One of the main things that happened today - and today was the first day in ages that I have not been saying meh! to the world and its passing shows, even though I had a good time at Hot Fuzz
while it was actually going on - is that I went with surliminal
to see Dreamgirls
, a movie with which I utterly fell in love. And which as far as I am concerned is crying out for fic, which is not to be taken as a promise, but is certainly an intention.
The other main thing is one about which I am quite profoundly conflicted which is that I went to a church, to hear what was in part a concert and in part a religious service and in part a political meeting. It was, as it needed to be, one of the most moving examples of any of those things that I have ever been to, because it was the celebration of the two hundredth anniversary of the abolition of the Slave Trade in the church where some of the people who got it through prayed. Wilberforce tends to get all the credit, and part of the point of the movement for abolition was that it did not just include posh white Christians, but also deists and ex-slaves and a whole bunch of people who have been hidden from history by circumstance. Nonetheless, Holy Trinity Church is one of the places where it got done, and boy! were they keen on getting their share of the credit.
The music was incredible - which is what I was primarily there for. My friend Errolyn Wallen is a composer who mostly works in small forms - I like her songs and the chamber opera she is working on for a festival later in the year is amazing. Mighty River
is the biggest piece of hers I've heard - an orchestral piece that is sort of like a cross between Smetana's Vlatava
and Adams' Shaker Loops
, a gloriously loud sequence of orchestral landscapes which is sort of a toccata and sort of a disingegration and reassembling of various themes, notably Amazing Grace
which appears at the beginning and end in a raw arrangment for horns that is a bit like some of the writing in the Britten Serenade. The stuff with cells that assemble back into the theme they came from is a bit like Sibelius, though that may only be something I think because last time I talked to Errolyn at length, she was grilling me about writing fiction and criticism and I used Sibelius as an analogy.
The Philharmonia under Brabbins also did the Leonora No 2 - any of those is just about perfect for a concert about the ending of slavery - and the slow movement of Beethoven's 3rd, the funeral march. We also got Coleridge Taylor's big violin concerto, which is Brahms and Bruch filtered down through Stanford, and none the worse for that. One of the reasons for its being there was that Taylor is one of the few classical composers of African descent until our own time - I am not convinced by the arguments about Beethoven, but am prepared to be - and he tended to write, except in one or two smaller pieces like the clarinet quintet, without reference to his heritage as very much part of the international School of Brahms.
We also got made to sing Amazing Grace
, five verses, twice, with an orchestral backing. It has always been one of my favourite hymns in spite of its unambiguously religious writing and the dodgy persona history of its author - a slaver until he saw The Light; I think it is because it is one of the best expressions of commitment and change and passionate joy in the new place one is that I know. I may detest the religious version of those things, but I empathize with the feelings nonetheless.
And then there was the down side. As was mentioned, sort of in passing, Wilberforce was involved with the Committee for the Improvement of Public Morals as well as the anti-slavery movement. I can't get terribly excited about this, to put it mildly - this essentially meant that a lot of posh people went around making sure the authorities cracked down on queers and whores, which is something many Christians are still far too keen on doing. The combination of this, and the presence of several bishops, meant that I did not stick around and try to crash the party - I was prepared not to heckle the vicar at the time, but I don't think I could have held my tongue.
Slavery was one of the greatest crimes there has ever been - a permanent stain on the historical records of both the Christian and Islamic worlds; the Christian churches had a major role in getting rid of it in the end and deserve praise for this, along with all the others involved. The persecution, immiseration and reasonably regular murder of LGBT people by both religions is a crime and a sin for which the Christian churches have yet to repent.
I don't propose to rehearse this again right now - anyone who reads this LJ knows where I stand. Sooner or later, though, a reckoning must be had.