Just a brief post to flag up the next couple of choral singing engagements in my calendar. I shall be singing tenor in the Duruflé Requiem with the Reid Consort on 19 May, and Brahms’ Deutsches Requiem with the St Andrew Camerata on 23 June. Please do come along if you are free in Edinburgh. Details below. Cheers!
Duruflé’s Requiem Mass, derived from ancient chant, is at equal moments grand and intimate and a meditative contemplation on the afterlife. Join the Reid Consort, its excellent soloists and the conductor, Cole Bendall, in a thrilling performance of this work, paired with short works by Bairstow, Leighton and Andrew, as well as the world premiere of Hail, gladdening light, by Thomas LaVoy.
LAVOY Hail gladdening light
ANDREW O nata lux
LEIGHTON Drop, drop, slow tears
BAIRSTOW Let all mortal flesh keep silence
DURUFLÉ Requiem, Op. 9
Soloists and organist will be announced in due course. Please note the change to the advertised programme which initially included Leighton Crucifixus.
Tickets available now from Ticketsource or at the door.
An intimate performance of Brahms’ longest composition, brought to you by the St Andrew Camerata, their conductor Vincent Wallace, soloists Gillian Robertson & Sean Webster, and pianists Morley Whitehead & Calum Robertson.
Composed between 1865 and 1868, Ein deutsches Requiem (Op 45) comprises seven movements; Brahms’s longest composition. The idea of a requiem seems to have occurred to the young artist in 1854, after a suicide attempt by his newfound compositional father figure, Robert Schumann, who died in 1856. According to an early biographer, Max Kalbeck, Brahms discovered the title “Ein Deutsches Requiem” among manuscripts left by Schumann. This is sacred but non-liturgical work, and unlike a long tradition of the Latin Requiem, A German Requiem, as its title states, is a Requiem in the German language. Rather than dwelling on the judgment of the deceased, Brahms seems intent on consoling those left behind. It was Brahms who originated the term “human requiem,” in a letter to Clara Schumann, Robert’s widow.
Johannes Brahms (1833-1897) himself made a piano transcription of the orchestral parts of his magnificent Requiem. The arrangement for two players allows a degree of intimacy, precision and contrapuntal clarity that cannot be achieved in the orchestral version; this is the version we will perform for you with Calum Robertson and Morley Whitehead at the piano. Our soprano soloist will be Gillian Robertson with the baritone soloist Sean Webster.
Saturday, 23 June 2018, 7:30pm, Canongate Kirk, Edinburgh. Tickets available from the Usher Hall Box Office, from members of the choir, or on the door.
I was recently asked to submit a short, interdisciplinary research brief for an event that I am attending on Urban Super-Diversity next month. In the interests of updating you all on what I am up to – particularly given that this blog has not been updated in a horrendously long time – I have posted this information below as an image. You can also download it as a PDF.
I hope to get back to blogging more regularly at some point in the future…
Taking a leaf out of my pal David’s blogging book, I guess I should update you all on what’s been happening.
Academically, among other things…
- I’ve recently had a book chapter published, in Atheist Identities: Spaces and Social Contexts
- I’ve recently been appointed a director at the Nonreligion and Secularity Research Network.
- The Religious Studies Project continues to go from strength to strength. Now into our fourth year, I’ve been doing a bit more interviewing recently, including interviews on Bricolage, the Post-Secular, African Christianity in the West, The Emerging Church, Religion and Memory, and Geographies of Religion and the Secular in Ireland.
In my ‘real life’…
- The wonderful Lindsey and I got married in November!! Here are some photos…
- I continue to sing regularly in Edinburgh with the St Andrew Camerata, who are going from strength-to-strength lately. Check here for details of our next concert (21 March). And please follow us on Twitter!
- And probably much more…
Ciao for now.
More random tidbits from my research today…
The following extract appears in Mayfield and Fountainhall: A Short History (1962), which gives a history of the now defunct Mayfield and Fountainhall Church in Edinburgh. The quotation comes from a 1900 report of the Psalmody Committee to the Deacon’s Court, and suggests that there might have been a problem with some Gilbert & Sullivan creeping in on the organ…
I came across the following text when researching the history of my current research site. The author is referring to a street in Edinburgh called “Causewayside”, which is literally 2 minutes away from my residence. He is writing about life in the 1950s/60s.
Nice and poetic, no?
“Drifting from the factory of confectioner John Millar and Sons Ltd. was the tantalizing bouquet of boiling sugar, chocolate, fruit flavourings and, above all, mint, for this was the home of the celebrated Pan Drop, one of the most popular sweets ever to have been manufactured in sweet-toothed Scotland and a boon to bored church-goers throughout the land as they slowly sucked their way through many a long, tedious sermon, the air over the pews becoming more heavy with mint than piety.”
James Beyer, “The Land of Sweets”. Scottish Memories (April 2009), p. 34.
Those of you who know me well will know that this past few months have been particularly turbulent in terms of my personal life. Back in June, my world was turned upside down when my dear friend Will died tragically and unexpectedly. I had known Will from the start of high school, and since then we had both moved over from Northern Ireland to Edinburgh at the same time, where we maintained frequent contact for the next eight years. I was going through one of my suit pockets the other day and discovered the short tribute that I read at Will’s cremation, and thought that it was about time that I shared it with the world, in some sort of attempt at a memorial. No doubt, it will not compare with the lovely piece that is residing on his departmental website at the University of Edinburgh, written by his PhD supervisor. I don’t personally believe in life after death in any sort of spiritual or religious sense, but I believe that we all leave our mark on the world and in the memories and lives of those who knew and loved us. Will shall certainly never be forgotten.
In October, a group of Will’s friends did a 5km run in his memory, and raised over £2000 for PIPS (Public Initiative for the Prevention of Suicide and Self Harm) Newry & Mourne, and I believe that my JustGiving page is still functional, should you want to donate anything.
What follows are the scans of my tribute, and some pictures of Will and his friends. This is not intended in any way to be self-indulgent… it just seemed in some way appropriate.
We’re moving house… that means downsizing… and in this case a lot. I have been carrying a lot of things from place to place in the past, but this time some things just have to go. I found a folder entitled ‘Year 2 Physics, University of Edinburgh’ which contained my notes from Physics 2, Mathematical Methods 2 & 3, and Applicable Mathematics 2 & 3 from September – December 2004.
These were the subjects that got me into University… before I decided that Religious Studies was actually where my interests lay.
Apparently I used to understand this stuff… it is my handwriting after all:
Toward a Typology of ‘Nonreligion’: A Qualitative Analysis of Everyday Narratives of Scottish University Students
It is six weeks until submit my 25,000 word MSc by Research thesis. Thank goodness I now have a title and an abstract…
Here it is, for your enjoyment:
Toward a Typology of ‘Nonreligion’: A Qualitative Analysis of Everyday Narratives of Scottish University Students
This thesis details the outcomes of a small-scale research project into a relatively new and under-researched field. The aim was qualitatively to map out the different types of nonreligiosity articulated by some nonreligious students at the University of Edinburgh. Beginning by demarcating the concept of ‘nonreligion’ around which the study revolves, the author outlines: first, why such a study is necessary and worthwhile; second, the specific theoretical questions to which the study is directed; and third, the specific relevance of studying nonreligion within Religious Studies. In approaching the subject in this way, this study calls into question the reified dichotomy between religion and nonreligion, expands what the author calls the ‘nonreligious monolith’ and questions ideas of religious universality. The specifics of this study are detailed at length. Particular focus is given to the suitability of a Scottish university student population as a subject-group, and to the methodology employed, which uses electronic questionnaires and in-depth interviews to elicit unscripted narratives from selected participants. The author demonstrates that current typologies based on internally and/or externally selected and defined nonreligious identity labels, tend to be inadequate and inaccurate. Nonreligious students are shown to be highly aware of the subjectivity of their interpretations of key identity terms, and in many cases they maintain multiple identities simultaneously, in a situational and pragmatic fashion. These identities also vary in terms of concreteness and salience, and are informed by a wide variety of relationship- and education-based subjective experiences. A more nuanced approach is then proposed, based on the questionnaire and interview evidence, categorising individuals according to the overarching narrative through which they claim to interact with (non)religion. The thesis concludes by returning to the initial motivating questions – particularly concerning the reified status given to (non)religion in traditional representations – and calling for future research investment in order to continue fleshing-out the nonreligious field, and for a continued movement away from attempts to explain nonreligion from a perspective of normative religiosity.
Grace Davie, University of Exeter, probably needs no introduction. She is a leading sociologist of religion and author of, amongst other works: The Sociology of Religion (2007); Europe, the Exceptional Case. Parameters of Faith in the Modern World (2002); Religion in Modern Europe: A Memory Mutates (2000); Religion in Britain since 1945: Believing without Belonging (1994).
Professor Davie spoke to the topic of “Understanding Religion in Modern Europe: A Continuing Debate” as part of the University of Edinburgh’s Sociology Seminar series on 09 March 2011, which can be viewed online HERE. I would heartily recommend giving it a watch (if you have a spare 60-90 minutes). I only wish I had plucked up the courage to ask the three questions I had written down…
Whilst I can’t remember what they were, I certainly remember thinking about the churches in Edinburgh… where the people who care about having ‘good’ church music are the ‘older’ people… who have to pay ‘younger’ people to come and sing in their choirs… because the churches with young and willing congregations aren’t interested in ‘good’ (and by good, I mean traditional) music…
Anyways… watch the lecture if you have time :)
I have been pretty quiet on the blogging front for a while now… this is because I was at a reasonably useful conference on Young People and Religion at King’s College, London. This did mean, however, that I was able to catch with a number of good friends in London, and in Newcastle on the way back up to Edinburgh.
Upon returning to Edinburgh things pretty much immediately launched into the celebrations for the 50th Anniversary of the Edinburgh University Savoy Opera Group, a wonderful group with whom I spent many a happy year and performed in, directed or produced sixteen productions of musicals, operas and operettas between 2004 and 2010.
On the Saturday night, we had a fantastic Ball at the George Hotel, Edinburgh… with over 140 people dining, and many dozens more joining us later for a good sing and a Ceilidh. Below is a clip of us singing Gilbert & Sullivan’s “Hail Poetry!”, a regular party piece from The Pirates of Penzance. Some of us may have had slightly too much to drink… but what we lack in tunefulness we make up for in enthusiasm. And I don’t think the hotel will ever have heard such a glorious noise!
The following day we gathered a group of 60+ singers at the Reid Concert Hall, with one of the best hand-picked orchestras in Edinburgh and performed a semi-staged version of The Mikado, under the able direction of my good friend Vincent Wallace. Here, Vince and I rehearse the song “Our great Mikado, virtuous man…” the afternoon before I reprised the role of Pish Tush, which I performed in 2008.
It was quite an emotional weekend, both with seeing many faces from years gone by, and with realising that that part of my life is now gone… but it was very happy, and great to get a group of lifelong friends together and have the dynamic be identical to ‘back in the day’. Thanks so much to everyone who was involved in the organisation of this epic weekend!
Things are looking similarly busy over the coming weeks, with two weddings, paid employment, and the small matter of writing my thesis… but I shall endeavour to keep posting on the more serious stuff. There are interesting plans brewing for this blog in the post thesis world… watch this space.
And also…. do look out for me at the European Association for the Study of Religion’s Conference in Budapest this coming September, where I am thrilled to be presenting a paper! The nerves have already started!