Saturday, 25 June 2016

supporting historic churches

We went to a concert tonight.  The Suffolk Historic Churches Trust has a campaign to raise funds to help churches and chapels with lead roofs install anti-theft alarms, following a spate of robberies. Lead thieving seems to go in cycles.  According to Ronald Blythe's Akenfield it was the rural crime of choice just after the second world war, and had practically died out by the late 1960s. Nowadays it is only too prevalent.

Tonight's concert was hosted by the church at Lavenham in gratitude for the support they had received from the Trust and to help other less well funded churches.  When the news spread that water was pouring into the north aisle of Lavenham church last year, they were so successful raising money that they rapidly exceeded their target and waived their grant towards the new alarm, but their smaller sister church down the road is not so famous or well funded and was glad of the support.  Churches that don't have alarms and are stripped of lead suffer a twofold loss as their their insurance does not cover the cost of the replacement roof or any other damage.

The church of St Peter and St Paul at Lavenham is magnificent, very large for a parish church, late Perpendicular and severely plain.  Simon Jenkins gives it four stars in his book.  Ronald Blythe mentioned its bells, which included one cast in 1625 that was the sweetest bell in England.  I checked with one of the clergy during the interval at the concert and it hangs there still.  In fact, if we could have been bothered to drive back to Lavenham tomorrow morning and climb up the bell tower which will be open we could have looked at it.

Tonight's performers were The Marian Consort, a youngish group of early music specialists.  The chairman of the churches trust described them as up and coming in his email urging us to buy tickets, but they are already fairly well up, having appeared on Radio 3 and at Kings Place.  They were performing late sixteenth century music about the Virgin Mary sung in five parts, one voice to a part, sacred motets by Carlo Gesualdo, who is chiefly famous for having murdered his wife and her lover, and settings by Cipriano de Rore of verses by Plutarch.  I like early music without knowing an awful lot about it.  The Systems Administrator is not such a fan but gallantly agreed to come with me.

The church looked very beautiful with the setting sun glancing in through the clerestory windows, and the music was very lovely.  There were enough people I knew to make me relieved that I had my partner in tow and was not out toute seule on a Saturday night, especially as the interval was quite long.  Home made cheese straws were served in the interval, the Lord Lieutenant was there (she really does work hard) and apparently the local MP, though I don't know who that is and didn't recognise them.  I wish that the mother of the small girl of approximately four years old had not let her make so much noise, though the SA tried to cheer me up afterwards by pointing out that it was historically accurate for the de Rore pieces, which were originally performed as background music to glittering social occasions.  On that point I thought that less authenticity would have been better.

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