Monday, 24 March 2008

Soundtrack to my life

I'm just a non-conformist lass at heart. This doesn't mean I have a taste for the avant garde in music nor that I'm particularly anti-establishment, just that I'm one of those Daughters of Dissent (just realised though that would be a great name for a band).
At least part of my family is very musical - my mother is a violin teacher. But when I think about the soundtrack to my own life it really is desperately limited, plebian, out of date and dull these days. The downloads on my ipod shuffle consist so far entirely of radio podcasts, the spoken word, the spoken word and more spoken word. Since my wonderful Technics stereo gave up the ghost years ago I have hardly ever played music regularly. My great collection of vinyl is still down in the garage and even our more limited collection of CDs can't be used since the demise of the CD player we bought for a birthday party a decade ago.
So the soundtrack to my life is not music that I listen to but rather music that I sing, or remember singing, so you can guess that this means I am completely limited to stuff I sing in church or chapel. Oh dear this really is not hip is it?
At least when I was younger there was a bit more variety to the soundtrack to my life, real concerts, records, discos and even oh horror musical theatre - Gilbert and Sullivan anyone? Oklahoma? The Desert Song? - I warn you the list could go on. My exposure to this was such in my youth that I thought it strange that in real life people did not seem to break into perfect song and dance routines in the street. It did seem rather dull by comparison!
These days my inner soundtrack is less Blue Heaven and you and I than ubi caritas et amor. And let's face it either is pretty sad! If I were ambitious I would try to take my musical education in hand a bit, but as it is I spend a nice evening at home listening to more talk radio and reading the hymnbook.
I console myself with a quote from the great departed Erik Routley "Hymns are the folktunes of the church militant". Get people to hum the music and they'll remember the words and imbibe the theology (unfortunately often dubious in many hymns). And the path to Christian unity is fraught with problems of singing words to the right tune - I am almost physically ill if I have to sing "God of Grace and God of Glory" to Cwm Rhondda rather than to Rhuddlan (In fact I've even refused to put in a link because all the cyberhymnals are US dominated and that is the tune always used there!). Singing an Easter hymn in French yesterday to the tune of "While Shepherds washed their flocks by night" was also a bit bizarre.
I warned you it was sad. I can talk not only about the first line of hymns but also about hymn tunes, new words to Merthyr Tydfil or Leoni anyone? In France and Germany hymn tunes don't have names, so I am sadly deprived.
Anyway just in case anyone else is interested my favourite hymn is currently one I only learnt a couple of years ago for the WCC assembly in Porto Alegre. It is called Tenemos Esperanza written by Federico Pagura during the dictatorship in Argentina, it has a tango tune and is great fun, you can find it in the Agape hymbook with a great English translation.
It vies for first place with the wonderful "Break the bread of belonging" by Brian Wren - find it in Praising a Mystery.
So any hints on how to improve my musical education gratefully received. The soundtrack to my life needs some renewal, if not transformation!