August 2012

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Wednesday, February 29th, 2012 02:46 am
The Scottish Chamber Orchestra has a delightful series of 1-hour concerts on occasional weekday evenings, from 6 to 7, called Cl@six. The idea being that you go after work, listen to beautiful music for an hour, and then head home relaxed and content having neatly missed the rush hour.

At 5 I stood up from the day's work, changed into my jogging clothes, and ran to St. Cuthbert's as my much-needed exercise for the day. It was not a particularly pleasant one, grey and gloomy from start to finish. St. Cuthbert's is pleasant enough outside, though somewhat spooky and gloomy-- the facade is blackened with age, and it's down in the basin overshadowed by the high cliff of the castle. Adding to the general sense of oppression are the shadowing trees that grow in the churchyard, and the dark, perpetually damp stone tombstones scattered higgledy-piggledy like broken teeth. It's a pleasant enough place in the sunlight, full of dappled shadows over verdantly green moss, but the least bit of atmospheric gloom and it becomes spooky and foreboding. And this being Scotland, atmospheric gloom is considered the default weather setting.

I had never been inside the church, and was surprised to find it a cheerful contrast to the somewhat gloomy exterior. It could be described as ornate, but not in an overcrowded gothic way-- more Romanesque, decorated with marble panels, a marble frieze of the Last Supper which was probably well-intentioned, and solid art-deco frescoes. There were straight clear lines for the balcony, and light expanses of white and teal-turquoise walls which contributed to a feeling of cleanliness, of light and airy space at odds with my initial impression of the church.

And there was music-- oh there was music.

The surprise ending made me smile:

I just closed my eyes for the whole thing. Truly sublime:

I . . . seriously thought, listening, that they were playing Mozart. It was actually Schubert. Apparently he was infatuated with Mozart when he wrote this symphony:

I let myself pause outside the churchyard to look around. In the belfry came the constant pealing of bells, restlessly refusing to harmonize; perhaps a lesson in bell-ringing. Someone had dug rows of flowerbeds among the tombstones, and planted them with sweet-smelling daffodils; I resolved to come back and see them in the sunlight at my next opportunity. The church was illuminated with spotlights, as was the castle above; I could see in the distance the dark spire of the Scott Monument, and beyond it the illuminated clock tower of the Balmoral glowing like a jewel in the night.