Tuesday, 23 January 2007

The darkness deepens

Last Sunday my eye was caught by an announcement about a TV programme in the series Songs of Praise. This would not normally have caused me to switch on, for few entertainments excite me less than church services, but this one promised massed choirs, handbell ringers, something called the Boghall and Bathgate Caledonia Pipe Band and the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, so was obviously going to be a bit special. Even the fact that it was called, depressingly, a Scottish Big Sing for Burns Night did not put me off, for one of the items to be performed was Abide with Me.

This is one of the top half-dozen Christian holy numbers*. Its best setting is called Eventide which, given anything like a half-decent rendering, cannot fail to make you want to join in**. Though not much of a hymn-singer myself, having sung them very rarely since my schooldays, I could certainly be counted on in a sinking ship situation (when other helpers fail and comforts flee...) to support my doomed fellow passengers with Abide with Me in a lusty if inaccurate baritone, perhaps even with a bit of descant.

However, the announcement also spoke of “spectacular orchestral arrangements” which should have warned me, and the scene when I tuned in was not encouraging; the general impression was of a late night show at Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas, though actually the colourful throng were in the Glasgow City Halls.

And the way they did Abide with Me suited this ambiance. I had a vision of the cloth-eared arranger, one David Pringle, settling down to his task: “Now, I think I’ll begin with a bit of the Moonlight Sonata, then bring in some tubular bells and one of those instruments that you hit with a little stick and it goes blingdingdiddleyding, then a few bars of Eventide sung VERY SLOWLY. A few trumpets, they’re always good, then a bit more Beethoven and back to Eventide, then…

I switched off sadly disappointed but consoled to think that I am missing very little nowadays by not going to church. Change and decay, indeed.

*Another, of course, is Cwm Rhondda. I mentioned this tremendous tune once before, in the footnote to an earlier post about Jehovah and his supporters.

**Especially if sung using the Hungarian words by Áprily Lajos: Maradj velem, mert mindjárt este van/ Nő a sötét, ó el ne hagyj, Uram/ Nincs senkim és a vigaszt nem lelem/ Gyámoltalannal, ó maradj velem.


Gumby said...

It's no wonder you turned it off. They should have had a chorus line for Abide With Me.

Chen Hsien said...

When I was a little boy in Wuhan, my mother used to sing it to me:
夕陽西沉, 求主與我同居;
黑暗漸深, 求主與我同居;
求助無門, 安慰也無求處,
常助孤苦之神, 與我同居.
渺小浮生, 飄向生涯盡處
歡娛好景, 轉瞬都成過去;
變化無常, 環境何能留住?
懇求不變之神, 與我同居.
我深需主, 時刻需主眷顧,
除卻主恩, 尚有何法驅魔?
誰能如主, 時常導引扶持?
無論風雨晦明, 懇求同居.
有主降祥, 仇敵何需畏懼?
淚不辛酸, 痛也無足慮;
墳墓威權, 鋒鋩今天何處?
我仍欣然得勝, 主若同居.
示我寶架. 雙眸垂閉之時,
照徹昏幽, 指我直上天衢;
陰翳飛逝, 欣看天光破曙,
無論天上人間, 懇求同居.