June 2016

Dear Friends,

In a Christmas Day broadcast in one of those years which included one of her landmark wedding anniversaries the Queen recalled a conversation she’d had with one of her Archbishops of Canterbury. She’d asked him what he thought about sin. “Well ma’am,” he said “I’m against it.” The Queen went on to say that if anyone were to ask her what she thought of marriage, her answer would be equally straightforward; “I’m for it.”

On both subjects Our Lord says very much the same thing. On marriage he goes back to first principles. He quotes from the second chapter of Genesis, the chapter in which God declares that it is not good for man to be alone: “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” For human beings, made in the image of God, companionship and mutual support are of fundamental importance. Marriage is not, of course, the only place where these things can be found, but the majority of people are drawn to it in one form or another.

On marriage, then, Jesus stands four-square with the Queen. He’s for it. And on sin he’s at one with the archbishop. He’s against it. Sin is about falling short of the glory for which God has created us; breakdowns in those human relationships which have the potential to reflect and embody the permanence, security and trust which God wants us to enjoy in our relationship with Him are therefore never trivial. Like most of us, the Queen has experience of that within her own family. These things can sometimes be resolved, but not without pain.

As the wedding season at Wentworth approaches its peak it’s hard not to wonder what the future might hold for all those couples as they embark on marriage with such high hopes. They’ll all have their ups and downs - and there’s no guaranteed recipe for happiness. But those who are interested in music, whether about to be married or married for years, might appreciate these gentle words of advice – offered, of course, in the spirit of “don’t do as I do, but do as I say!”

Cherish differences. Harmony is about the combination of different notes. Its charm lies in a careful balance between concord and discord - between tension and relaxation. Dissonances can be exquisite, provided that they’re appropriately resolved - and that usually (if not always) means one part having to step down a semitone or tone - not very far, but enough!

Timing is of the essence. To play or sing a wrong note in the right place can be of some use, even though it’s not ideal. But a right note in the wrong place is no use at all! Timing is of the essence in all that we say or do. There’s a wonderful verse in the book of Proverbs; “He who rises early in the morning blessing his neighbour with a loud voice will be counted as cursing.

Listening is vital. We can be neither in tune nor in time with each other if we don’t. And finally …

Never look back. Every musician knows how fatal it is when a mistake (and we all make them) throws us into such confusion that we mess up everything that follows. The answer is “never look back.” No wonder St Paul said that “love keeps no score of wrongs.” Hurts and failures need to be put firmly behind us.

These musical precepts are no substitute for the grace of God on which we all depend, but they can work in partnership with it.