Monday, April 09, 2007

An Easter Feast of Experiences

Entry for 8 April 2007:

Easter Sunday was more overcast than it has been lately. It turned out to be a very full day.

St. Mary’s main Easter morning service was crowded with people and music, including a few favorites such as Handel’s Hallulujah Chrorus and Widor’s Organ symphony . Afterwards people lingered, toasting each other with sparkling wine while children hunted easter eggs in the church.

We had about half an hour at home before we were off again to Margaret and John’s, two new friends from St. Mary’s. On the way to their flat, we passed the end of a massive motorcycle cavalcade that drives through Glasgow on Easter Day. We arrived at Margaret and John’s not long after they did; because of the motorcycles, it had taken them half an hour to get across Dumbarton Road to pick up the food from the Kurdish restaurant they had ordered it from. Margaret, who is Canadian and a faculty member in Celtic Studies at the University of Edinburgh, had assembled an eclectic mix of guests for an Easter Sunday meal, including folks from Poland, Hungary, Iraq, the West Indies, Glasgow, … and us. As might be imagined, this guaranteed an interesting and lively afternoon covering a wide range of topics, including life under communism and recent publicity about the 200th anniversary the British Parliament voting to end the Atlantic slave trade. Nura, the Iraqi woman, was particularly delighted to see her native cuisine featured. She works for the Burrell Collection, one of Glasgow’s main museums (which we haven’t been to yet), and Margaret had contacted her about possibilities for Kenneth to do volunteer work somewhere in the museums this summer. We left about 5, giving us another half hour before it was time to leave for the next thing…

… Which was the Festival Choral Evensong service and Ceilidh at St. Mary’s. Mikio and Hokuto had seen the flyer at our flat, and decided it might be interesting. What none of us entirely expected was an onslaught of another hour of intense Easter music, a veritable crash course in British church music, starting with William Byrd polyphony and taking in Anglican chant and hymn, Vaughan-Williams’ Let All of Heaven and Earth Sing (long a personal favorite of mine) and ending up with Herbert Howells’ Te Deum. Diane, who has mild tintinnitis, complained that her ears had buzzed almost continuously. It wasn't clear was Mikio and Hokuto thought of it all. There was more frankincense (a personal favorite of Kelvin, the Provost or main priest of the Cathedral) emanating from a brass thurible swung dangerously overhead on a long chain by a verger. And Bishop Idris was there with his Staff and Mitre to say the final blessing. As I like to say, Nothing exceeds like excess!

While we were waiting for the Celiidh band, Robbie Sheppard’s Nightmare, to set up, I showed Mikio and Hokuto around the church, in particular pointing out the murals. Mikio had loved the massive Vierne organ showpiece that had ended the service, so we showed him the organ console. We chatted for a bit with Kelvin, who described his exhaustion and the physical pain from the long Holy Week/Easter marathon (my metaphor not his). Our friends Franny and Robert appeared. There were some tables set up and we sat around and visited until the Ceilidh band starting playing. I listen to Robbie Sheppard’s program on BBC Scotland most Saturday nights and generally enjoy it, even if it occasionally verges on Lawrence Welk-type polkas. So I was expecting punk rock or thrash or something, but their Deviations from Scottish traditional country dance music mostly took the form of jazz influences in the later sections of pieces, so it proved to be quite listenable, and also quite danceable. Diane and I did square dancing in primary school so it was not totally unfamiliar, although we are not particularly competent at this sort of thing,

Fortunately, Franny and Robert literally took us in hand and added their support and encouragement to the caller’s instructions, do we were soon having an excellent time. This was our first Scottish Ceilidh experience, but we found that it is not as formal as we had expected, so we could learn and have fun at the same time. We danced the Gay Gordons, Strip the Widow, and others whose names I’ve already forgotten. We tried to get Mikio and Hokuta up and dancing but they could not be persuaded. Perhaps next time…

During one of the breaks a woman named Shona with whom I had danced earlier in the evening came over and started talking to David (another St. Mary’s person) and I. She is a priest who circulates throughout the local parishes helping out, and with her partner Jerry, had lived for several years in the Netherlands. We had a great time discussing Holland and feminist theology for a while, until I looked at my watch and discovered it was time to go home to phone our kids and wish them a Happy Easter.

After having said good bye to various new and old friends, we walked out, only to discover that it was misting outside. We caught the number 66 bus and took it down to Hyndland Road. Walking the rest of the way home, I felt happy and light in spite of the fine rain falling. We first phoned Brendan, catching up with him (taking it easy on the holiday weekend, trying to figure out what he and Mayumi will be doing this summer). Kenneth hates talking on the phone, but as a special Easter Concession, had consented to talk to us by telephone. This turned out to be less than idea for various reasons, but at least we got in a bit of voice communication before switching over to instant messaging, his preferred medium, as we passed on to him more information about what he needs to be organize for lining up volunteer experience here in Glasgow this summer.

This was our family’s first Easter apart from one another, so it felt important to end the day by touching base with them. Even though we are far away from each other, we are still connected. This morning, Diane compared the day to the memorable Christmas Day we spent with Brendan and Kenneth 5 years ago in Tokyo. We can be together in a faraway place, having adventures that are worth setting down in some, such as a set of photographs, or in this case, a long (perhaps too long) blog entry. We went to bed exhausted but satisfied after a very rich Easter feast of experiences.

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