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Improvised Music is both "a provocation and a blessing"

by Michael Ford last modified 27 Nov, 2019 04:37 PM

As part of their long-established concert series, one of our smaller Wiltshire Churches has hosted an evening of improvised music that profoundly challenged and connected "faith and love and God and truth" in a way that both provoked and blessed those attending.

Improvised Music is both "a provocation and a blessing"

John Butcher and Dominic Lash by Victoria Jinivizian NEAC

The concert at St Michael’s Tidcombe, in the Savenake Team, featured musicians Butcher & Lash, both world-renowned figures in the avant-garde improvised music scene who have no idea what they’re going to play in advance.

The Revd Dr Colin Heber-Percy, who attended the concert, takes up the story:

"John Butcher (tenor and soprano saxes) and Dominic Lash (double bass) gave the packed audience at St Michael’s an evening they will never forget.

"One member of the audience wrote afterwards:'I had a cascade of thoughts during the concert, and afterwards. It was as though we were all on a precipice. The risk of it all – and how this risk connects with faith and love and God and truth. It made me reflect on the ‘dangers’ of being rulebound, and how Christ smashed through the rules.'

"They simply respond to the space in which they find themselves – in this case, an ancient stone box under the Marlborough Downs on a windy and rainy night. The sound of the rain on the church roof provided a strangely brushed percussion of sorts, and an inspiration for the two musicians.

"They conjured something elemental from the rain and the dark and the stone and the tiny candlelit church.

"Their musical response was at once a provocation and a blessing, dark and playful, intimate and expansive. Tentative, tortured and often incredibly touching.

"At one point, Butcher found himself drawn to the Saxon font at the back of the church, and began an ecstatic strain of holy (or unholy) hooting that ended, as he returned to the chancel, with a series of powerful shofar-like tenor blasts – biblical and darkly mystical, prophetic even. Ancient and utterly contemporary at the same time.

"For me, having run this concert series for several years, having Butcher & Lash play at St Michael’s was a dream come true. Their performance has generated more heated discussion and debate than any other concert we’ve ever hosted here. The music wasn’t easy, but – for me – that’s where it comes closest to religious expression: our faith isn’t easy. Our scripture is full of stories and verses that make us uneasy or afraid or confused. Why shouldn’t our music reflect that?

"The images are sketches created by a parishioner during the performance. Victoria Jinivizian is an exceptional artist with a wide following".

Visit John Butcher's website 

Visit Dominic Lash's blog

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