Long to reign over us, God save the Queen

The Queen’s long reign is like a tune, like a melody line running throughout our lives. She has been a constant. Her visage instantly recognisable, her voice and mannerisms easily identifiable.

Queen Elizabeth II

Of the melodies we know, apparently globally the tune we are all most familiar with, and share in signing together most, is – Happy Birthday. In the UK, probably the next most familiar song we know the words of and sing together, is God save our gracious Queen. Or it has been until we now all try and remember to sing King. But it is not just this tune I mean when I speak of the Queen’s reign running like a melody. It’s more about the Queen herself. Her life, as a musical metaphor. 

…let the sounds of music creep in our ears…

In music, a tune or theme returning and overlapping is called a canon. Perhaps our most familiar examples are the likes of Frère Jacques and Row, Row, Row Your Boat.  Even a melody as simple as these can be transformed using this repetition, creating some complex chords. Where the theme returns on a different note of the scale the form may be called a fugue. Other, different, musical lines may also play along with the original melody. They may be alternative melodies, or harmonies. The main melody will still remain the dominant theme.  

There are many other musical ‘variations’ and metaphors. However, it is the main melody, the Queen Elizabeth melody, that is the important one for us here. Her theme: a solo, a chorale, building to a symphony, and reducing back down to a sole piper. Her theme has elements of so many musical styles – drawing on classical and spiritual musical themes, pre-dating Elvis or the Beatles, loving the sparkle of the stage musical and the military band, the musical performances at Her Majesty’s pleasure that have touched the heart and raised the spirit over so many decades.

The Queen’s tune has led our country these 70 years. Some have followed her theme, joined in her theme, harmonised and improvised – and perhaps some contrasted dissonantly. Her theme remains memorable, with a musical hook that many will be humming for generations after this second Elizabethan era. Sounding now a rich harmony, with variations added – the original theme remains central.

Just as I was appointed archdeacon, but before I had left my Sussex parish, the Deputy Lieutenant kindly asked if he might arrange an invitation for me to a Royal Garden party. I was really touched by the thought, but knew that bishops – and probably deans and archdeacons – got invitations regularly, I suggested that perhaps my long-serving curate/assistant priest colleague in the parish was a more appropriate recipient of an invitation.

The American theologian William P. Merrill said “There is nothing in the world so much like prayer as music is”, and music and prayer have been twin active faith elements throughout the Queen’s life. 

On meeting the Queen

Continue reading “Long to reign over us, God save the Queen”


‘After The Fire’, aka ATF or 80-F, were THE megastars of the 70s/80s British Christian music scene. Though I’m not sure they liked the idea of being called that – though not afraid of their Christian influence, they wanted to be known as musicians, not just Christian musicians.

ATF - credit Richard Dickens
ATF - credit Richard Dickens

I took a couple of photos at the Burgess Hill gig – but they weren’t nearly as good as Richard Dickens‘ ones.

I did bootleg a couple of tracks, which aren’t of any quality to threaten ATF sales, but might give a wee flavour of the live sound. You can get proper quality ATF music either from their store (and it’s almost Christmas…) or off the iTunes store.

Continue reading “80-F”

The trumpet shall sound

With a flourish, and a snippet from the Messiah, trumpeter extraordinaire Crispian Steele-Perkins made a brilliant impact in the Trumpet & Organ concert at St. John’s.

Crispian Steele-Perkins, Ian le Grice, Alastair Cutting
Crispian Steele-Perkins, Ian le Grice, Alastair Cutting

It was a bit of a journey back, in a way, for Crispian, as he is an ‘old boy’ of Copthorne Prep School; and indeed started his trumpet career at the school (see this photo!). He has done so much session work over the years, you will definitely have heard him play. If nowhere else, on the theme tune to the Antiques Roadshow. With his usual style, incorporating quite a lot of entertaining trumpet history, Crispian played brilliantly.

Concert flyer
Concert flyer

The organ (and piano, and even at one point harpsichord) accompaniment came from Ian le Grice, who having assisted Sir George Thalben-Ball, was later appointed assistant organist at the Temple church, where he still plays. Ian’s subtlety of playing coaxed some delicate sounds out of St. John’s organ, the like of which I have not heard before in over 13 years here. An exquisite combination with the trumpet.

The concert was in church on Pentecost evening; and thinking of God’s Holy Spirit, called Ruach in the Hebrew of the Old Testament, meaning ‘breath’, or ‘wind’, seemed entirely appropriate. That, and the entreaty from the psalmist reminding us to Praise God on the trumpet!

Jason Carter’s Harp-Guitar

I got to most of Jason Carter‘s Harp-Guitar concert at the National Theatre last week.

Jason Carter and the Harp-Guitar
Jason Carter and the Harp-Guitar

I have known Jason since he was hardly out of his teens, and he came and played for us – both formally and informally – at The Nave a few times. Jason is now, among other things, a Peace Ambassador for Café Diplo (who have the brilliant tag-line Stop the Pain, Start the Music! ). Jason’s Harp-guitar was made by Stephen Sedgwick.

Violin bow on the Harp-Guitar
Violin bow on the Harp-Guitar

You can hear some of Jason’s music here; or follow him on Facebook.

I tried bootlegging a bit of video on my phone, but possibly just as well, it did not work. A much better idea is to see Jason’s video instead:

Jason Carter – Harp Guitar – Rubber Planet from Jason Carter on Vimeo.

Jason's video

If you get a chance, do go to listen to Jason.

Individual Surprises

Now and again I come across someone (or something) I feel I ought to have known much more about. Listening to the radio today revealed some fascinating insights into the life of Thomas Quasthoff – not to mention some good choices in music!

Thomas Quasthoff

Thomas’ superb bass/baritone voice is in no way compromised by the effect thalidomide had on his limbs before birth. Although a nurse identified his musicality before he was even a year old, his musical education was almost extinguished before it started, as the college would not accept him without an instrument to his repertoire, even though playing was physically an impossibility. A brilliant and talented character.

It reminded me a bit of Australian Nick Vujicic‘s incredible vitality and faith, after someone sent me link a few months ago


Even in churches, we do not always treat people with the respect and honour we ought, or spot the potential in them. A number of years ago Alyn Haskey was told that his cerebral palsy would prevent him from being ordained. Fortunately, after a change in perception, rather than a change in Alyn’s call, he has now been ordained in the CofE, and has an active peripatetic ministry based around the Midlands.

Rev'd Alyn Haskey
The Rev’d Alyn Haskey

At next weeks General Synod, I will be looking forward to catching up with several ‘alternatively abled’ friends, including Vera Hunt, Katie Tupling, and Pete Spiers, who have taught me much about wholeness.