Farewell (from L'enfance du Christ) - Hector Berlioz

The piece was composed in 1850 and concerns the shepherds saying goodbye to Jesus as he leaves Bethlehem for Egypt. The music is so soothing and soft it is very much like a lullaby Apparently when first heard in the nineteenth century, many who had previously disliked Berlioz's work were surprised that he could compose such a peaceful anthem.

The lyrics are traditionally sung in French but there are a number of English translations - it seems that every lyricist that has translated it seems to think that there's is the version closest to Berlioz's original words.

Thou must leave thy lowly dwelling,
The humble crib, the stable bare.

Babe, all mortal babes excelling,
Content our earthly lot to share.
Loving father, Loving mother,
Shelter thee with tender care!

Blessed Jesus, we implore thee
With humble love and holy fear.
In the land that lies before thee,
Forget not us who linger here!
May the shepherd's lowly calling,
Ever to thy heart be dear!

Blest are ye beyond all measure,
Thou happy father, mother mild!
Guard ye well your heav'nly treasure,
The Prince of Peace, The Holy Child!
God go with you, God protect you,
Guide you safely through the wild!
Translated by Paul England

I first heard it on Classic FM many years ago but in the last ten years it has become the piece of music that I associate most with the end of the festive season as at my church it is sung by the choir for the Communion Anthem on the Sunday before Epiphany. This service also usually signals the end of the holiday period as it usually the day before I head back to work.

The music brings me a moment of calm before everything returns to normal and busy routines and lives resume. It's a few minutes to look back on the joys that Christmas has brought and feel grateful for both the love and luxuries that I've enjoyed in the last few weeks. I also find it makes me review the outgoing year and think about the year to come, particularly the things I want to accomplish.

You may prefer to wait until December and next Christmas to listen to this beautiful piece but if you'd like a listen now, then may I recommend you follow this link to the Pavao Quartet's playing. Whilst there is no singing as it is played by a string quartet, this is a favourite version that I frequently listen to at home over Christmas. I may be biased as Jenny, one of the two violinists, is a friend, but it's very beautiful and instantly brings a sense of calm and tranquility at the end of a busy time.

Thursday, 1 January 2015

52 Musical Moments / One - Auld Lang Syne

Dear Blogging Friends, Happy New Year to you! I hope the start of 2015 sees you happy and well.

It's lovely to start the first day of this shiny new year writing to you with so many exciting, unknown adventures ahead and I thought I'd take a few minutes this grey afternoon to start my new weekly list for this year. 

As music is one of my big passions, I'd like to share with you some of my favourite songs and pieces of music throughout the year. They may be creatively beautiful or just things that bring out particular memories and emotions. To be able to do this over 52 weeks is a dream come true for someone who would desperately struggle with taking just eight records on Desert Island Discs!

So here we are - Week 1!
Auld Lang Syne

It took lots of thinking about whether this should be the first or last piece of music but as I've decided that it gets played just after midnight on 1st January and thus is technically the first song you hear after Big Ben's chimes then it is highly appropriate for Week 1.

Despite it's well established history and connections to Robert Burns, I wouldn't say that Auld Lang Syne is the most accomplished piece of music on the list or the words most beautiful but I have chosen it because of the memories it helps to bring back.

New Year has always been well-celebrated in my family, either at someone's house, at a dinner dance or, as we did at the Millennium,  on watching the fireworks beside the River Thames. I've had so many lovely and memorable experiences and it has been lovely to share this evening with my parents, aunt and uncle, great aunt and great uncle and of course, Andy. Big Ben, champagne and joining hands for this ditty has always been an important part of the evening.

However, it's also become our family tradition to have the song played at the end of parties. It was the final song at the end of my 21st birthday celebration and our wedding reception - for the latter we even entered into a little dispute prior to the big day with the DJ who was adamant that it could only be played at the new year. Had he never seen the Last Night of the Proms? 

I always find whatever the time of year, Auld Lang Syne makes me think of loved ones and experiences past and present. It's that sort of song that brings back lots of memories and emotions. Some years when I've heard it I've been sad to say goodbye to the outgoing year and other years I've been ready to move onto the next one. It never fails to remind me of those last moments of the film When Harry Met Sally, when Billy Crystal says the beautiful line, "I came here tonight because when you realise you want to spend the rest of your life with somebody, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible" - a lovely line and a special moment.

So that's why Auld Lang Syne has become the first song in my 52 Musical Moments list - purely for the memories. In fact, I like the ritual and sentiment of it, that I've made sure my loved ones know that I'd like it to be the last piece of music played at my funeral. A great final goodbye!

Follow this link to hear it being played by Scottish Bagpipes!

Monday, 29 December 2014

52 Lists / Fifty Two

This week: List the things you loved and loathed in 2014 and the things that excite you about 2015

(Let's get the loathed out the way first!)
Not So Lovely Stuff
Getting really poorly with flu and pneumonia and ending up in hospital - not fun one bit
My hair falling out after my illness and wondering when it would stop
Having another lower respiratory infection just before Christmas
Hardly seeing/talking to my godchildren and friends this year
Saying final goodbyes to much loved family
The long list of stuff I meant to do and never got round to doing
The lack of books read (For the first time I could probably count the number of books I read on one hand)
Piling on lots of weight in the spring and summer
Few blog posts with pictures and interesting stuff

Very Lovely Stuff
The gorgeous Milly moving in with Mum and Dad
Lots of sofa snuggles with Andy and Brina
Seeing my 2013-14 class my great progress and settle well into life in Reception
Completing my first year as a teacher with an excellent end-of-year report from my Mentor
Receiving my first completely Outstanding lesson grading in the Autumn Term
A fantastic holiday in Scotland and the Lake District
Attending Ladies Finals Day at Wimbledon
Watching Andy Murray play at the ATP finals
Completing my Instagram 365Me Project
Winning an iPad Mini in a raffle
Getting my crafting bug back
Laughing with colleagues at school
Our Burns' Night Dinner in January
Saturday Afternoon Tea trips with Gemma
Our May Bank Holiday visit to the Cotswolds
Buying my first bike and cycling on Saturday morning trips to the butcher
Frosty mornings
Sunny summer days
The Paddington Bear film
Cutting back wasted time on Facebook
Losing one stone in the autumn
My postcard gallery around my desk at school
Belle & Boo making me smile
Receiving lovely long emails from family and friends
My hair growing back
Nicki & Gianni's wedding
Lots of lovely visits to Grey's Court
Keeping this List Project going throughout the entire year

Eagerly Anticipating in 2015
Working out future plans with Andy - house, job and family
Relaxing into teaching and not spending all my working days stressed and fretting
Putting time aside to be quiet and read some books, do some crafting
Lose another 3/4 stone, tone up and get fit
More tennis trips
More bike riding
Camping in the North East and Yorkshire and wherever else we end up
Completing another Instagram project (undecided what to call it yet)
Growing my hair - the bob's been lovely but long locks will be attempting a comeback in 2015
Spending more time with godchildren and friends
More afternoon teas
Lots of telephone calls, emails and letters to friends and family
Updating this blog more frequently and more imaginatively

What did you love and loathe in 2014?
What are you getting excited about in 2015?

Thanks for reading this list project with me throughout the year. 
I hope that it's not been too dull and given you a little insight into my little world. 

I have just enjoyed looking back at posts throughout the year and seeing how my ideas and mood has changed over 2014. It's been a good year, not the best but not the worst. It's involved lots of hard work and sweat but fewer tears than I would have imagined. It's had plenty of highs and lows, seen lots of lovely things and heard lots of coughing and laughing. 

Thank you 2014 - you've been a challenging pleasure! 

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

52 Lists / Fifty One

This Week: List some magical Christmas Day memories

Waking up to a new bedroom on Christmas morning
When I was 10 we moved house and it took a fair while to get everything sorted. For Christmas Mum and Dad decorated my room and had bought new furniture, bed linen and blinds. I went to sleep on Christmas Eve in their bed but woke up in my new bedroom on Christmas Morning. It was a wonderful surprise.

Dancing around to The Snowman
I vividly remember dancing around my Aunty and Uncle's dining table with my slightly older boy cousin to the beautiful music of The Snowman. It's a warm memory that I remember ever year and always brings back lovely reminiscences about my uncle who passed away when I was 8.

Helping with the pigs-in-blankets
I have really clear memories of helping Mum to make the pigs-in-blankets on Christmas Morning when I was about 5 or 6. I was wearing my pyjamas still and it was dark outside. The radio was playing festive songs and it was a lovely start to the day.

Our first Christmas at home
In 2008 Andy and I celebrated our first Christmas together in our flat. We spent the day at Mum and Dad's but it was lovely to wake up in our own home and open our stockings together. It was the year we started our own Christmas traditions.

Pass the phone
Growing up I spent most Christmases in the company of grandparents, great-aunts and uncles - just as I think Christmas should be - and on Christmas evening we always used to telephone my grandparents siblings around the country to wish them a Merry Christmas. This was in the days before speaker phones and so we passed the phone around and had the same conversation again and again. It was also before cordless phones so we must have had to swap chairs as well!

There are so many more wonderful memories I could add to this but there's just not enough time at this busy point in the year. I'm hoping more magical memories will be made this year.

What are your most magical Christmas memories?