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September 12, 2010


I hope that belting out those high Gs diverted your attention from things melancholy, Beth! I had the Stanford 'Magnificat' on cassette. Long gone now, so good to hear this morsel.

Oh, yes, I wasn't really too melancholy anyway, and singing knocks it right out of me. Isn't that Stanford a quintessentially English gem, for that period? An all-Charles Villiers afternoon was quite a trip.

Just by sitting with your friend and listening, even by touching the old woman talking to the squirrel with your thoughts, you are helping to take care. Keep drawing strength from singing, and tyake it back out into the world.

It does sound very English, sadly the sound on this laptop is terribly shrill and tinny, but it gives an impression - I've scrolled it out of sight and am just listening while I type this, I'm on a bit of an anti-papist jag at the moment I'm afraid!

Beth, I didn't know this composer's work at all,thanks for the clip. I can see this piece must have been marvellous to sing. One of my top favourites in all of music is Bach's Magnificat in D - have you ever sung it?

As you say, the Mary paintings are pretty awful,ie: pretty and awful. All these images subscribing to the saccharine cliché of a simpering, generally blonde Western woman in blue robes. The artists could have done some research to see how a teen-age Middle Eastern girl of that period would have looked but of course that wouldn't have gone down too well with their patrons or public.

I was listening to this as i get ready to go to bed after a long and hard work day.I feel better.Thanks for this

Lovely piece of music, and choir. I do wish I could sing in a choir! - I used to, but now have a range of about 4 husky notes...

Yes, many of the pictures of Mary have an awful sugary sentimentality, but I think that fault is more tolerated in the Catholic church than in the Protestant (I speak as an ex-Catholic, who in some ways is not anti the church). It's a less polite church than, say, the Anglican - there are bleeding hearts, incense, more decorations, "bells and smells"; and infringements against the rules of North European middle class taste are not so frowned on.

About the way Mary is depicted: she's an archetype (a mother), not a real person, so naturally she's shown as similar in looks to the people who surround the painter or sculptor. And in the first half of the 20th c. and before she couldn't have been shown as a young Jewish woman - there was too much prejudice against Jews.

In the late 20th and early 21st c., now that there's so much more contact between different peoples, it wouldn't seem so odd in Europe or America if she were depicted as a Middle Eastern woman.

In Ethiopian art Mary is often shown as having rather Ethiopian features (google "Ethiopian art Madonna"). Does anyone object to this? In Byzantine and Russian art Mary is painted in a very stylised, unrealistic way. Given the sentimentality which seeped into Western popular art in the 19th and 20th c. it's not surprising that this is reflected in depictions of an archetypal young mother - subjects are seen through the eyes of the country and era.

Oh well, it's a vast subject and I can only vaguely tinker at the edges! Your blogs are always really interesting.

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Who was Cassandra?

  • In the Iliad, she is described as the loveliest of the daughters of Priam (King of Troy), and gifted with prophecy. The god Apollo loved her, but she spurned him. As a punishment, he decreed that no one would ever believe her. So when she told her fellow Trojans that the Greeks were hiding inside the wooden horse...well, you know what happened.