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Wednesday, 22 March 2017

Claudio Crismani concert

Italian classical pianist Claudio Crismani is in concert at St Stephen Walbrook, 7.00pm, Wednesday 29 March playing a programme in Homage to Francis Bacon. Free admission with retiring collection.


Béla Bartók Suite from “The Bluebeard Castle”
(1881 - 1945) “In style of a Legend”
1 - Introduction
2 - The Magic Garden
3 - The first room
4 - The Forbidden Room
5 - Nightmare
- - - - -
Fryderyk Chopin 6 Préludes op. 28
(1810 - 1849) 2 Nocturnes op. 9 n.1
op. 37 n.1
2 Polonaises op. 26
Marche Funèbre op. 35
6 Mazurkas op. 7 n.2
op. 17 n.4
op. 33 n.1
op. 41 n.2
op. 67 n.2
op. 67 n.3
Polonaise op. 40 n.2

Biography of Claudio Crismani

"Claudio Crismani is an amazing, daring and magnetic artist.”

With these words American critic John Maxim concludes his review on Music Life about Claudio Crismani’s concert dedicated to Scriabin’s music. The music by Russian composer Alexander Scriabin has always been at the centre of Crismani’s artistic interests.

Crismani was born in Trieste and he began studying music with Andrea Giorgi as a young boy. Between Andro and Claudio a solid, lifelong fraternal friendship was built in time. He continued studying piano with Alessandro Costantinides and composition with Mario Bugamelli, graduating with full marks at the Bolzano Conservatory. He then perfected his technique studying with Marguerite Kazuro in Warsaw for five years.

His international career began in Paris in 1979 with a recital at the "Salle Pleyel" and a series of radio and tv recordings for "France Musique". Since then he has performed all over Europe, Russia, Israel, USA, Japan and Australia and in the most distinguished concert halls. He has worked with directors such as James Lawrence Levine, Cristoph von Dohnányi and Thomas Sanderling and performed with internationally renowned orchestras, among which: The London Philharmonic Orchestra, The Philharmonia Orchestra, The European Community Chamber Orchestra, Les Solistes de Moscou, The Osaka Philharmonic Orchestra and The Israel Philharmonic Orchestra.

In 1986 Claudio Crismani was invited to celebrate the hundredth anniversary of Liszt’s death by performing twelve concerts in England and playing the complete “Années de Pèlerinage" and the transcriptions of Wagner’s operas. In 1987, UNESCO named him "European Artist" and invited him to perform at the "International Music Soiree" at the Palais des Congrès in Paris. That same year he was appointed "Guest Artist" of the Van Leer Foundation in Jerusalem and under this aegis he became co-founder of the Horowitz Festival.

In the Nineties, he staged a three-evening performance of the complete Poems and Sonatas for piano by Scriabin, which was repeated several times in different countries. He had an exclusive record contract with RS for twelve years and won two Discographic Awards. This period was marked by an important collaboration and friendship with the great Russian pianist Lazar Berman. His performance of Scriabin’s Concerto for Piano and Orchestra together with The London Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Thomas Sanderling and recorded live at the Royal Festival Hall in London, was a true publishing success story.

After a concert tour in 2002/2003 marking his thirtieth year of artistic activity (he was described as one of the major artists of his generation), Claudio Crismani decided to retire from the concert scene and devote himself exclusively to a long period of study.

In 2014, he returned on the musical scene – among others - with “The Prometheus Project”, which is a transposition of Alexander Scriabin’s “Promethean” dream, designed to be a literary, artistic and (of course) musical experience. He rewrote it together with his friend Edward Lucie-Smith as a synesthetic blend, suspended between visual art and music, literature and history. Here, Pasternak and Scriabin intersect with contemporary traits, tracing a hitherto undescribed randomness of real- life moments spanning from Russia to Trieste and present and future human relations developing between Trieste and London.

In 2015, Claudio Crismani returned on the international scene at the exhibition on Boris Pasternak: “la Genesi del Sogno” (The Genesis of the Dream). The event highlighted artworks by Oleg Kudryashov, photographs by Moisei Nappelbaum and Crismani’s concert (performed strictly on a Fazioli piano) at the Teatro Verdi in Trieste, and repeated in 2016 in Cividale del Friuli with a tribute to Boulez, and in London, at St. Stephen Walbrook, playing Boulez, Liszt and Scriabin.


Claudio Crismani - Rapsodie.

Turn our eyes from deficits to assets

Bible reading:

The hand of the Lord came upon me, and he brought me out by the spirit of the Lord and set me down in the middle of a valley; it was full of bones. He led me all around them; there were very many lying in the valley, and they were very dry. He said to me, “Mortal, can these bones live?” I answered, “O Lord God, you know.” Then he said to me, “Prophesy to these bones, and say to them: O dry bones, hear the word of the Lord. Thus says the Lord God to these bones: I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live … and you shall know that I am the Lord.”

… I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived, and stood on their feet, a vast multitude.

Then he said to me, “Mortal, these bones are the whole house of Israel. They say, ‘Our bones are dried up, and our hope is lost; we are cut off completely.’ Therefore prophesy, and say to them … I will put my spirit within you, and you shall live, and I will place you on your own soil; then you shall know that I, the Lord, have spoken and will act, says the Lord.” (Ezekiel 37:1-14)


Ezekiel’s vision was for those in the whole house of Israel in exile who were saying, ‘Our bones are dried up, and our hope is lost; we are cut off completely.’ During Lent we actively choose to go into the dryness of the wilderness, together with Jesus, to be cut off in order to pray but there are also times and seasons in our lives and in our society when we think and feel that we are in a Valley of Dry Bones.

Politically, that may be how some of us feel following the unexpected election results of last year. We are, after all, witnessing the death of environments and species around our world. Poverty and conflict are forcing mass movements of people across our world and we are perhaps witnessing the death of compassion in response to those who are migrants. Austerity measures are increasingly causing crises in education, healthcare, prisons, and social care. ”Recessions can hurt,” David Stuckler and Sanjay Basu write in their powerful book, The Body Economic, “But austerity kills."

On a more personal note, ‘It may be that you are stuck in the depths of Lent, perhaps facing an impossible choice, or perhaps feeling that there are no choices open to you at all … You may simply be carrying the weight of an unfulfilled longing for something that appears to be quite impossible … Your longing may be for work, for home, for intimacy, for a child, or for a number of other things which you lack and without which life feels unpalatable or pointless.’ (M. Warner, Abraham)

Ezekiel speaks prophetically into these situations of sterility and death because that is where he and the People of Israel found themselves. His prophecy is a word of life; the Lord God will cause breath to enter the dry bones so they shall live. This shows us God working with what is there. There is no replacement of the dry bones and no move to a better valley. God starts with what is already there - the dry bones - so this is about recognising, valuing and using what we already have.

By contrast, our consumer society constantly tells us that we are insufficient and that we must purchase what we need from specialists and systems outside of our immediate community. Instead, we need to reweave the social fabric that has been unravelled by consumerism and its belief that however much we have, it is not enough. To recognise that in ourselves and in our communities we already have the capacity to address our human needs in ways that systems, which see us only as interchangeable units, as problems to be solved, never can. We can do unbelievable things by starting with our assets, not our deficits. We all have gifts to offer, even the most seemingly marginal among us. Using our particular assets (our skills, experience, insights and ideas) we have the God-given power to create a hope-filled life and can be the architects of the future where we want to live. (J. McKnight & P. Block, The Abundant Community)

Following Ezekiel’s prophecy further we see that the individual dry bones are joined together to form skeletons on which sinews and skin grow to form living bodies. This suggests that we can do unbelievable things if we do them together; if we start with one another’s assets not our deficits. Sharing our particular assets with others will foster a wider understanding and model the practice of hospitality towards others. By doing this we will find our way to becoming abundant communities that open space for generosity and cooperation.

We may well, in some senses, inhabit a Valley of Dry Bones personally or socially. All is not lost, however, as in Ezekiel’s vision by starting where we are with our assets and by coming together to release and share our gifts we find the power to create a hope-filled life and be the architects of the future where we want to live.


O Risen Lord, be our resurrection and life. Be the resurrection and the life for us and all whom you have made. Be the resurrection and the life for those caught in the grip of sin and addiction. Be the resurrection and the life for those who feel forsaken. Be the resurrection and the life for those dying of malnutrition and hunger. Turn our eyes from deficits to assets and show us the gifts that will bring us to life.

O Risen Lord, be our resurrection and life. Be the resurrection and the life in us who know the good but fail to do it, who have not been judged but still judge, who know love but still live for self, who know hope but succumb to despair. Be the resurrection and the life for anyone anywhere who knows suffering and death in any form, and for Creation itself, which groans in travail. Turn our eyes from deficits to assets and show us the gifts that will bring us to life.

We pray for Easter eyes – Eyes that will allow us to see: Beyond death into life; Beyond sin to forgiveness; Beyond division to unity; Beyond wounds to beauty; Through the human to the divine; Through the divine to the human; From the ‘I’ to the ‘You’. And - enabling all of this – The totality of Easter energy! Turn our eyes from deficits to assets and show us the gifts that will bring us to life.

The Blessing

Be the resurrection and the life in the life we share and the fellowship we enjoy, that filled anew with the wonder of your love and the power of your grace, we may go forth to proclaim your resurrection life to a world in the grip of death. And the blessing of God almighty, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, be among you and remain with you always. Amen.


Gungor - Dry Bones.

Monday, 20 March 2017

Discover & explore - Henry Moore (Sculpture)

Today's Discover & explore service at St Stephen Walbrook, explored the theme of sculpture through the life and works of Henry Moore. The service was led by Revd Alastair McKay and featured the Choral Scholars of St Martin-in-the-Fields singing Sing joyfully unto God our strength by Byrd, Ascribe greatness by Mary Kirkbride & Mary King, of the dust of the ground by Joshua Pacey (which was premiered in this service), and Tu es Petrus by Duruflé. For the intercessions the congregation were invited to join Alastair by standing at the Henry Moore altar.

The next Discover & explore service is on Monday 27 March at 1.10pm when, together with the Choral Scholars, Sally Muggeridge will explore the theme of gardening through the life and work of Lanning Roper.

Here is Alastair's reflection for this service:

Henry Moore holds a special place in my own life. When I was at school I became interested in sculpture. After some initial dabbling, I eventually undertook carving a piece of granite into the form of a gasping miner. The figure was inspired by one of Henry Moore’s drawings of coal miners from Wheldale Colliery, where his father had worked. These drawings are one of two series commissioned during the Second World War and for which Henry Moore is now well known. The other and better known series is Moore’s wartime drawings of people sheltering from bombing raids in the London Underground. However, receiving such commissions from people in the establishment isn’t something that could have been foreseen if one looks back to Moore’s early life.

Henry Spencer Moore was the sixth of seven children born at the end of the 19th Century in a small mining town in Yorkshire. Like many of the men in the town, his father was a miner and, it appears, a strong personality. As a teenager, young Henry wanted to study art, but his father persuaded him to become a teacher, seeing it as a more reliable career than being an artist. But Henry hated teaching, and took the opportunity to join the army once he turned 18, which led to him being involved in the fighting of the First World War. He later said: “It was in those two years of war that I finally broke away from parental domination, which had been very strong. My old friend, Miss Gostick, found out about ex-servicemen's grants. With her help I applied and received one for the Leeds School of Art. This was understood from the outset merely to be a first step. London was the goal.”

And so it was that, after studying in Leeds, Moore won a scholarship to study sculpture at the Royal Academy of Art in London. He went on to develop his own distinctive style of sculpture, and to rub shoulders with a host of emerging artists, including Barbara Hepworth and Ben Nicholson, and others who were part of the British Surrealist movement. Through the course of the 1940s he made a name for himself and established an international reputation, winning the International Prize for Sculpture at the Venice Biennale in 1948. By the 1960s he was publicly recognised in his own country, being awarded the Order of Merit, and when he died in 1986 he was buried in the Artists’ Corner at St Paul’s Cathedral. He is thus probably the best-known British sculptor of the 20th Century.

One of the most striking things about Henry Moore’s work as a sculptor is it’s confinement to relatively few themes. Over three quarters of all his work is covered by two themes: the Reclining Figure, and the Mother and Child. Moore concentrated on these with an almost obsessional intensity. A fine example of his Reclining Figures can be found on Hampstead Heath, in the gardens of Kenwood House. It’s a sculpture which I enjoy visiting when I go for walks there with my wife. It displays classic features of Moore’s mature work: a huge scale, designed to be sited outside, and with simplified and abstracted parts of the body; so although it broadly hints at a female figure, it’s also suggestive of rocks, cliffs and caves, all things you might see in a landscape. I think it’s noteworthy that Moore picked up stones, pebbles, shells and bits of wood on his walks in the countryside, and used their shapes and textures to inspire his sculptures. He said: “I’ve found the principles of form and rhythm from the study of natural objects … pebbles and rocks show nature’s way of working stone.” And this can be seen clearly in this amazing piece of rock that now sits in the centre of St Stephen Walbrook.

The idea for a new altar table at St Stephen’s emerged in the late 1960s when Chad Varah was the Rector. It came during a time when the church was undertaking renovations to repair bomb damage from World War II. The desire was to replace the 17th Century altar table on the wall behind me, at which the priest stood with his back to the congregation in celebrating the Eucharist. In the 1960s, the congregation felt that this kept God at a distance, and no longer expressed the all-present nature of the God that they worshipped and served. So in responding to this new commission, 300 years after the church had been designed by Christopher Wren, the sculptor Henry Moore conceived a centrally-placed marble altar. 

By carving a round altar table with forms cut into the circular sides, Moore appealed to Old Testament ideas of an altar. Moore suggested that a stone at the centre of the church could reflect the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem. This is the rock seen as commemorating the sacrificial offering of Isaac by Abraham. And that sacrificial offering in turn is seen as prefiguring the sacrificial death of Jesus, which we remember in the celebration of the Eucharistic meal. It’s thus the place designed for people to gather as a community around the altar table, where God is found at the centre. And for me, therefore it speaks to the recurring theme in Jewish and Christian scriptures, that God is the Rock, the one who stands at the centre, and on whom we can always depend. So this stone table ultimately points us to our faithful God, the true Rock whose work is perfect, and whose ways are just. And it is from this rock, as Christian disciples and children of Abraham, that we ourselves are hewn.


The genius of Monsieur Lefébure-Wély

Each Friday at St Stephen Walbrook a free weekly lunchtime organ recital is held featuring a different organist each week.

For three weeks this year, however, our organist will be Dr Anthony Gritten sharing the genius of Monsieur Lefébure-Wély (1817-69) as he performs L’Organiste Moderne (1867) written 150 years ago and performed to celebrate the composer’s 200th birthday. Book 1 - 4 will be on 24 March, Book 5 - 8 on 9 June and Book 9 - 12 on 17 November.

Dr Anthony Gritten is a Fellow of the Royal College of Organists, and studied with Harry Gabb, David Sanger, and Anne Page. He gave the first complete performance of Daniel Roth’s magnum opus, Livre d’Orgue pour le Magnificat, and has performed four times in St. Sulpice, Paris, including a recital as part of Roth’s 70th birthday celebrations. He has also performed numerous works by Richard Francis, including the premiere of a four-movement symphony on themes by Lefébure-Wély. Other projects have included anniversary performances of the complete works of Tunder, Buxtehude (a 6½ hour recital), Homilius, Brahms, and Mendelssohn. Many of Anthony's recitals are listed at

Anthony was an organ scholar and research student at Cambridge University, writing his doctorate on Stravinsky. He has worked at the University of East Anglia and Royal Northern College of Music, and is currently Head of Undergraduate Programmes at the Royal Academy of Music. His publications include two books on Music and Gesture and essays on Igor Stravinsky, John Cage, and Frederick Delius. Many of his publications can be downloaded from


Lefebure-Wely - Sortie in Eb.

Sunday, 19 March 2017

Learning from The Lives Of Others

My latest article for Artlyst uses exhibitions at Ben Uri Gallery and St Martin-in-the-Fields to explore the place of émigré artists in modern British art and then contrast their opportunities and impact with the current hostile environment being created towards refugees.

I end by quoting Will Hutton:

"'Over centuries ... it has been immigrants and refugees who have been part of the alchemy of any country’s success: they are driven, hungry and talented and add to the pool of entrepreneurs, innovators and risk-takers. The hundreds of thousands today who have trekked across continents and dangerous seas are by any standards unusually driven. They are also, as Angela Merkel says, fellow human beings. To receive them well is not only in our interests, it is fundamental to an idea of what it means to be human.’ These exhibitions and the history of émigré artists in the twentieth century reiterate and demonstrate the continuing relevance and significance of that message."

Bloc Party - Virtue.

Rest from inner conflict

Here's my homily from the 8.00am service at St Martin-in-the-Fields:

Jesus calls us to be 100% for God in our lives. In his summary of the Law he says, Love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your strength, and all your mind (Mark 12. 30 - 31). When we fail to do so, we experience internal division. It is, for example, why Jesus insists that we cannot love God and Mammon (Luke 16. 13).

St Paul describes this state of internal conflict when he writes in the Letter to the Romans: 'I can will what is right, but I cannot do it. 19 For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I that do it, but sin that dwells within me.

So I find it to be a law that when I want to do what is good, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God in my inmost self, but I see in my members another law at war with the law of my mind, making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!' (Romans 7. 19 - 25)

In our Gospel passage (Luke 11.14-28) this internal dialogue, debate and division is described in the language of demon possession. We don’t find rest or peace from this internal conflict until we finally and fully surrender to God. Once that surrender has occurred, then we need to nurture and protect it in order that we do not revert back to the state of internal chaos and conflict but instead remain in the peace and rest of being given over to God.


Pärt, Glass and Martynov 's Silencio.

Saturday, 18 March 2017

Tim Harrold: Perceptualism

Tim Harrold is an expressive arts graduate with performance art experience gained at Brighton Polytechnic from 1982-5. He has worked as an art tutor in both secondary and further education, and as a community and youth worker using creativity in contemplative installations.

Tim creates assemblage and photomontage by intentionally arranging found objects and words from a variety of sources into serendipitous tableaux. New metaphysical narratives emerge; playful perceptual parables appear; and re-imagined worlds on rediscovered natural materials or in recycled boxes full of unlikely juxtapositions hint at hidden realities.
Tim writes, ‘My work is parabolic and numinous; where the conceptual meets the spiritual there is the “perceptual”.’

Perceptualism – a solo show in Sheffield at 35 Chapel Walk from 2 – 16 April, will be the largest Tim has held outside of south west Essex and London. It will include an installation of his 70 Endeavour poems – each set to music by musician friends – and film by his filmmaker son Jonathan.

In my review of an exhibition by Tim at the Well House Gallery last year I wrote that: 'Perceptualism involves re-combining and reconciling the disparate and disconnected, and Harrold sees this creative action as mirroring God’s love expressed in both creation and salvation. His series of ten photomontages, where fragments of maps are collaged within a heart-shaped mount to which texts of love have been added, is one expression of this perception.'


Jonathan Harrold - The Artists At High House.