I think I am going to have “It’s been a tiring few days” set up and good to go on my computer’s clipboard, because it it certainly going to see some use over the next weeks. On Friday I set off for a six hour drive to Yorkshire, so as not to hit the traffic on Saturday, even if this meant sitting for around an hour near Birmingham as various motorways turned into car parks in the pre-weekend meltdown.
The reason for the journey was that I was playing for the Cantores Salicium concert in Bolton Abbey on Saturday, giving some gentle support and accompanying a couple of concertos, and then pretending to be the orchestra for the Bach Magnificat. This is my second concert in that building, and I admired it even more the second time, aware, of course, that even the bits that are still there were very lucky to survive.
It was only after I had lived in Mitcham for a couple of years that I realised that, underneath that vast complex that houses Sainsbury’s, M&S and a car park, there are the remains of Merton Priory, dismantled by Henry VIII and used as building materials for Nonsuch Palace. If you were really lucky, the foundations of the chapter house, pretty much all that remains, might be open to view, and I am heartened that there appear to be plans in place to accord the site a little more visibility and importance.
I often wonder what the music might have been like in such places, and also despair at the wholesale destruction of such magnificent buildings. At the time it must have seemed like the very end of things, that all that was considered stable and permanent was being ripped apart and dismantled.
The Ave Maria by Robert Parsons, sung by Cantores last night, is, I believe, the product of that time, the reaction of a Catholic to the news that Queen Mary was pregnant and that, therefore, a Catholic succession would be provided and a restoration to the former faith. As we now know, Mary’s pregnancy was a fiction, but the Parsons is a crystallisation of a moment in time, a particular feeling captured in amber of a hope against hope that everything might just return to how it was, and all that happened in between be consigned to history.