Friday, October 24, 2008

A catholic music taste - part 1

I've often been asked why I describe my musical tastes as "catholic"? I use the term in it's "all-embracing" or "broad-minded" sense, as defined in the OED, not in a religious sense, although as an Episcopalian I do regularly state my belief "in one holy catholic and apostolic Church".

It's a term I supposed I inherited from my father who, like me, played no musical instrument, but just loved music of all kinds. As a young boy I can remember my father singing whilst working in his dairy and when delivering milk. We were keen listeners to "the wireless" and we attended weekly brass-band concerts at the (then) wonderful Winter Gardens in our home town of Great Yarmouth. The concerts, usually on a Sunday evening when we rushed from Evensong to the sea-front, were given by a different town or village band mainly from Norfolk or north Suffolk and it is without doubt because of the variety of music played that I developed my wide taste in musical genres. Military marches, overtures from opera, light classical and Broadway melodies were always featured in the program and I tended to remember tunes quite well.

My mother's love of "Hymns: Ancient and Modern" and her total recall of virtually every hymn included, inspired me to join the choir at our local church of which we were already members. That was the delightful little church of St. Andrew (known locally as the "Wherryman's Church" - a wherry was a local, unique type of shallow-draft sailing craft, used to transport cargo to and from the coast along the rivers of the Norfolk Broads). The church had an infant school attached which I attended from age five through seven. Sadly, the church and the school were demolished in the 1960s and is now the site of retail stores - serving the modern god of consumerism.

A Norfolk wherry in full sail. Photograph by Kevin Rowe

Later, at my junior school (Priory Boys', another church school and whose main hall was originally the priory of the adjacent St. Nicholas Parish Church, pictured below, and over 900 years old), we had some wonderful teachers, who encouraged our listening to classical, traditional and jazz even. Anything, I think in retrospect, to discourage us from the evils of the emerging "rock 'n roll"!

The Church of St. Nicholas, Great Yarmouth, England's largest parish church.

. . . . . . to be continued.

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