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Sunday, 21 January 2018

George Musgrave: Journeys of St Paul

St Paul Comes to Ilford is an exhibition and events based around 25 paintings of the life and journeys of St Paul, painted by the artist George Musgrave. They will be on display at Vine Church from Tuesday 20th February until Sunday 18th March. A special preview day will be held on Wednesday 21st February from 9 am to 3.00pm with guided tours of the paintings at 11.00 am and 1.30 pm. Stay for light lunch, refreshments and informal discussions and reflective activities from 12.-1.30. Open for anyone interested to attend. 

On 5 Tuesday evenings at 7.30 pm during Lent, starting Tuesday 20th February, there will also be a bible study series based on the life of St Paul, making use of the paintings. You are also welcome to attend any of these bible studies. It may be helpful to let the organisers know if you are coming. For more information you can contact:; tel: 079986988 /02070417194. The venue will be Vine URC, Riches Road entrance, Ilford IG1 1JH There is limited car parking (available in special cases) – contact Dulcie on 0208 514 2478. 

This selection of paintings are about the life and journeys of St Paul. They show aspects of Paul’s life from his birth in Tarsus, his persecution of Christians in Jerusalem, his conversion on the road to Damascus and his subsequent life experiences as a missionary in Asia and Europe, including imprisonments , floggings, preaching, appearing before governors, baptising people, being shipwrecked and his final execution in Rome. 

The artist George Musgrave (1915 - 2012) painted these pictures over a 20 year period from the 1980’s onwards and displayed them in his museum in Eastbourne until his death. He researched the paintings thoroughly through his travels in the Mediterranean. He trained in an art school in the 1930s, became a congregational minister and missionary before becoming a toy manufacturer. Now two of his sons have decided it’s time that St Paul comes to London for a visit. You can see a preview of the paintings on this link, which also show how they were used in Eastbourne last October -

Then the paintings will be displayed in Central London, at the Meditatio Centre, St Marks, Middleton Square, which is 15 minutes walk from Kings Cross and near Angel Islington from about 22nd March until end of April. There will be a special preview of the paintings there on Saturday 24th March in Islington. If you look at the Link to the 2018 Meditatio Programme, you will see that page 4 advertises the preview event on Saturday 24th March from 5-7 pm -


Pierce Pettis - St Paul's Song.

Claudio Crismani concert: Music by Jean Barraqué & Franz Liszt

Special concert by Claudio Crismani: Music by Jean Barraqué & Franz Liszt. Homage to Portopiccolo Female Art 2018. Thursday 25 January, 6.30pm, St Stephen Walbrook.

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 - Friss-Lassan.

Saturday, 20 January 2018

Writers and artists associated with St Martin-in-the-Fields

My colleague Katherine Hedderly recently made me aware of the connection between St Martin-in-the-Fields and the poet Francis Thompson. Katherine quoted the famous lines from Thompson's 'The Kingdom of God':

'... Jacob’s ladder
Pitched betwixt Heaven and Charing Cross.'

in relation to the installation of Ron Haselden's Echelle on the spire of St Martin's for Lumiere London 2018.

'On a cold winter’s night in 1887, the churchwarden of St. Martin-in-the-Fields, John McMaster, gave an impoverished young match seller a room at his shop in Panton Street, which is just behind the National Gallery. The match seller was also an opium addict named Francis Thompson, who many know as a visionary Roman Catholic poet and ascetic. After being further rescued from himself, Thompson’s first book of poetry was published in 1893. He became an invalid and after years of extreme poverty and addiction, he died in 1907 of tuberculosis, at the still young age 47. His tomb bears the last line from one of his own poems: Look for me in the nurseries of Heaven.'

Dick Sheppard was appointed Vicar of St  Martin's in November 1914 and, in the words of Vera Brittain, 'transformed a moribund city church into England's most vital Christian centre.' Sheppard certainly transformed the parish magazine into St Martin’s Review, 'an eclectic monthly that sold on newsstands and outstripped the circulation of the Spectator, with subscribers in forty countries? George Bernard Shaw, Thomas Hardy, Hilaire Belloc and John Middleton Murry were among the contributors to a journal of opinion that Sheppard edited with a flair for controversy and an unsleeping eye for publicity.'

Writers also came forward to lend the Peace Pledge Union, which Sheppard founded in 1935, intellectual prestige, 'notably the feminist Vera Brittain and the critic John Middleton Murry, a convert to pacifism whose efforts to present Christ afresh as a hero of humanity had much in common with Sheppard’s own.'

'In 1933, Vera [Brittain] published her most important and lasting book, Testament of Youth, a memoir of her war experience, and a literary memorial to her brother, fiancé, and their friends. The book was a bestseller on both sides of the Atlantic, and in the autumn of 1934 Vera embarked on a successful lecture-tour of the United States.'

'On 22 February 1934, at a meeting in the vestry hall of St Martin’s-in-the-Fields church in Trafalgar Square, the Council for Civil Liberties was formed. Their immediate goal was to make sure that the next ‘hunger march’ was peaceful and safe.' The formation of the Council and their pledge to act as responsible and neutral legal observers on the next [hunger] march was announced in a letter printed on the 24 February in The Manchester Guardian. It was signed by 14 of the Council’s most prominent supporters, including H.G. Wells, Vera Brittain, Dr. Edith Summerskill, Clement Atlee, Kingsley Martin, and Prof. Harold Laski.

'In 1935 [Vera's] father committed suicide, and Winifred Holtby died from Bright’s disease. Vera’s ambitious novel, Honourable Estate, dramatising the recent history of the women’s movement, was published in 1936. As another world war threatened, Vera’s focused her attention on campaigning for peace. In 1937 she converted to pacifism and became a sponsor of Dick Sheppard’s Peace Pledge Union. During the Second World War, Vera wrote a fortnightly Letter to Peace-Lovers, and jeopardized her literary standing by making a courageous protest against the Allies’ policy of the saturation bombing of German cities. In her final decades, she continued to publish historical and biographical works, and to be a significant figure in the peace movement in Britain. In November 1966 she suffered a fall after giving a talk at St Martin-in-the-Fields, in Trafalgar Square, and, following several years’ illness, died in Wimbledon on 29 March 1970.'

'A memorial service was held for her at St Martin-in-the-Fields, crowded with family, friends, and people from all the organisations she had worked with and for.'

She published two books about St Martin's, The Story of St. Martin's: An Epic of London (1951) and The Pictorial History of St. Martin-in-the-Fields (1962), while her novel Born 1925 was based on the life of Dick Sheppard. The story of her friendship with Dick Sheppard and of her Christian conversion is told in Testament of Experience. In The Story of St Martin's she draws principally on churchwardens' accounts (dating back to 1525), but with much on Dick Sheppard - 'I saw a great Church standing in the greatest Square of the greatest City in the world.'

St Martin's has also attracted many artists, such as Peggy Smith, who, like Brittain, devoted her life to campaigning for peace. 'During the 1920s she gave up art school for a secretarial post in the League of Nations Union London Federation. Her poor health (she had spinal tuberculosis as a child) made this work impossible. She found more suitable work in 1929 when, impressed with a doodle she made at a meeting, Fenner Brockway asked her to draw regularly for the journal of the Independent Labour Party, “The New Leader”, of which he was then editor.

During the 1930s, Peggy was a freelance artist: “I drew anybody who came to London to talk to the government or to speak”, as well as musicians playing or conducting in concert halls. In 1936, she was one of the first women to sign the Peace Pledge. She knew (and drew) many of the Peace Pledge Union’s sponsors, being particularly influenced by Gerald Heard. Peggy produced sketches for Peace News, founded in 1936, and supported the paper for the rest of her life, in later years selling copies on the steps of St Martin-in-the-Fields. From this grew her involvement with the London School of Nonviolence, which met in the Crypt of St. Martin’s. She joined the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament in the 1950s, was arrested 11 times for her involvement in Committee of 100 actions, and in 1968 travelled to Cambodia as part of a non-violent action group to draw attention to the American bombing of North Vietnam.

In 1973, Peggy showed her 1930s drawings to friends who recognised their artistic and historical value. Thanks to their efforts, in 1975, she held her first exhibition: “Music and Line” showed her 1930s drawings of musicians, in the highly appropriate setting of the Royal Festival Hall. Peggy Smith died on 12 February 1976.

Peggy Smith's drawings show individuals active for peace in the 1930s, including Norman Angell, Vera Brittain, Laurence Housman, Fridtjof Nansen, Philip Noel-Baker, Maude Royden, Dick Sheppard, Philip Snowden, Donald Soper, Wilfred Wellock, and Gandhi. There are British politicians: Stafford Cripps, Fred Jowett, Ellen Wilkinson, musicians including Sir William Rothenstein, writers and church leaders.'

'Josefina Alys Hermes de Vasconcellos (26 October 1904 – 20 July 2005) was an English sculptor of Brazilian origin. She was at one time the world's oldest living sculptor. She lived in Cumbria much of her working life. Her most famous work includes Reconciliation (Coventry Cathedral, University of Bradford); Holy Family (Liverpool Cathedral, Gloucester Cathedral); Mary and Child (St. Paul's Cathedral); and Nativity (at Christmas) at St. Martin-in-the-Fields (Trafalgar Square).'

'Many people encountered the sculpture of de Vasconcellos through her popular interpretations of the Holy Family placed at Christmas in Trafalgar Square and also in other churches and cathedrals throughout Britain. She became a close friend of the Rev Austen Williams at St Martin-in-the-Fields, and organised exhibitions in the crypt to highlight public awareness of the plight of the African poor.'

In 1958 she 'designed a nativity scene for the crypt of St Martin's.' 'The centrepiece was called 'They Fled By Night' and depicted Mary and Joseph resting during their flight from Egypt, with a lively child sitting on Mary's feet.' This sculpture was later presented to Cartmel Priory, at the suggestion of the artist.

Beginning in 1959, she was commissioned 'to construct an annual Nativity scene made of life-sized figures,' (made for World Refugee Year, an international effort to raise awareness of, and support for, the refugees across the globe) 'which became a regular fixture of the Christmas display in Trafalgar Square.' This 'Holy Night crib was a redemptive presence in Trafalgar Square for almost four decades.' 'For many, it summed up the spirit of Christmas' but it 'came to a sticky end during the celebrations after England’s triumph in the Rugby World Cup in late 2003.' 'The shed that had housed the sculpture was wrecked, one angel was stolen and another broken, and the crib was damaged beyond repair.'

'Josefina again contributed to the work of St Martin's by installing in the crypt an African altar which had as its centrepiece a reproduction of [her husband] Delmar [Banner's] early painting of Simon of Cyrene carrying the Cross. Beside it was a life-size figure of an African boy carved by Beth Jukes.'
In the gettyimages archive is a photograph of de Vasconcellos cutting out an anti-apartheid badge as she sets up an exhibition against apartheid in the crypt of St Martin's. The statue and painting can be seen in the photograph.

Gillian Szego's Mother and Child was a painting shown in the St Martin-in-the-Fields refugee action programme in 1972, as part of efforts to raise awareness of the plight of Ugandan refugees. This canvas surrounded by barbed wire depicts a mother and child scene in a refugee camp, but set in such a way that people would mistake it for the Madonna and Child. Szego said at the time that 'if Jesus Christ had been born in 1972, it would have most likely been in a refugee camp.'

Romanian artist Dr Doru Imbroane Marculescu arrived in England in October 1978. By 1986 he had obtained dual British / Romanian nationality. Whilst firmly established in England, he continued to spend periods with his family in Bucharest consolidating all his interests and ideas - producing work which became part of a large personal exhibition. Marculescu's Tortured Humanity, an extraordinary 2.4m (eight foot) high bronze statue depicting the head of Christ together with a hundred faces worked into the shape of a cross, was shown at St Martin's in 1999 as a focus of the church's Easter celebrations. The sculpture depicts 'the dilemmas of modern times, a continuation of the tragedies of the past,' and 'is offered as a symbol of unity for all – irrespective of their religion, race and culture.' 'In it, all of humanity is perceived as taking on a cruciform shape and the suffering love of Christ is recognized as involved in, and bearing up the whole.'


Francis Thompson - The Kingdom Of God.

Friday, 19 January 2018

Windows on the world (280)

London, 2018


Fairport Convention - Who Knows Where The Time Goes.

Lumiere London 2018: Westminster


Bruce Cockburn - Northern Lights.

Imaging the Story: Rediscovering the visual and poetic contours of salvation

Imaging the Story: Rediscovering the visual and poetic contours of salvation aims to create imaginative encounters with the salvation story by bringing images and poetry into conversation with the Bible in ways that spark creativity in readers or course participants.

In my review of the book for Church Times, I say:

'This is a book full of ideas, theological and artistic. The wealth of material within its pages is structured in terms of content through ten themes that take us from Creation to Consummation, while exploration of each theme is structured in terms of reading (of the biblical texts), responding (questions using “visuo divina”), reflecting (theological reflection with images and poetry), and making (artistic exercises leading to an exhibition).'

A complementary resource to Imaging the Story is Inspired to Follow: Art and the Bible Story, a free resource to help people explore the Christian faith, using paintings and Biblical story as the starting points which has been created by St Martin-in-the-Fields in partnership with the National Gallery.

There’s an opportunity to experience one of the sessions of Inspired to Follow and to learn how to make the most of the resource at a short workshop on Monday 5 February. There’s no substitute to experiencing a session led by the course developer.

The workshop runs from 2.30-4.30pm at St Martin-in-the-Fields. It will be led by Alastair McKay, who developed the resource. Please aim to arrive at 2.15pm, for a hot drink before we start.

The workshop is being offered by the HeartEdge network, and is free to HeartEdge members. If you’re not yet a member of the Network, the cost is £10 per person. We are restricted to 24 participants, so do book soon.

If you’d like to attend the workshop, please contact me at or phone 020 7766 1127.


The Band - When I Paint My Masterpiece.

Wednesday, 17 January 2018

Silks from Imperial China: Ming and Qing dynasty costumes and textiles 1368-1911

Jacqueline Simcox gave a wonderful talk on Silks from Imperial China: Ming and Qing dynasty costumes and textiles 1368-1911 at St Martin-in-the-Fields on Monday. The event was jointly organised with our Chinese Congregations and was greatly appreciated by those who came.

Jacqueline spoke about some of the Ming dynasty (1368-1644) textiles and some of the imperial costumes and festivals and showed how they changed when the Machu from the north took over the country from 1644-1911 (Qing dynasty).

We received lots of appreciative comments about the amount that people had learnt and also the opportunity to see actual silks. People were fascinated about how the embroidery work was done. The quality of the professional embroidery work is stunning. Those from our Chinese congregations also appreciated the stories linked to designs that Jacqueline shared, with several commenting that she had reminded them of stories they had been told but had forgotten. 

Jacqueline Simcox has written numerous articles on Chinese textiles, catalogued private collections and contributed essays to museum exhibition catalogues, such as ‘Celestial Silks’, Art Gallery of New South Wales, in 2004. More recently she has co-authored, with John Vollmer, a book on the imperial Chinese textiles in the Mactaggart Art Collection, University of Alberta, in Canada. ‘Emblems of Empire’was published in 2010.

The talk was sponsored by Bonhams Chinese Department.


Beijing Central Music Academy - Music of the Zhihua Temple.